The Hincks sign debacle

I found it very interesting looking at The Herald‘s Web site statistics today just what it is our readers look at. Our top stories (the ones with the most page views on our site) were almost all crime stories. And we’ve had our fair share of crime stories this week — shootings, the death of a small boy, stabbing at a local bar, etc.

That said, I do think the signs story is important. I’m sure those who have an interest in it have followed it through our paper, our site and through blogger Keith Clark’s site. I do believe Clark has turned this story into somewhat of a vendetta, and I hope that doesn’t cloud his judgment. It’s no secret that Clark and Kelly have had their disagreements since he started his site. But according to Clark, who I don’t believe has crossed any lines yet, the story has led to a big spike in visitors to his site.
In the newspaper biz (and I guess the blog biz), that means stick with what’s working.

It’s also no secret that The Herald and Kelly haven’t always been on the same page either. Oh who am I kidding? Since we’re being honest here … Kelly and the paper disagree a lot. We’ve bashed some of his decisions on the council and some of his decisions outside of the council (cough*signs*cough) … and Kelly has returned the favor and spoken ill of The Herald in public meetings. All part of the fun, I suppose.

But I hope nobody out there thinks our stories and coverage of Sign-gate (or Hincks-gate, Kelly-gate or gate-gate) has been clouded by our past brush-ups with Kelly. It hasn’t been. At all. I’ve received a few e-mails that have suggested otherwise.

It all began with our story last week about the signs — then-anonymous signs that began appearing throughout Sanford and Lee County about a week ago. I first saw them on my way back from an out-of-town trip — a sea of “No Landfill. No Hincks” signs along U.S. 421 just past the Chatham County line. It got me curious, so I did the first story, which appeared a week ago today.
That story stated the signs were anonymous, that nobody had signed up with the Board of Elections to distribute them and that whoever did had until last Saturday to claim the signs, or else a complaint could have them taken down. A few days later, Gordon Anderson reported that a local tobacco farmer had stepped up and claimed the signs. The obvious step for us was to call the farmer.
That’s when it got fishy. The farmer, Steven Thomas, claimed he didn’t sign the filed report with the Board of Elections .. or that he did, but he was coerced into doing it by “two friends,” who still remain nameless. In other words, the report wasn’t true … which is perjury or forgery … which is a felony.
A day later, Kelly fessed up to purchasing the signs, and claimed he did not know Thomas, who claims otherwise.

That is by far the shortest explanation possible of this. What remains to be known is who the “two friends” were, whether the state Board of Elections will investigation this and whether Kelly had anything to do with the perjury portion of it. And all of this has taken away from what was an otherwise interesting election on its own … six candidates vying for three seats. If anything, the signs have backfired, because now Hincks is in the spotlight.
And none of this has helped Kelly, who I believe isn’t the power-hungry sneak some say he is. Then again, the sign debacle doesn’t help the argument otherwise.

What does this mean if Hincks is elected? Why, pretty good drama of course, You’ll have either Hincks or Kelly chosen as chairman of the board, and you’ll have a pretty evenly distributed board (possibly four Democrats and three Republicans or vice-versa) after the election. There could be a lot of split votes on important issues … and instead of Hincks or Kelly attempting to work with the other side to get work done, you’ll have the hurt feelings and sore egos getting in the way.

There, I’ve been asked my thoughts on this mess, and there they were. I think it’s an interesting story that could get much more interesting after the election. Then again, it’s only really interesting to the few of us watching this race closely.

Joe Six Pack and Grandma Underwear seem to care more about the crime news.


2 thoughts on “The Hincks sign debacle

  1. I personally am ashamed at Kelly’s behavior and actions. I broke party lines and voted for him for our district. What an embarrassment now to have this person represent our district with those actions. I hope he remembers his actions when it is time for him to run again – he might get the same treatment.
    I know I will not vote for him again.

  2. Consistent and unannoying, Billy. And you didn’t even have to put yourself in the story to make your blog hits go up!!!


    And for the record, he came to us with the story. I don’t think there was anyone twisting his arm to file the complaint or to come to us.
    Regardless of your feelings on the issue, there are some things that as journalists we cannot and do not do. The first tenet of journalism is never put yourself in the story. We are referees. If Keith wants to be a part of the action, he should run for office and stand on his own merits.

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