Danks Letter Redux | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Danks Letter Redux

On June 30, former Mayor Dale Danks wrote and faxed a letter to the Jackson Free Press in response to a June 27 Public Eye blog entry and a June 26 letter that Editor-in-Chief Donna Ladd wrote to the Jackson City Council. Both the blog entry and the letter were in reference to The Clarion-Ledger's proposed open-records settlement with the city negotiated by Mr. Danks and Leonard Van Slyke, attorney for The Clarion-Ledger.

In her letter, Ladd urged the City Council to reject the proposed settlement drafted by Melton's private attorney Dale Danks. In the Public Eye posting, I summarized the letter.

In Danks' reply, he cited Mississippi Code 95-1-5 and claimed that Ladd and I made "false and defamatory statements" about him. He said we had accused him of having conflicts of interest in his representation of the mayor, and he claimed that our concerns over unfilled public records requests the JFP has filed on Danks were baseless because he had already faxed all of his contracts to us. He threatened to "take such action as is allowed under state law" unless the Jackson Free Press printed a retraction and apology.

On July 10, Ladd replied to Danks. Ladd clarified that the JFP had not asserted that Danks had a conflict of interest in working as the mayor's attorney. Rather, the JFP expressed concern over Danks overseeing public records. "It is our opinion that it would not be in the citizens' best interest for Mr. Danks to be in a position of deciding whether to release public information about cases he has been involved with in various capacities—again, this is not the same as saying that he has a conflict of interest in representing Mr. Melton," Ladd wrote. "We apologize if this opinion and distinction, as stated, were not clear to Mr. Danks or other readers."

As for Danks' statement that he had faxed us his contracts, I personally went through every fax the JFP received between May 15 and June 24 to ensure that Danks' contracts were not among them, and they were not. (The JFP receives faxes electronically, which made it easy to check.) Indeed, Danks did fax his contracts the day after Donna wrote the clarification, and this time, his secretary called to be sure we received the fax.

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