Mayor Stothert Must Approve Media Interaction with Employees

OMAHA (kptm) - She ran on a political platform of transparency, but yesterday new Mayor Jean Stothert sent a memo telling city employees they cannot talk to the media without her approval.

Fox 42 spoke with taxpayers who say it looks bad and won't work.

"When she got in office the first thing that she did is said 'well we're putting a hush hush on the media.' I don't think that that's right," Corlondo Montgomary says.

Within 48 hours of being sworn in, Mayor Jean Stothert initialed and sent out a letter saying "effective immediately all interaction with the news media by any department directors or any staff member of any city department regarding matters of city government will first be reviewed and approved by the mayor's chief of staff or the deputy chief of staff for communications."

Paul Landow was Mike Fahey's Chief of Staff; he disagrees with the mayor's directive. "A big mistake," he says.

"I don't think that it's right," Montgomary says.

Some question her motive and many wonder if her thought on transparency has changed. "Pledged that she would be open and transparent and the first thing that she does out of the shoot is try to put a gag order on city employees," Landow says.

Stothert says it's to make the city run more efficientlywith one voice. "This is to improve communication," Stothert says.

Taxpayer, Sheila Hughes says, "I think she's trying to hide something and I think that's not a good thing. When you hide things, you keep things undercover sooner or later they're going to come out and the people in the citylike why was she hiding that?"

"There's nothing that we are hiding. This is a directive to the directors to say that if you're going to talk to the media and it's a policy issue or a administrative issue to call and give us heads up," Stothert says.

"The mayor has a perfect right to ask the city departments to comport with his or her philosophy but that said when you do something formally and in writing you can't help but make it appear as though you're trying to control the message," Landow says.

"I want to make sure that we're all on the same page because if I'm going to achieve my vision and my goals we all have to be on the same page," Stothert says.

"It doesn't look good, it doesn't make sense, and it won't work."

Mayor Stothert says it doesn't apply to first responders who have to give information at the scene of an incident.

Fox 42 ran into our first problem with this new protocol, today. We covered firefighter appreciation day but could not talk to firefighters or get video of the donations they received, because they would have had to get permission first.