Politics and Grass Lawn Part 4: Threaten the Local Paper

I have limited time and literally too many topics to write about but I could not let Brian Carriere’s path to political self destruction go without mention. To catch up our new readers Grass Lawn was an historic mansion so important to the City of Gulfport it was included in the city seal. Taken by Katrina, it’s importance as a symbol of recovery was even recognized by FEMA who changed program regulations to allow for the use of federal funds in its replication. Grass Lawn fell victim to the old style tit for tat gotcha politics that held back Gulfport for years before the last election. We have posted entries on the topic beginning here.

Just when you think City Council member and Grass Lawn opponent Brian Carriere finally screwed his head on right we get today’s Sun Herald story where he threatens the paper with legal action because they dared to print an email he sent out blaming a secretary for the political problems his stand on Grass Lawn caused him. Councilman Carriere how far your star has fallen……

City Councilman Brian Carriere was less than pleased with a Sun Herald report over the weekend about a scathing e-mail he sent out last week threatening to fire a council clerk he believes is floating rumors about his political future.

 Carriere was annoyed by the newspaper’s report on Saturday and he fired off another e-mail, this time to the Sun Herald, warning that “city attorneys” would be contacting the paper’s legal office.

He said the newspaper made a “poor decision to illegally” report on an internal city e-mail that was leaked last week in which Carriere threatened to push to fire a council clerk over a hunch that she had been spreading rumors, essentially calling it a private matter between elected city leaders.

“I don’t see anything illegal or improper at all,” said Sun Herald attorney Henry Laird. “I don’t understand what is meant by illegal; a newspaper is certainly within its rights to publish the contents of an e-mail from one public official concerning another public official. It’s the people’s business.”

For months, sources close to Carriere have said he is privately considering a run for mayor next year.

In the e-mail last week regarding the council clerk, Carriere said he has heard from “far too many sources” that the clerk was openly saying he plans to challenge Mayor Brent Warr in 2009.

“If I hear this from one more source, I will push vehemently to have you removed as council clerk. End of discussion,” Carriere wrote to the clerk.

Carriere’s future aspirations came up last week when political insiders questioned whether he was intentionally voting against recent Warr administration proposals, specifically one to reject a $500,000 grant to rebuild the antebellum Grass Lawn mansion.

On Monday, Carriere declined to speak publicly about the e-mails and whether he had asked the city’s attorneys to contact the Sun Herald’s legal team on his behalf.

In addition, Carriere would not say why he believed the newspaper’s use of the leaked e-mail was illegal. However, he did offer to speak off the record, which the Sun Herald declined.

City Hall attorney Harry Hewes said he was aware of the e-mail and the news reports, but he said Carriere had not contacted the city attorney’s office. Hewes was unsure whether the matter would be something that City Hall attorneys would handle.

“I don’t know. It doesn’t necessarily sound like something the city attorney would be working on, but I just don’t know,” he said.

Sun Herald Executive Editor Stan Tiner said conversations among public officials regarding public business should not be kept secret.

“This is emblematic of what we have been talking about in our series about secrecy in government. Conversations between elected officials who work for the public should be known by the public.

“The Sun Herald is confident that our reporting in this matter has been truthful and lawful. Transparency in these matters will lead to a better informed electorate, we believe. Rather than issuing threats of legal actions against those who are reporting these facts, I would hope that those in the public arena would join in a more open dialogue.”

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