By Mallory Herrmann
Linda Ahern, Linda@lstribune.net
Documentations are listed below
The Lee’s Summit Tribune itself became the subject of some local news stories when we shared a letter to the editor from Stephenie Bernal, wife of David Bernal, who is currently running for Jackson County Sheriff.
The letter was received by the editor at 10:37 p.m., Oct. 25, as the Oct. 27 edition was in production. The contents of the letter were related to comments from Interim Sheriff Darryl Forté, as described by Stephenie, at an Oct. 25 NAACP candidate forum. Forté is also running for sheriff in the Nov. 6 election. The letter was her voice and concerns.
Once published, the interim sheriff directed a series of tweets to the @lstribune handle. Forté said that the letter was “full of lies” and suggested that the Tribune was intentionally waiting to receive such a letter for publication.
“Opponents team submitted a letter, full of lies, to the editor of @lstribune after the debate last night. Guess they were on standby to receive info from my opponent because the letter was posted this morning. A former ghost @JCSheriffOffice employee worked at the paper. #benice”
When follow-up comments and questions were directed to Forté on Twitter, he said he was “no longer concerned about what was communicated by @LSTribune at 12:09am” (the letter was actually published at 11:09 p.m.) and that he had more important issues to address.
Darryl Forte responds to claims in letter to editor of Lee’s Summit Times
A “letter to the editor” making inflammatory claims about Interim Jackson County Sheriff Darryl Forte has sparked a Twitter war between him and the newspaper editor who published it. By Betsy Webster, Zoe Brown of kctv5.com
Tony’s Kansas City, the political and cultural blog, replied to wonder whether Forté might respond similarly to other matters: “Reality: @sheriffforte has refused to clarify his remarks and wants to dismiss the topic. Maybe it’s not a big deal but what other topics will he refuse to address as an elected official???”
The “ghost” he references is apparently John Beaudoin, who was a long-time publisher and reporter for the Lee’s Summit Journal and whose employment with the sheriff’s office was confirmed in 2017 by the Tribune with an employment verification request. See document below.
“Beaudoin had been performing social media and website updates for the office since 2015.”
On Jan. 17, 2017, the Tribune made an open records request for all of Beaudoin’s email files. A CD from Brenda Hill, public information officer for Jackson County, with more than 600 emails was received on Feb. 7, 2017. See document below.
Forté reported this summer that two former civilian employees had been paid for work they hadn’t done. According to KCUR, “Forté said he turned over information about two former employees to an outside law enforcement agency for possible criminal investigations.”
And an editorial in The Kansas City Star notes, “Forte said he hasn’t been able to find evidence that Jones or Beaudoin was doing county work.”
Beaudoin wrote to Forté to dispute the Twitter comments, copying Jackson County Executive Frank White and Tribune Editor Linda Ahern. As an email in the county records, this is publicly available via Sunshine Law requests. Forté replied, in part, “I’ve had several communications with a rep from newspaper and was told otherwise. I apologize if the information was inaccurate.” The Tribune has not had communication with Forté regarding Beaudoin.
The letter from Stephenie Bernal does incorrectly spell Forté’s first name.
The Tribune is still seeking a recording of the event or a secondary on-record source to provide additional context regarding the alleged comments. The paper has also made multiple offers to publish a rebuttal letter from Forté himself, which have gone unanswered. The Tribune was not invited to attend the forum.