On June 19, 2014, Tallahassee Democrat reporter Jeff Burlew wrote an article entitled “School employee becomes whistle-blower, former secretary files lawsuit.”
Tallahassee Reports has recently learned that the Tallahassee Democrat labeled part of the article as gossip, gossip that almost one year later has no independent factual basis.
In the article, Burlew reported accusations from a lawsuit including the passage below:
The lawsuit says Nichols also was asked about whether she knew anything about a boat or beach house or rumors of a DUI crash involving Pons and a district vehicle. Nichols responded by saying she’d heard about a purchase by the district of a boat for $30,000 but that it wasn’t properly authorized. She also said her daughter’s best friend worked at a body shop where Pons had taken a district vehicle and that he’d paid for the repairs out of his own pocket to avoid an invoice to the district.
The above accusations were published by the Tallahassee Democrat and it appears the Democrat knew that the accusations were “gossip.”
Listed below is a screen capture of an archived description of the article on the Tallahassee.com website that provides one of the subjects of the article as “Gossip.”
Furthermore, the accusations about the purchase of a $30,000 boat by the school district and a DUI by Superintendent Pons were easily verifiable by a public records request.
In fact, sources tell Tallahassee Reports after the article was published there were requests for information by the Tallahassee Democrat which provided no evidence of a purchase of a boat or a Pons DUI.
Why did the Tallahassee Democrat publish a story before independently verifying the accusations against the school district and Superintendent Pons?
Did the Tallahassee Democrat violate basic journalistic standards?
And finally, why hasn’t the Tallahassee Democrat published a follow up story reporting the results of their investigation of these accusations?
Tallahassee Reports is seeking answers to these questions.