This comment showed this morning on an older post, reacting to recent media attacks and more specifically to rude and indignant blog comments about the new TYC conservator:
I am a social worker who has spent my whole adult life working for children and families, trying to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. I was married to Richard Nedelkoff for 16 years specifically because I saw in him the passion to help people all his life. He didn't take the easy way out and become an attorney when he could have. He has dedicated his life to helping youth and families and has made a huge impact in many different states. I have two wonderful children who have had to move all over the country, give up friends, deal with new schools, and start over because of their father's commitment to helping youth. We are not rich and have struggled our whole lives but we both feel we have made a difference. Though we are no longer married I still have great respect for Richard and know him to be a honest and forthright leader who cares about his staff and the kids. Please don't get caught up in the political circus and ruin a good man's reputation. Please remember his 16 year old daughter who still feels she can make a difference in the world and his 12 year old son are reading the newspaper. Please don't get sucked in to the politicians web of destruction. Change is difficult, but if you ask the staff of TYC they all believe that change needs to happen at the dysfunctional agency. Please be careful in biting off your nose to spite your face. Richard is already making important changes at TYC. Please do not ruin a good man's reputation and destroy two children just for the sake of a story. Please make sure you have ALL your facts straight.Good advice all the way around.
For TYC blog commenters, in particular, let me add, "what she said." And not just regarding Richard Nedelkoff. I've deleted comments about Dimitria Pope several times that went WAY over the top, and given the kind of thing I let go, that's saying something!
But a recent email exchange with a capitol beat reporter reminds me it would also behoove professional media to carefully heed her admonishment, "don't get sucked in to the politicians web of destruction."
A prime example has been the Austin Statesman's Mike Ward's coverage of alleged conflicts of interest by Nedelkoff with his now-former employer. Senate Criminal Justice Chairman John Whitmire has been acting executive director Dimitria Pope's most vocal and strident champion, and now that she's not going to be the permanent executive director, the Chairman has taken to attacking Nedelkoff in the press.
First we get complaints that the conservator plans to raise the salary of the new executive director to attract national-level talent. Personally I'm thrilled with that news - I don't know how you'd get anyone worth a damn to take the thankless job, which must be now the highest profile agency head in the state.
Whitmire, who Ward calls a "close friend" of Ms. Pope, says he's "seriously concerned" about the decision to (possibly) increase the salary of her successor. I'd wager, though, that if Chairman Whitmire took the job managing TYC at $160,000, the high end of the proposed range, he'd have to take a pay cut.
Next came complaints from the Dean of the Senate that Nedelkoff had not severed ties to the firm Eckerd Youth Services, where he'd worked for less than a year before taking the TYC gig, and was bringing in temporary assistants who worked for the state of Florida, which contracts with Eckerd. So Nedelkoff resigned his private sector job to avoid any "appearance of impropriety," after which Ward published another Whitmire broadside:
Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, said Nedelkoff's resignation will not resolve the concerns.
"By leaving, he's almost raised more questions — like does he plan to go back to Eckerd, does Eckerd now plan to do business with Mr. Nedelkoff's agency, things like that," Whitmire said. "It's what I don't yet know about all these relationships that concerns me the most."
Whitmire, co-chairman of a special legislative panel overseeing Youth Commission changes, said he intends to investigate the deals further in upcoming legislative hearings. "And I'm sure the (legislative committees) in Florida are going to be just as interested in all this as we are," he said.
Apparently the Chairman (and hence Ward) literally cannot be satisfied: He's unhappy because Nedelkoff didn't leave his old job, then wants to conduct an investigation when he does. Damned if you do and damned if you don't.
Ward and Whitmire are fast becoming like a tag team for generating negative stories about the new conservator's personnel decisions. The reporter I mentioned opined that Ward's recent coverage amounted to "irresponsible journalism" that does a "disservice to the public," declaring "First Whitmire wants him to quit. Then Whitmire says his quitting raises new questions. And Mike Ward laps it all up." I'd earlier called Whtimire's criticisms a "cheap shot." My reporter friend felt even more strongly, declaring "it makes me OUTRAGED."
If there's a media-worthy story here, it's that the senator is retaliating against the conservator for failing to hire his close friend as the permanent executive director, a job for which she applied but was informed she would not receive. So he launches these specious attacks.
Just over a month ago at the dawn of the new year, I wrote that everyone in the TYC saga should resolve to "take a deep breath" and give the new conservator a chance to get his sea legs. It's time to renew that resolution. Thanks to the conservator's ex for reminding us that the viciousness that characterizes modern politics harms more than just those at whom we aim our venom.