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John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


For the Record

If you read both my website and the City News, you might find that part of Mayor Longrie's letter in the January issue seems familiar. Portions of it are identical to text I posted here on December 14, 2008.

For example, my article reads, "Even including those bond payments, the final levy increase of 2.12% is well below the rate of inflation, whether you measure that by the Consumer Price Index or the Implicit Price Deflator for State and Local Government Consumption."

The mayor's article reads, "There will be those who say the Council majority did a great job getting a final levy increase of only 2.12% and that this is well below the rate of inflation, be it measured by the Consumer Price Index or the Implicit Price Deflator for State and Local Government Consumption."

Mine says, "$43,000 from Police. We will not buy a hybrid SUV ($26,000 savings). We also can account for $17,000 in savings from a recent change of provider for youth diversion services (the budget was written before we had finalized that deal and locked in the savings)."

Hers says, "$43,000 from Police Department budget to not purchase a hybrid SUV ($26,000 savings) and account for $17,000 in savings from a recent change of provider for the youth diversion services"

Her listing of the final round of cuts follows the same order as my bullet listing. This is not the order of the potential cuts listed in the agenda report.

Normally our columns in the newsletter are due about a month ahead of the issue date (my February article deadline was January 2nd), so I want to make it clear that my website entry was written before her article. She took text from my blog, and not vice versa. The following is clear evidence to support my claim.

  • As the date at the bottom of the entry indicates, my article was published to the web on Sunday, December 14th at 10:43 AM.
  • On Monday, December 15, at 11:47 AM, Acting City Manager Ahl sent an e-mail to the mayor and copied the city council. The main topic of the e-mail was scheduling of a special meeting. He also noted,
β€œOn another issue, we are far behind our deadline for processing the City News. We do not have your letter yet and if we do not go to print this afternoon, we will not have the January issue in homes prior to January 2nd, and there is time-sensitive material. I informed the staff to proceed without your letter if it is not received by 4:00 pm today (Monday). I know that you have been busy, but we need to proceed. Thank you for your understanding.”
  • From e-mail internet headers and my web server logs, I can see that the same computer used by the mayor to send e-mail on the morning of December 15th was used to access my website – when my Dec. 14th entry was on the top of the page – on both December 14th and 15th.
  • Because I had to write the article for our February newsletter, and I didn't want to duplicate information from the January issue (which was at that point already at press), I asked staff for an advance copy of the mayor's article. I was given her Microsoft Word document. The embedded document properties show that it was created on 12/15/08 at 2:02 PM.
  • The mayor's letter was sent to city staff as an e-mail attachment at 3:18 PM, 12/15/08.
The record thus suggests that after being warned that the city would need to send the City News to press with or without her article on December 15th, perhaps feeling under pressure from the deadline, the mayor cut and pasted my summary and analysis of our final levy decision from my website into her article. While she made some changes, portions of my original text were used verbatim.

I'm sure that some folks will shrug and say this is no big deal. I guess lawyers often borrow and re-use contract language, for example, so maybe in Mayor Longrie's world it didn't even occur to her that there would be anything wrong with using text from a colleague's website without attribution or permission.

However, I've worked as a professional writer for more than twenty years. In my line of work, taking someone else's writing and presenting it as your own is a serious ethical breach. I want to make it clear for the record, given the identical sections of text in these two documents, that my article on this website was the one written and published first, not vice versa.


Once again, my compliments for exposing the mayor's activities for what they are . . . . . .


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