Fact: Branson correspondents Vonda Sheets and Donna Clevenger serve as members of the White River Valley Historic Society Board of Directors. Sheets corresponds for Ozark Mountain Newspapers and Clevenger for Branson Daily News. They are the only reports consistently covering the governmental body.
Fact: Clevenger and Sheets were negotiating for a tax on behalf of the White River Valley Historical Society before correspondence ensued through their publishers. The tax proposal changed when the county leaders decided the Taney County "bridge issue" needed to be addressed. The tax rate proposed doubled twice and will be placed on the November ballot as 1/2 cent economic development tax.
Fact: Clevenger and Sheets have written persuasive arguments attempting to sway the public to pass Proposition A. One of the articles begins with "will help so many people" and "you wouldn't have to sacrifice chocolate". Neither article disclosed their involvement with the organization.
Fact: Clevenger and Sheets have an ever evolving plan for the White River Valley Historical Society to build a facility with estimates as high as $20 million. A summary of the plans was erased after questions arose.
Fact: Proposition A brings a $90 million open check to three leaders in Taney County without specific earmarks. Another 10 will make millions.
Fact: Proposition A funds are being lobbied for by the White River Valley Historical Society and the two aforementioned journalists continue to use the local newspapers as a marketing vehicle for their private organization.
Do you think Vonda Sheets and Donna Clevenger are bad people?
No, both are excellent advocate journalists with strong beliefs. It's my opinion that they really believe tax payer dollars - in the millions - should be used to restore cemeteries and to build a visitor's center for the White River Valley Historical Society - so much so - they should have removed themselves from corresponding on the topic. I have accused them of benefiting financially from a tax-payer funding venture they're endorsing - which is true - and why I'm not being sued for making such statements.
I question their ability to discuss economic issues and believe they are biased sources who have failed to follow the Journalistic Code of Ethics which would have safeguarded them from even the perception of wrong doing.
Do you think Leo Combs is a bad man?
No, but I also believe it's possible for some very wealthy men to come up with bad ideas - which is how I view the tax - a bad idea at the wrong time. By all accounts, Combs is a generous man but not all his ideas have panned out well. Building alliances with members of the press was a good idea on Combs part. Savvy. This type of relationship should be shunned by the members of the press who we hold accountable.
What about the Branson Mayor,didn't she serve on the Chamber board and the board of alderman?
Yes, she resigned from the board recently, however no unusual moves were made (i.e. asking alderman to dish out an extra 90 million for the chamber).
What do you think is a good remedy?
Due to the nature of the mistake an apology would be a good start and an addition to every story they write on the piece - "and millions in funds will go to a private organization whose funds I control" - on every story the two reporters involved in Mediagate pen.