By BERNIE BELLAN
Evidence is mounting that The Jewish Post & News has been singled out for retribution from Winnipeg City Hall, apparently for having the temerity to suggest that Mayor Sam Katz and Chief Administrative Officer Phil Sheegl ought to resign. (See article on this website titled “Katz and Sheegl ought to resign” – which was originally posted Oct. 2 and which has become the most widely read article in the history of The Jewish Post & News.)
Here is the evidence that our paper has been singled out for punishment:
Each year, for the past three years, beginning in 2009 and continuing through 2011, we have been contacted by someone in the City Clerk’s Department, asking us how much it would cost to place an advertisement asking for volunteers from the public to serve on city boards and commissions.
I hadn’t thought about that particular ad this year until I became aware that the ad had appeared on another ethnic website – The Winnipeg Jewish Review.
Upon further checking, I saw that the same ad also appeared on at least two other ethnic websites: The Filipino Journal and La Liberté. (It is quite possible that the ad appears on other websites, although the websites for those two publications are the only ethnic websites where I was able to find the ad.)
What is especially significant is that both those publications also carried the ad in their print editions the past few years.
On Oct. 30 I contacted the city employee who had contacted us in previous years to place the ad. Her name is Inga Skundberg and her title is Assistant Committee Clerk in the City Clerk’s Department.
I asked Ms. Skundberg why we had not been contacted this year to have the ad placed. She replied that the decision had been made to place the ad “online” rather than in print publications.
When I asked Ms. Skundberg whether she was aware that we had a website, she answered that she was aware of that.
I asked her, then, why the ad was placed on a rival website, but not on ours? Ms.Skundberg replied that there were “limited dollars”.
I asked her how the decision was made to place the ad on certain ethnic websites, but not on ours. She responded again that there were “limited dollars”.
I suggested to her that, “with all due respect, that’s not an answer.”
Ms. Skundberg would offer no further explanation as to why The Jewish Post & News was spurned by the City Clerk’s Department when it came to placing the ad.
That same day I sent an e-mail to City Clerk Richard Kachur, describing the conversation that I had just had with Ms. Skundberg, asking him: “How was the decision made to place this particular ad on one Jewish website, but not another one?”
I received an auto response from Mr. Kachur, saying he was out of town and inquiries should be sent to Marc Lemoine who, I learned, is Deputy City Clerk.
I sent the same e-mail that I had sent to Mr. Kachur to Mr. Lemoine immediately. There was no response from Mr. Lemoine.
The next day I phoned Mr. Lemoine, but he did not return my call.
Later that same day I sent the following e-mail to Mr. Lemoine:
I have e-mailed you and left a phone message for you.
To date I have not received a response.
What I know is that an ad for the City of Winnipeg seeking volunteers for boards and commissions was submitted to at least three online publications: The Winnipeg Jewish Review, The Filipino Journal, and La Liberté.
Two of those publications - the Filipino Journal and La Liberté, were publications that also received similar print ads in the past from the city. So was The Jewish Post & News.
We were not contacted by the person who, in the past, contacted us to obtain ad rate information - Inga Skundberg. Ms. Skundberg did admit to me, in a phone conversation on Oct. 30, that she was aware we had a website. Again - as I wrote yesterday, she would offer no explanation beyond saying that there were "limited dollars".
My question to you, therefore, is: Was there a directive given to Ms. Skundberg by anyone ordering her not to place the ad on our website? (emphasis mine)
Thus, there does seem to be a clear case of deliberate omission of The Jewish Post & News from an advertising campaign by the City Clerk’s Department. No one suggested to me that it was a simple oversight, nor did Ms. Skundberg say that she wasn’t aware that we had a website. Both of those answers might have assuaged my suspicions, but neither one was offered. Instead, all that I was told was there were “limited dollars” for advertising.
One might ask: If it is true that we were singled out for retribution by someone within City Hall, where would that instruction have come from?
Has the City Clerk’s Department now become a tool for partisan politics, when it is supposed to operate in a totally nonpartisan manner? It would certainly seem so. Ad placement should be tendered the same way any other request to provide services to the city is supposed to be tendered. It is patently clear that, not only did that not occur in this instance, we were deliberately passed over for consideration for the provision of a service that we were totally qualified to perform.
We’re not Montreal yet – but it seems clear that someone at City Hall would like to take us further in that direction.