Navarre Press received a letter to the editor from Holley Navarre Water president Bien May. Below is the letter in its entirety, followed by responses from Navarre Press.
First I would like to say I am not a politician nor do I aspire to be one. I typically would not respond publically to news articles and I do not use the media as a venue to advance an agenda or political view. However, in recent weeks Navarre Press had continued to write negative articles about Holley Navarre Water System most of which are inaccurate, slanted, one sided, misleading, taken out of context, and/or sensationalized, making a response necessary. One editorial written by Sandi Kemp herself was an outright attack on my character personally and was replete with complete untruths. So first is the matter of correcting the information in her opinion piece dated May 25 2017 titled “A House of Cards”:
Sandi Kemp: “The president has all the power”
- Response: Untrue – all decisions are debated and voted on by the board and are documented in the minutes
Editor’s response: In this case, the president does have all the power. He controls the meeting and the agenda. He is also the treasurer and is a signature on the accounts. In one meeting he wanted a vote rescinded because it wasn’t properly added to the agenda but then the rest of the evening he added plenty of things not on the agenda.
Sandi Kemp: “The president denies his own board information”
- Response: Untrue – a request for the board meeting video for personal use was voted on by the board… and denied by the board in a majority vote.
Editor’s response: A director asked for a video of one of the public meetings and you denied him. You instructed Paul Gardner to tell him he couldn’t have it. He played the voice mail from Gardner in the next meeting telling you Bien said not to give him the recording. Only then did you go to the board to make and pass a motion in essence saying videos couldn’t be released without board approval.
Sandi Kemp: implied I said we cannot be transparent
- Response: Taken out of context – in fact my comments were that we should be fully transparent however there is some information that we are required to protect. That being legal issues, personnel matters, and ongoing capital improvement procurement negotiations.
Editor’s response: We have the audio of the meeting and you said, “We can’t be transparent here, but we are being transparent right now unfortunately.”
Sandi Kemp: implied I was trying to silence other board members
- Response: Untrue – my comments reflect other board member should not make unauthorized press releases to the media representing the official position of HNWS. This is a function of our general manager Paul Gardener. Board members are free to make whatever comments they see fit as long as their name is on the article.
Editor’s Response: You spent a lot of time in a meeting chastising two board members for speaking to the press. They enjoy the same freedom of speech you do. They can speak to us whenever they like. Neither of them made statements on behalf of Holley-Navarre Water System.
Sandi Kemp: stated I answered “no” to a question to the board members regarding family being employed by HNWS
- Response: LIE – I and three other board members did not answer that question at all which is documented in the minutes. I would not answer “no” anyway since I have an uncle by marriage that works for HNWS and has for 25+ years. Per our attorney there are not any nepotism rules that apply to board members.
Editor’s response: First, the minutes cannot be trusted because they can be manipulated after the fact – as in recreating five months’ worth of minutes as was done earlier this year. Why didn’t you just answer “yes” when you were asked?
Sandi Kemp: Bien May is the son-in-law of Michael Trent Krueger, who was a named suspect when HNWS burned down
- Response: Simply wrong – Michael Trent Krueger is a cousin by marriage, has no children, was never a board member of HNWS, and never a suspect of arson.
Editor’s response: Michael Krueger, your uncle by marriage, was a board member of HNWS and was a suspect of the arson that burned down the water department. It’s all there in the fire marshal’s investigation report.
In last week’s edition of the Navarre Press, our honest responses to a Navarre Press reporter were twisted to imply that HNWS, or myself, blamed our customers for the fact that our effluent disposal volume exceeds the initial permitted capacity of our effluent disposal system. This is simply not true. The response provided to the reporter is attached in whole. It speaks for itself. The article twists and sensationalizes facts provided to the reporter. The responses clearly do not “blame” the customers, in total, for the problems currently being solved by Staff and the Board.
Editor’s response: Your response to the reporter’s question does indeed put blame on the customers for opening manhole covers to drain roadways, connecting French drains around the house and yard to the sewer laterals, breaking unused laterals to drain yards. Sounds like you are blaming the customers.
Since this is an opinion piece I would pose a few questions… What has happened to “Ethics in Journalism and fair & balanced reporting”? Where is the fact checking before going to print? Has it become the norm to accept inaccurate, slanted, or misleading reporting so long as it sells? When is ever OK to use a newspaper to slander someone with untruths and misinformation while hiding behind the press badge? These articles equate to nothing more than a bully with a pen who owns a paper and has an agenda. Shouldn’t our community expect more?
Now for the real reason I decided to write this letter to the editor. And that is the professionals that make up Holley Navarre Water System. It has been my experience and observation they are hardworking, dedicated, diligent, and professional employees who have the best interest of the water system and its members at heart. They are there when a line breaks and don’t leave until your services are restored no matter what the time. They are the ones that go into places many would run away from to get the job done. I have witnessed them work long hours to ensure when you reach for the tap… that clean and safe drinking water is there.
These recent articles are not a true representation of your water system, its employees, or the board for that matter. True… we have had some distractions of recent weeks but I assure you we remain intently focused on the business of Holley Navarre Water System. We encourage and welcome our members to come participate in the board meetings and find out for themselves.
Editor’s response: You might be surprised to know that Sandi Kemp owns this newspaper – but she doesn’t write the editorials. “Ethics in Journalism and fair and balanced reporting” is on every page of our paper. Just because you don’t like what it says doesn’t mean it isn’t true. We don’t slander (make false and damaging statements about someone). What we say is true.
We are not bullies with pens putting an “x” on the back of our next target.
The thing we found most interesting about your letter is you didn’t deny trying to silence your board of directors from speaking to the media, you didn’t deny recreating five sets of minutes to be approved at one time. You didn’t deny telling your vice president to “shut your mouth” or threaten him with a harassment complaint if he “kept it up.” You didn’t deny having a contractor on the board (Troy Bossier) who pushes capital improvement projects to benefit his company Cajun Contractors.
As the president of Holley-Navarre Water System, you do show yourself to be concerned with the business of the water system but at what cost? And why are there so many secret meetings being held? What is there to hide? Or maybe the question is, what do you have to gain?