Friday, January 13, 2017

WLFI News Ethics Called Into Question As Reporter's Personal Friendships With Sheriff's Political Opponents Exposed

WLFI Reporter Kayla Sullivan
Is there a politically-orchestrated witch hunt being waged against Tippecanoe County Sheriff Barry Richard for the advantage of a political opponent?  Are biased "news-tipsters" colluding with Kayla Sullivan, a news reporter at WLFI News, to do their dirty work?  It sure looks suspicious to some LCJ readers.

Our Citizen Journal panel thought the questions were fair, especially after learning that several of Richard's political opponents are listed as Facebook friends with the WLFI reporter responsible for many of the negative stories about Richard. 

One of Sullivan's Facebook "friends" is none other than Jason Dombkowski, the WLPD Chief who recently announced his intention to run against Richard for Sheriff.  He is friendly enough with Sullivan that he initiated the "like" Facebook feature for some of her glam-selfie shots. 

Could his approval of her photograph be an attempt to gain favor?  Could it influence Sullivan as she writes negative stories about a political opponent of a "friend?"   Does Dombkowski have unfair access to the news reporter that Richard doesn't have?  How can a reporter maintain objectivity when these perceived unethical appearances certainly don't pass the smell test for journalistic ethics?  "Avoid conflicts of interests, real or perceived," warns the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics Society. 

The appearance of conflict has been suggested by supporters of Sheriff Richard.   It appears they have a valid point.   The timing of these politically-manufactured "scandals" is also suspicious as the stories started coming fast and furious shortly after Dombkowski announced his intention to run for sheriff.

LtoR: Tracy Brown, Jason Huber, Jason Dombkowski
Dombkowski isn't the only Richard detractor to show up on Sullivan's Facebook page.
Another notable "Friend of Kayla" is Jason Huber, TCPD deputy and friend of former sheriff Dave Heath.  Heath and Richard squared off in a contentious political battle two years ago.  Heath angrily resigned as Republican Party Chairman soon after taking the hard loss. 

On Monday, January 13, Huber posted a link to this Journal and Courier commentary about Richard to his Facebook page, which gained a quick and positive response from Chief Dombkowski.   "I am very much looking forward to the competitive election process for the Tippecanoe County Sheriff's election," commented Dombkowski.

There are many other public officials from the Who's Who of Republican Office Holders listed as Facebook friends of Kayla Sullivan.  Some of those "friends" spoke out against Sheriff Richard during the election and even went so far as to support a third-party candidate after Heath lost the bitter primary campaign.

Richard earned the votes of many Blue Dog Democrats as well as conservative Republicans.  His political opponents didn't take the loss well and are apparently working behind-the-scenes in an attempt to oust Richard from the powerful Sheriff's position, although it's falling as flat as it did for Donald Trump's political enemies when they used similar tactics against him.  In fact, some of Richard's supporters believe these tactics by smear merchants will backfire the same way it did in the recent presidential election.

"Maybe Barry should get his own Twitter account," suggested one supporter.  "He could do what Donald does and take his message directly to the people."

There have been other negative stories written about Richard since he took office, and it seems obvious to many that someone has been leaking "manufactured information" to a willing news reporter. 

One story, obviously intended to hurt Richard, blew up in the faces of those who sought to smear him.  The public overwhelmingly supported the sheriff for wanting to encourage an inmate toward positive rehabilitation.

Richard's political enemies were going to have to come up with something more if they wanted to take out the popular George Award winner.  Their earlier attempt at disparaging him over the fact that he innovatively saved the life of a school teacher by seeking out a drone from a neighboring county prosecutor's office only cemented Barry's support. 

Prosecutor Pat Harrington Should Address His Own Scandal Say Critics

Another story was soon leaked to Sullivan since the earlier one fell flat.  The latest "scandal" was about a broken finger print machine.   Pat Harrington, Tippecanoe County prosecutor, was quick to criticize the sheriff even though Richard's hands were temporarily tied because the state would not accept ink prints taken the old-fashioned way, a fact that Sullivan conveniently omitted from her original story.

Pat Harrington
As an aside, Harrington's critics say that he should address his own scandals involving the violation of state laws concerning the misappropriation of civil forfeiture funds before pointing fingers at Richard, who has not broken any laws.

Harrington has been called out repeatedly for these violations, leaving Tippecanoe County citizens vulnerable to the types of lawsuits that was filed and still pending against Marion County.  Harrington has been sharply criticized by Indianapolis blogger and former attorney, Paul Ogden, for what he believes are illegal practices when it comes to Indiana Civil Forfeiture laws. 

[Attorneys from the Institute for Justice pursue these types of cases on behalf of citizens who are harmed by the illegal actions of prosecutors.

"This troubling situation has been years in the making.  Decades ago, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law allowing police and prosecutors to deduct 'law enforcement costs' from forfeiture proceeds, stated an IJ spokesperson via its blog.

 "The law requires them to deliver only surplus money to the school fund.[4] That in itself violates the Indiana Constitution, which commands that 'all forfeitures' go to the school fund. 'All forfeitures' does not mean 'some' forfeitures, and in the case of Indianapolis, it certainly does not mean 'no' forfeitures.  But given a yard, Indianapolis’s police and prosecutors have taken a mile. Even though the Civil Forfeiture Statute permits them to deduct only actual costs related to a specific forfeiture case, law enforcement in Indianapolis pockets every penny, of every forfeiture, every time."  Stay tuned for further local details and news on this subject.]

Because of these types of conflicts of interests, the Lafayette Citizen Journal will become more active in the coming months, because we agree with former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, that "sunlight is the best disinfectant."

Coming Soon:  WLFI Christmas Party Raises Eyebrows


  1. Politics in Lafayette seams to be no different than anywhere in the United States a big possibility the news media has followed suet !

  2. I would like to know, how many people have been effected by the clerks office employee scandal. How many people didnt get credit for paying their fees, fines, child support, and other court payments. How many people have gotten into further complications because of her actions?