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Embarrassed and sad it came to this Carlos Davalos | Fri, Mar 26 2010 04:44 PM

The public and hasty snub of radio personality Roger Hedgecock by MAAC Project President Antonio Pizano and Ed Herrera  (CEO and president of Chula Vista Civic Association and vice-president of Southwest Chula Vista Civic Association and CEO of San Diego South County Chamber of Commerce), who told me he phoned Hedgecock and asked him to back out of an engagement to moderate this week's mayoral/ city council candidates' forum, was the final bump in a muddy road that sent this jalopy of a civic event careening out of control.

In hindsight, partnering with Chula Vista Civic Association and Southwest to host the event was a wild ride The Star-News should never have gone on.

More than one person questioned how fair a political forum could be if two of the  candidates running for office had strong ties to two of the event's organizers.

Given that Earl Jentz, a debate organizer and Southwest board member, has already spent money on candidate Patricia Aguilar's campaign, and that Herrera last year had worked on Larry Breitfelder's council campaign, the skepticism wasn't without merit.

Assurances that the newspaper would do its best to guarantee fairness, impartiality and professionalism were wanted from The Star-News .

Placing our credibility on the line, we gave our word. Hindsight shows us we took on more than what we could control.

From the beginning there was an overabundance of lies, miscommunication and misinformation.

When calls from this paper were made to candidates to confirm they had confirmed their participation in the forum, as we had been told by Herrera, we learned that not everyone was on board.

When one candidate told me she had spoken with Herrera and got the OK to have a high school student deliver remarks on her behalf because she would be out of town, Herrera emphatically stated he said no such thing.

And when Theresa Acerro, president of one of the organizing bodies, wrote an email to someone on the day of the forum telling them: "The only reason Roger (Hedgecock) was asked is because there was no way to get the mayor to show up otherwise," she not only was passing along misinformation, she was jeopardizing this newspaper's reputation.

In the same way this newspaper does not capitulate to people who want or don't want particular individuals to moderate their forums, this newspaper does not contract moderators to appease any one individual.

Put simply, the desires of Mayor Cheryl Cox had no bearing on our asking Hedgecock to join us. To characterize her as having twisted arms to get her way is unfair. And wrong.

Finally, in speaking with Pizano, he contends Herrera did not tell him Hedgecock would moderate the debate.

Whether I agree with Pizano and his reasons for not wanting Hedgecock to moderate the forum at MAAC charter school is irrelevant. What matters is that Pizano, as leader of an organization, has the right to decide with whom he wants his group to partner - much the same way The Star-News has a right to decide who it works with.

For the record, we stand behind our decision to work with Hedgecock.

We withdrew our support from the forum when it became overwhelmingly clear that lies, misinformation and miscommunication were damaging this newspaper's credibility.

It was an embarrassing turn of events when, at the last minute, we essentially told candidates: Sorry, we're not giving in to the demands of Mr. Pizano and we don't feel comfortable with the level of professionalism that has been displayed.

While this explanation may appear to some as finger pointing, it's important for a newspaper to get the facts out there.

Finally, in an odd show of solidarity with Hedgecock, Herrera and his colleagues went on with their show. Good for them, I guess. We all live with the decisions we make, even if they are the wrong ones.

In the meantime, anyone know if Howard Stern, Glenn Beck or Piolin por La Mañana is available to moderate a candidate forum in the near future?


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