If Marion County commissioners wish to avoid following County Judge Leward LaFleur and Pct. 2 Commissioner Joe McKnight into another blunder, they must be ready to think for themselves.
The record of the last few months should give them pause.
First we have Sheriff David McKnight, Joe’s little brother, make the infamous Elmer-the-animal-control officer post. It may have been juvenile, but hardly criminal. Then the sheriff lied about it and the Jimplecute developed the evidence to show that he did.
Joe McKnight lead the charge against adopting public comment rules for the court. “I’ll ride that bull,” LaFleur declared. The matter was tabled. After coverage in the Jimplecute, McKnight declared he only wanted to address one or two parts of the policy and never was opposed to public comments. LaFleur swore he never said anything about riding a bull, even after a recording of him saying it was posted on the Jimplecute web site.
As county judge, LaFleur prepares the budget. The new budget required a property tax increase, but failed to increase the amount of money available to repair and maintain roads or address issues like animal control and abandoned buildings. Residents across Marion County are demanding improvements to their road. Residents on Liberty Road have even begun a petition.
Now LaFleur and McKnight want to punish the Jimplecute for printing the truth.
After the Jimplecute inquired about Marion County legal notices published in the Marshall News Messenger, an agenda item appeared on the Sept. 16 commissioners court agenda dealing with the requirements to publish legal notices.
The law has four requirements: the newspaper must be published at least weekly, must have a second class mailing permit in the county, must publish 50 out of the last 52 weeks and must have at least 25 percent news content.
The Jefferson Jimplecute is the only publication to meet these criteria.
Jimplecute Publisher Mica Wilhite wrote commissioners after the Sept. 16 meeting, “We have published the Jimplecute 52 weeks of the past 52 weeks. Of those 52 weeks, 6 editions were e-Editions only. 46 were both e-Editions and print editions.”
It is vital to note the law states published, not printed. e-Editions of newspapers are published just as books are published that you purchase and download onto your Kindle.
Publish means to “to disseminate to the public” or “to put out an edition.”
Attorneys have chosen to publish legal notices in the Jimplecute after being advised that a particular week was e-Edition only and would not include a print edition. Texas courts have accepted emailed copies of electronic pages from Jimplecute e-Editions as proof of publication.
A weekly newspaper must print 46 times each year in order to retain its Second Class mailing permit, which the Jimplecute does. When the postal service requires a publication to report their circulation numbers, they ask for both print and electronic quantities.
The result of commissioners not recognizing this important distinction and allow LaFleur and McKnight to exercise their resentment against the Jimplecute could be tragic for Marion County.
If the county’s legal notices are not published in the Jimplecute, tax sales, job openings, and tax rates could all be subject to challenge in the courts for improper notice. Marion County would be out the expense of defending these cases as well as paying rates in Marshall that are more than three times higher than the Jimplecute.
The famous Alfred Tennyson poem, “Charge of the Light Brigade,” recounts a military disaster during the Crimean War when a “blunder” sent horsemen charging into the mouths of the Russian cannon. “Theirs but to do or die,” Tennyson wrote.
Marion County commissioners do have a choice other than spurring the county into another mistake. By this time, they should know a blunder when they see one.
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