|News Media Update||OHIO||Confidentiality/Privilege|
Subpoenaed reporter testifies before city council
- Responding to a subpoena issued by the Cincinnati City Council, an alternative weekly newspaper reporter answered questions about her article on police corruption.
Feb. 4, 2004 — A reporter for an alternative weekly newspaper in Ohio testified yesterday before the Cincinnati City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee by order of a subpoena issued by the council.
City Beat reporter Leslie Blade answered questions about her Dec. 10 story “Protection racket: Public housing security grant is a cash cow for cops.” The article detailed allegations that police officers began inflating their overtime pay during off-duty work details for the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority in 1998.
The subpoena, reported to be only the second issued by the council in the past 10 years, was approved by a 5-4 vote last month at the urging of Councilman Christopher Smitherman. According to an article in today’s Cincinnati Enquirer, Blade testified in the presence of her lawyer and refused to answer a few of the questions: one concerning a police officer’s disciplinary record, and another about whether she had investigated allegations against another police officer.
“This was the definition of silly,” Councilman Pat DeWine told the Enquirer. “If the council member had taken the time to read the story, he would have gotten the same information we did today. This is not the way to run a government, and I’m embarrassed to be part of this government today.”
The City Council sought Blade’s testimony to aid its investigation of the alleged overtime abuses.
In a Jan. 28 editorial, City Beat editor John Fox explained Blade’s decision to testify. “If council wants to discuss the story with Blade, why shouldn’t she? She’s proud of her work, and I and the paper stand behind the story,” he wrote.
However, The Cincinnati Post reported today that the issuance of the subpoena may have been the result of a misunderstanding. Responding to an informal request to appear, Fox said the council should issue a subpoena to Blade. Fox has since said he did not mean to encourage the council to pursue Blade with a subpoena, but that she should only consider appearing if compelled by a subpoena.
© 2004 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press