City Staff Can't Talk to Media Without Mayor's OK
Stothert media directive has some questioning transparencyPhoto: Video by kmtv.com
Omaha, NE-KMTV Action 3 News has obtained a memo sent out by Mayor Jean Stothert Wednesday. It details the new media policy for the city, and some are questioning her transparency.
"Effective immediately, all interaction with the news media by any Department directors or any staff member of any city department regarding matters of City government will first be reviewed and approved by the Mayor's Chief of Staff or the Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications," the memo, which Stothert initialed, stated.
That has some asking about transparency.
Steve LeClair, Fire Union President emailed the city attorney Wednesday night for clarification. He also included a couple of reporters on the email.
"I have immediate concern that a Mayor who campaigned on a platform of, among other things, transparency in government has taken the position of 'circle the wagons and everyone keep your mouths shut' within 48 hours of being sworn in," he wrote.
Stothert says the directive is not a gag order, rather a way to have one voice.
"I don't want to as the executive of this city to hear about and issue to ask for my comment that someone went to the media that I didn't know anything about so it's just a courtesy. I think it is good public policy," Stothert said.
Earlier Wednesday, Action 3 News was set to interview with Fire Chief Mike McDonnell about a new fire class that Stothert said wasn't budgeted for.
McDonnell canceled the interview that day. Attempts to reach him have since been unsuccessful.
LeClair says McDonnell canceled because of the directive.
Stothert Thursday told KMTV that Chief McDonnell is clear to talk about the budget; he just needs to give her office a heads up first.
"Alls we want them to do is let us know. Is let us know that they if they are going to go on the media, on the radio, or on TV and they are going to talk about the budget. It is not directed at one specific department. It's directed at every department," she said.
Stothert said she didn't know why McDonnell canceled.