Danks Letter to JFP & Clarification | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Danks Letter to JFP & Clarification

UPDATED: See link to contracts below.

On June 30, the Jackson Free Press received a faxed letter (PDF) from attorney and former Mayor Dale Danks, in response to a recent Public Eye blog entry by Brian Johnson (which debuted in the Noise section on the index page) and a letter that Donna Ladd wrote (PDF) 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 his letter, Mr. Danks expresses concern about two issues. First, the potential "conflict of interest" concerns raised by Johnson and Ladd over the proposed settlement (PDF) :

First, in representing the Mayor in the Open Records case, I do not have any conflict of interest under either the Mississippi Constitution, the Mississippi ethics statutes, or the Mississippi Rules of Professional Responsibility. You do not explain how my representation of the Mayor in this matter (or any other case) can possibly be considered a conflict of interest.

To clarify, we are not saying, nor did we intend to say, that Mr. Danks has a conflict of interest "in representing the Mayor in the Open Records case." In fact, we were not questioning his legal representation of the mayor. We were expressing an opinion about his potential role as overseer of the city's public-records process—a possible role revealed by The Clarion-Ledger itself when it first announced what it called "an out-of-court settlement that would force the city to comply with the state's public records laws."

We did not state, or mean to imply, that Mr. Danks is in violation of the codes and laws that he cites. Our concerns here are with the idea that someone who is (a.) the mayor's personal attorney and (b.) the subject of long-time unanswered public-records requests, should be designated as the overseer of the process by which the City reponds to official open-records requests, even if his intentions are to help expedite the process, which they seem to be. 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. We apologize if this opinion and distinction, as stated, were not clear to Mr. Danks or other readers.

Secondly, Mr. Danks took issue with our statement that we have never received information about Mr. Danks' contract with the city, and his pay, despite repeated public information requests:

"I personally sent my contracts with the City to Mr. Johnson by facsimile transmission earlier this month.

We have not received the information from Mr. Danks about his city contract and pay. Our requests for information about his pay and contracts began last fall, and the mayor has told us that he and Mr. Danks were aware of the requests some time back, especially after directly receiving a memo from Donna Ladd detailing the unfilled requests. The mayor told us that he did not mind filling them.

Likewise, Mr. Danks told Brian on June 6 that he would fax that information right away, but that fax has never materialized on our end, nor have we received the documents via PDF or regular mail. We receive all faxes via e-mail, with timestamp, and can find no sign in our electronic archive that a fax has come to us from Mr. Danks after May 21 and before the June 29 letter above.

I called Mr. Danks on June 30 to explain to him that we did not receive his fax, and to ask him to re-send it for publication, but he has not returned my phone call to date. We will be happy to post those documents in their entirety as soon as we receive them from Mr. Danks' office (or from the City of Jackson, which would be the more appropriate responder to our official open-records request regarding Mr. Danks' contract). We apologize if a technical glitch has caused this communication problem. We are most happy to work with Mr. Danks to get this information to the public.

— Donna Ladd

Previous Comments

ID
172581
Comment

This sounds like a "no-brainer." The question is: Mr. Danks, did you fax the information followed by the usual policy and procedure of mailing a hard copy? It is interesting that the letter from Danks, suggesting that someone was questioning/accusing issues of "conflict of interest,"got through without a glitch but, the request for information re to his salary/contract go stuck in the fax machine. I have heard of FUZZY MATH but this sounds like FUZZY COMMUNICATIONS!

Author
justjess
Date
2006-07-10T15:36:03-06:00
ID
172582
Comment

Update: Mr. Danks' secretary just faxed us 22 pages and confirmed that we received it. We will post it here as soon as we get it all PDF'd.

Author
ladd
Date
2006-07-10T15:50:13-06:00
ID
172583
Comment

I'm no lawyer, but how can Danks represent the mayor as his personal attorney, represent the city against litigation and be a litigant against the city and not have a conflict? Seems to me that should be a question best answered by whoever it is that regulates attorneys.....

Author
tomac
Date
2006-07-10T17:11:51-06:00
ID
172584
Comment

From what I understand, they have several people down at the bar to keep all of his allegances straight. I think it'd be simpler to make a living suing the city peniless, but that's just me. :)

Author
Ironghost
Date
2006-07-10T21:31:25-06:00
ID
172585
Comment

I think it'd be simpler to make a living suing the city peniless - Ironghost I agree, but mayby this thing has evolved into seeing how much power can Danks and Melton amass. Danks has already been the mayor. He has already been a very sucessful attorney. He currently represents the mayor. So why not see if he can run the city from the shotgun? Melton has mastered playing politics. Danks is very crafty. Put them together and compare them to the "Axis of Evil" that the president talks about and see if you can tell the difference.

Author
lance
Date
2006-07-11T07:16:46-06:00
ID
172586
Comment

Power is only useful if you do something with it; so far, all Danks and Melton have done is ignore their obligations under the Open Records act and obfuscated the fact that Frankie's crime fighting tactics haven't scared anyone.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2006-07-11T08:47:06-06:00
ID
172587
Comment

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Author
lance
Date
2006-07-11T09:32:07-06:00
ID
172588
Comment

July 12 update: Mr. Danks' contract materials are now linked to the above post as well. His secretary called us yesterday a couple hours after this post went up to ensure that we received the fax. We thank Mr. Danks for turning over this public information.

Author
ladd
Date
2006-07-11T12:06:05-06:00
ID
172589
Comment

So where are the City/Atty. documents for the Clarion Ledger case? That is the issue isn't it? I didn't think that being an "outside council" to the City was ever an issue - especially in the 4 cases he was "officially" hired to handle?

Author
pikersam
Date
2006-07-11T14:35:02-06:00
ID
172590
Comment

Obviously, there are issues with some of the cases Danks is involved, I meant to say "just" being outside council is not a big issue. It is the blurred line between representing the mayor as an individual and in the current capacity with the City. I'm not quite seeing where his character is defamed; nor do I see how these documents settle the issue about the Clarion Ledger and the Mayor.

Author
pikersam
Date
2006-07-11T14:41:43-06:00
ID
172591
Comment

Pike, understand that these particular documents were not in response to a request about The Clarion-Ledger. These are the documents we started requesting last November about Mr. Danks' position in the city (along with other folks' salary and such). This is the first time they've been provided to us after many months. They are relevant to this thread because I said in my letter to City Council that I did not believe that Mr. Danks should oversee public records on behalf of the city. One reason was because no one associated with the city or mayor had responded to requests for information about Mr. Danks' role in the city. In his letter to us, Mr. Danks said he had faxed this information on June 6 after telling Brian he would. I responded that it has never been received. Then after posting this yesterday, they faxed it over and confirmed that it had been received. Hope all that makes sense. Also, Brian had posted earlier a June 22 letter from the City Attorney's office to the judge in the Clarion-Ledger case that did address Mr. Danks and The Clarion-Ledger lawsuit. And, just to overload y'all on related documents, here's a link to Mr. Danks' June 21 letter to the city attorney, resigning as contractual counsel.

Author
ladd
Date
2006-07-11T14:53:10-06:00
ID
172592
Comment

Oh yeah, I agree about the JFP's role in this matter. I was kind of directing my comments to Danks. As in, "How does this help settle his complaint to the JFP and his involvement in the CL case?" I know we all agree this information should have come from the City anyway. I'm glad Danks stepped forward despite the City's lack of response. The City Attorney is definitely right in his letter. It is a bit over my head; but, it sure looks like a tangled web to me. The whole threat of a lawsuit against the JFP is why people find many attorneys so unappealing. Seems like a lot of whine with dinner to me!

Author
pikersam
Date
2006-07-11T15:35:52-06:00
ID
172593
Comment

If a private citizen is hired by a city to do certain jobs, whether as an attorney or other, how does this give that person the right to ascertain what gets distributed as public information? If that private person has access to information that the rest of us do not, then where is the right of an individual to the same access? This is a somewhat involved question, but I feel that the cover of confidentiality has been breached when even one who is not a city employee is allowed access to information.

Author
ChrisCavanaugh
Date
2006-07-12T15:52:01-06:00
ID
172594
Comment

I admire Ms. Ladd's work and even voted her best columnist in the "best of" poll. I'm curious about some of her grammar, though. Since I'm always trying to improve my own use of language, I look to editors-in-chief and writing instructors to set a good example. In her letter to the Jackson City Council dated 6/26/06 (http://www.jacksonfreepress.com/foi_pdfs/cc_memo.pdf) Ms. Ladd writes, "We also urge the city to immediately employ experienced (in government) public information officers to help facilitate the flow of public information, to replace the current sytem, which makes reporters and citizens very unclear on who to ask for information." Should Ms. Ladd have used "whom" instead? I'm honestly asking for guidance here. I get "who" and "whom" correct almost all the time, but in this instance it seems like the infinitive "to ask" would require the objective case instead of the nomative. Of course, its position in a prepositional phrase complicates the issue a bit, doesn't it? Later, Ms. Ladd writes, "The City Attorney's office should be instructed on the specific law and to follow open-records law immediately and apply the law equally to." I think the final "to" is a preposition and that prepositions normally require an object. Finally, Ms. Ladd writes, "And if the city did not make it so difficult to get basic information, they would not be facing such a stack of unfulfilled public-information requests." I read the antecedent "city" as singular, so I wonder how "they" can be the correct pronoun. The word "they" is clearly plural. Does agreement in number matter when dealing with pronouns and antecedents? Again, I'm just trying to learn from a master. Thank you for the spotlight you've focused on so many aspects of Mississippi's culture and government, Ms. Ladd. Heavens knows I make mistakes. We all do. And if these are simple errors, as I suspect, they certainly do not rise to the level of the Courtney Taylor controversy by any means. I just want to write clearly and well. Unfortunately, I can't enroll in Ms. Ladd's writing course since I don't live in the Jackson area. Thanks for any clarity you can provide. Please feel free to point out any errors in my post. I'll learn from them. And, yes, I'm off to get a life now!

Author
sonnetlxxx
Date
2006-08-02T21:54:12-06:00
ID
172595
Comment

What in the dickens is that about, sonnetlxxx?

Author
Kacy
Date
2006-08-02T22:00:57-06:00
ID
172596
Comment

The answer is simple, sonnet: I wrote that letter in five minutes, on my way out the door. Danks himself put a couple of sics in his response to point out my typos as well. Fortunately, my self-esteem is such that I do not mind other people pointing out my errors. I am not perfect and do not pretend to be. In fact, when I realized that people so often do not express themselves because they are so worried about making a mistake and someone else seeing it, I got past that obstacle to writing and really started saying what was on my mind and writing the kind of work that makes me proud. Unfortunately, the attention to detail becomes harder when you create as many words as I do in a way, so there are trade-offs to being prolific. That said, I believe we should all strive to present our words as well as we can within the constraints we're under. Otherwise, thanks for the kind words!

Author
ladd
Date
2006-08-03T10:37:46-06:00
ID
172597
Comment

Also, we don't typically point out errors in blog posts because there is an understanding that blogging is done in a hurry and can't be easily edited. So, big deal. Occasionally, though, someone personally insults someone else, while making bizarre and funny mistakes, and we giggle about those a bit. But all bets are off with trolls. You show up being a jerk, people will treat you in kind.

Author
ladd
Date
2006-08-03T10:39:46-06:00

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