Newspaper did not give a fair shake to Rep. Sanford
You and I have always had a good relationship with an open line of communication. Since we have known each other, you have regularly called or emailed asking my position or opinion on certain topics of state importance. This is why I was surprised when, after not having been contacted by you, I opened The Magee Courier on January 3 to find your opinion article which questions whether I have committed an ethical violation or have a “conflict of interest” regarding a potential lawsuit against opioid wholesalers. I was even more surprised, since you had emailed me just days before the article was published, but never even mentioned your concerns about this alleged conflict of interest.
The Society of Professional Journalism’s code of ethics, which governs your profession, states that, before publishing a story, journalists should “diligently seek subjects of news coverage to allow them to respond to criticism or allegations of wrongdoing.” You went to the trouble of asking the opinions of "three local attorneys,” but could not find time to contact me—the subject of the article itself?
Had you followed your profession’s standards of ethics and contacted me, I could have answered your questions and explained ethical rules by which legislators must conduct themselves. If you didn’t trust my word, you could have then contacted the Mississippi Ethics Commission, which handles conflicts of interest and ethical violations.
Before presenting to the Board of Supervisors, I did my due diligence and contacted the Mississippi Ethics Commission (as you should have done) to make sure that I understood Ethics laws correctly. As it turned out, I did, and there was no violation.
Just so you know, there are two ethical rules at play here: (1) Legislators may contract to provide services for a county or city government, so long as they are not paid with funds that are appropriated by the State; and (2) Public officials may not use their official positions to influence others in a way that would benefit the officials personal. Neither of these were violated, as I would not have been paid from state funds, nor did I use my position to influence the Board.
Growing up, my mother regularly reminded my brother and I how important our characters and reputations were, and that our names were of great importance; in fact, one year for Christmas, we all were given coffee mugs with Proverbs 22:1 printed on them: “A good name is to be chosen over great riches, and loving favor over silver and gold.”
I have spent my life building a name that is good. With one fell swoop, your failure to gather all pertinent facts before publication has now stained it. Even elected officials deserve better than that.
Sincerely, Noah Sanford