Letter: Councilman Responds to Rebuking of 6abc Interview

Councilman Rich DiGregorio was chastised Wednesday night by council members for talking to Action News about the possible smoking ban in Lansdale. DiGregorio responded with a letter to the editor on his stance

The following is a letter to the editor sent to Lansdale Patch by Lansdale Borough Councilman Rich DiGregorio in response to his public rebuke by his peers for an interview with Action News 6abc:

To the editor:

We can all agree that Lansdale Borough council’s is controversial. We, as council members, must weigh potential health issues with the liberty of people to engage in certain behaviors.

Regardless of which way you lean on this issue, that gave me pause for concern and that was Councilman Dunigan’s statement that in the future I should check with the administration before speaking to the press.

Councilman Dunigan chastised me for speaking to Walter Perez from Channel 6 Action News regarding the proposed smoking ban in the borough. As an elected official, my primary obligation is to the residents of my ward not to the administration. Councilman Dunigan stated in his criticism of my action that the borough needs to act “more as a business in regard” to public relations.

If we are in the business of squelching dissent, then I guess Mr. Dunigan is right. I happen to believe that politics is a competition of ideas. Let Mr. Dunigan and Council President Matt West give their side, and  I will give mine.

For many residents, the press is their only form of information regarding the issues in the borough; many residents do not have time to attend council meetings.

Stifling the free speech of a public official is troubling and channeling all communication through one source risks going down the slippery slope towards an autocratic regime.

Councilman Dunigan and Council President West are brazen enough to suggest that residents should only hear one viewpoint. I disagree. I am here to serve our residents, not the borough administration.

Rich DiGregorio
Lansdale Borough Councilman, Ward II

Submit letters to the editor at lansdale@patch.com.

Garage Band September 08, 2012 at 11:51 AM
Dear C. Smith, So let me get this right, whenever a Councilman or woman represents the Borough to the press, i.e., the Patch, the Reporter or any other media outlet, does that local official need to check in with the Borough Manager or Council President? Does this also apply to other events when the local official represents the Borough at a function? I'm sure the Borough Manager or the Borough Council Presdent would love that control.
C. Smith September 08, 2012 at 02:33 PM
@GarageBand: I'm sorry, but this doesn't seem to me to be about "checking in". It's simply, "hey -- just a heads up, the news wants to interview me about XYZ, in case you get any follow up questions." Pretty simple stuff being blown out of proportion. Reminds me of the guy who comes to Council complaining about his First Amendment rights being infringed while he stands there and exercises them. Hilarious really.
Dan Johnson September 09, 2012 at 12:48 AM
Mr. C. Smith, Your closing remark targeting Democrats was absolutely irrelevant and from the sounds of it you are Republican. Guess what? So am I. Had it not been such a controversial subject, I'm sure the Council would have had no qualms regarding councilman DiGregorio's discussion with the media. It's people like you that make me want to switch political views. Please do me and all Republicans a favor and get a education. By the way, I like what you wrote about the ghost writer. Did you ever here of receptionist or secretaries? Who cares if he had assistance or not. Have you ever read a News Paper? They have thousands of editors to help the writers. Now towards the true subject that is being spoken about. If you are a smoker and this upsets you say something towards that. If not, next time please make sure you go to your supervisor and ask permission to speak. Thank you and good luck with your education.
C. Smith September 10, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Mr. Johnson: Please understand, I was not targeting Democrats. I was targeting two Councilmen who happen to be Democrats. I could care less about their party. Incidentally, I am not a Republican. Nor am I a Democrat. And as you point out, party in this discussion is irrelevant. In any case, as others have done (including Mr. DiGregorio himself), I believe you've missed the gist of why Mr. DiGregorio was being "rebuked." It doesn't matter what the issue is -- big or small, controversial or no. If you have a planned interview with the press, it's just a courteous thing to do to give folks a heads up. Nothing more than that. You're not asking for permission. Regarding your comment about editors... My comment was based on the fact that this letter was clearly NOT written by Mr. DiGregorio. If you follow local politics enough, you will know this is true. And I would rather have his words than someone else's. Otherwise it makes you wonder who's pulling Mr. DiGregorio's strings...
Drew Stockmal September 10, 2012 at 08:34 PM
Let me just say, I wish people on here would use their real names and then things might be more honest and interesting. Here's one man's take. If Boro Admin and other LBC'ers only wanted a simple common courtesy call from Rich and "all would have been OK" I'm wondering why he wasn't politely reminded about the orientation in closed quarters. If I had worked to put the process in place and Rich, or anyone else, did not object to it when first reviewed, and then purposely disregarded it, I too might be upset. I'd prob say something to him as well. But I'm not sure that's the case here. I don't find Rich to be a man who is calculating or malicious. Being called out in public, to me, sends a direct message. A public chastising tells the world that he stepped outside his usual role on the Council in which he can be marginalized by the current voting block/majority, and the loss of that control is frustrating to others "in the big chair." Rich and Jack are currently relegated to the kids table for Thanksgiving dinner. If Rich didn't follow a process, then have a private conversation as to why he didn't follow it. Rich doesn't answer to a CEO or President or anyone else. I worry when there's no dissention or open/public discussion about issues. We had that w/ the last Administration & it was not an ideal relationship between council, Administration and the public who yearn for information but often get little. I welcome any shift towards openness & transparency.


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