Journalists and Knuckleheads

There is a freedon-of-the-press case in Union County that I’m supposed to keep quiet on but I’ve given it a lot of thought lately and there is one aspect I can’t shut up about.

This article appeared today:

Knucklehead of the Week: Rick Proctor

Rahway’s mayor is no slick politician. Far from it. Rick Proctor, instead, seems bent on bumbling his way from one ethical lapse to the next.

Our comically corrupt hero was fined $750 10 days ago — pocket change for New Jersey pols. (Hey, it’s still not prison.) For what?

In 2012, the state Election Law Enforcement Commission fined the Rahway Democratic Committee nearly $70,000 for a bundle of late campaign finance reports. Proctor was chair of the committee — and a Union County freeholder — at the time.

The year before, after he was elected mayor, Proctor stopped a contractor outside town hall and asked him to — ahem — donate $7,000 to pay the Democrats’ fine. For that, a judge convicted him of a local ethics violation and levied the $750 fine. No word on where he’ll take his tin cup for this one.That’s not even his most brazen bungle.

Last year, he was fined for pressuring officials to hire his wife for a $120,000-a-year job as the city’s health officer — a fine he was contesting. They didn’t. After that stunt, he was booted from the Democratic committee and Rahway’s city council cut his pay from $65,000 to $21,000.

Proctor’s not a criminal; he’s a caricature of the Jersey politician — grasping at envelopes stuffed with cash. You’d think a pol with Proctor’s experience would be better at it.

Was Rick Proctor contacted in regard to this article?  Do journalistic standards allow calling someone a ‘knucklehead’ or ‘comically corrupt’?  Did anyone research the contractor contacted (who happened to be from Birdsall Services Group) and ask what would have been the proper procedure for soliciting bribes that their other recipients went through?

This article didn’t appear on the Countywatchers blog or the UC Directions online newsletter (a front for freeholder views that hasn’t published since September, 2011 but still warranted getting a $232,125 subsidy from the county last week) or even a bathroom wall.  It appeared in the state’s largest newspaper with pretenses to journalist standards and will henceforth be the first hit anyone gets when googling Rick Proctor, with or without the word knucklehead.

This isn’t to defend Rick Proctor, who during the time I saw him on the freeholder board acted solely as a seat-filler, but to puncture the myth that most of what passes for journalism today has standards beyond getting ad revenue and occasionally skewering the defenseless for fun and profit.

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