August 24, 2005

The 'Devine' Cost of Slime: How One Fake Newspaper Hurt$ Taxpayers

Tina Renna, our very own Princess of Public Information, has been the focus of an on-going "investigative reporting" series in the Devine Media newspapers.

Devine's Rahway News-Recordand the Clark Patriot have been hacking away at Tina and her hubby Joe, calling them responsible for wasting taxpayers' money by requesting too many public documents.

Another article assails the Rennas as "outcasts" from county government, trying to exact their revenge on their former employers by suing and requesting public documents from them.

To say that these articles fail to mention facts would be an understatement. The Devine newspapers are rags bought and paid for by the county political machine. And James J. Devine is a party apparatchik who's never known a corrupt county Democrat to do any wrong.

This is why J.J. Devine, purported journalist and publisher, is out trashing Ms. Renna for requesting information that the county government should already be volunteering.

While other journalists and friends of the First Amendment are hailing the federal Freedom of Information Act and our own Open Public Records Act, Devine suggests in one column ("The Cost of Open Government") that citizens who seek to inform themselves are a public nuisance.

And while other journalists report the truth as they see it, Mr. Devine can't be bothered with such details as "the truth."

In his rants he (purposefully?) leaves out the facts that Ms. Renna has had to pay for all the information that she's obtained, that the county has charged her thousands of dollars for information that every citizen is already entitled to, that the state records council has found the county government to be in violation of the law at least three times.

Details, details...

Never mind that the county government practices a culture of secrecy and back-room politicking - a culture that Devine sees no reason to attack in the same fashion as he's done to activists.

Devine: Impostor Reporter Becomes Pol Impersonator

A story you won't find in any Devine weekly any time soon is the scandal that Devine caused when his company put up a fake website that misrepresented itself as belonging to two Republican candidates in Monmouth and Middlesex counties.

Devine, falsly identifying himself as one of the candidates, sent out a press release inviting reporters to check out the GOP team's website.

But the site wasn't theirs! It was a phony put up by Honest Devine. The site, designed to hurt the real candidates, wrongly stated that the candidates supported same-sex marriage and legalizing marijuana.

When he was caught, Devine tried to blame a high school student for what his company did - but ho-hum, nobody bought it.

The Cost of Devine

Devine's attack on Tina for "wasting taxpayers' money" is amusing for two reasons. One being that the county freeholders spend over $1 million a day and yet he never writes a "Voice of the People" (what people?) column about that. And the other reason being that he himself is guilty of wasting public funds. Except that in his case, he's taking home the dough.

In 2003, the Worrall family's newspaper, the Rahway Progress, published a story about how the city's Democrat-controlled city council would not buy public notice ads in the Progress but would place them in Devine's competing News-Record, which charged more to run the notices.

The Progress pointed out that rates for public notice ads (those tiny print government announcements in the back pages of your weekly) are set by law. Every newspaper is supposed to charge the same.

But not James Devine's newspapers.

In a public notice I randomly pulled out from a Devine paper, dated November 18, 2004, I found that compared to similar ads in Worrall newspapers, the Devine ad had font twice as big, lines twice as spaced, and white space twice as empty. Therefore, twice the cost to the government.

Of course, Worrall's Progress failed to make the connection between Devine, a Democratic operative who always gives good press to the Democratic Kennedy administration and council, and the council's granting Devine all the ads despite his charging more. (That's OK because I made the connection for them in a column I used to write for the now-defunct Hillside Citizen Dispatch.)

It doesn't seem fair that people like Tina get tarred and feathered by the machine with lies - lies that the machine is itself guilty of. But that's how it is and we shouldn't expect any better from career politicians.

But James Devine, a man who claims to speak for the people through his press all the while misusing it as a pro-government lackey, should be ashamed of himself. Pulitzer rolls over in his grave.