Analysis of campaign flyers

A controversy has arisen concerning two pieces of mailed literature in which one candidate for the City Council (Ryan Holt) has made accusations concerning the conduct of another candidate (Helen Anthony) while she served on the City Council in Columbia, Missouri concerning a road improvement project.  The first flyer identifies two sources for its factual information, namely an article from the Columbia Heart Beat blog, and a report from the Columbia Historic District Commission.  The second flyer cites the same two sources.  I have reviewed the two flyers and the two listed sources.  I also found two pieces of additional information from my own research, namely an article from Columbia Missouri public radio concerning Helen Anthony’s plans to resign her Columbia City Council seat, and an article from the Columbia Missourian concerning the eventual construction of the project.

The front side of the first flyer states that Ms. Anthony was “implicated” in the Historic District Commission report of “violating City ordinances meant to prevent corruption.”  The report identifies two violations of City ordinances, namely failing to hold a stakeholder meeting (called an “interested parties” meeting) prior to voting on public improvement plans, and scheduling the public hearing before the City Council authorized the hearing to take place.  In both cases, the report identifies Mr. Glascock, the City Director of Public Works, as the official whose decisions violated these ordinances.  (See report, pages 5-16).  The report includes statements by Ms. Anthony to both stakeholders and the press that the “interested parties” meeting should take place.  See Report, p. 7.  For that reason, I believe the use of the word “implicated” is misleading.

The back of the flyer presents two quotations from the Columbia Heart Beat article, the first being that Ms. Anthony was “deeply involved,” immediately followed by one describing “the alleged legal and ethical lapses.”  A review of the article shows that, consistent with the report, it attributes the “ethical lapses [which] were part of an effort by the city’s executive branch” to Mr. Glascock, who was a member of the City government’s executive branch, not Ms. Anthony, who was part of the City’s legislative branch.  Instead, the article refers later to Ms. Anthony’s being “deeply involved in the planning” of the road project, not in Mr. Glascock’s decision to avoid the “interested parties” meeting she identified as being required.

The back of the flyer also states the following: “Soon after the controversy began, Helen Anthony resigned and moved to Providence.”  (emphasis in original)  This statement implies that the controversy led to her decision to resign and leave.  It is misleading because the key event that led to the controversy was Mr. Glascock’s October 21, 2012 decision to proceed with a hearing without a prior stakeholder meeting and/or City Council approval (see report, p. 9), which came after Ms. Anthony’s October 16, 2012 announcement that, effective November 30, she was leaving the Columbia City Council to move to Providence with her husband.

The second flyer, which features a picture of a backhoe tearing down a building, asserts that she was responsible for “demolished historic properties” on the front, and “the destruction of several historic homes” on the back.  In fact, according to the article from the Columbia Missourian, the project was completed several years later without the demolition of any buildings.