It is indeed a sad day when the local newspaper condemns a
volunteer organization without a legitimate basis. That may be bad enough but what adds insult
to injury is when an unsigned opinion piece levies harsh criticism that strays
far from the accurate reporting of fact and crosses the line into tabloid-like
rumor and innuendo.
The July 30 Times piece addresses the Chagrin Valley
Jaycees’ decision to cancel the Kelly Miller Circus. Threatening comments were made to a
telemarketing firm hired by the Circus.
This information was first communicated by a telemarketer to the
Jaycees, who then reported it to the Chagrin Falls Police. A police report
later verified the nature of the comments and that they were in fact communicated
to the telemarketer.
The editorial assails the Jaycees’ decision to cancel the
event based upon remarks by the police suggesting the threats were not credible
from a law enforcement standpoint. That alone is all fine and good.
Then, without a shred of factual support, the CVT went a
step too far by accusing the Jaycees of “defamation”. The CVT exclusively links
the threats to animal rights activists and blames the Jaycees for tainting this
group by canceling the event. The credible source for the Times’s connection? Only an undisclosed “indirect association.”
No one else has even suggested such a notion; including the
police, Chagrin and South Russell government officials or even the Jaycees, but
the CVT created the illusion and ran with it.
At the time that the threats were communicated to us, we
found them to be sufficiently alarming to decide to cancel the event. That the
police may later find the threats to not be credible was of no consequence to
the decision as we value human lives and wanted to be proactive. The safety of
our friends, family, performers and the community (including the peaceful
protesters) could be in jeopardy.
Indeed, as accurately reported by other news outlets, both
police departments later (and South Russell Village) supported our decision;
important facts that were also left out of the Editorial.
We expected that many would be disappointed in the news – no
more than my two young children. Yet
when one accepts the responsibility of putting on events that are open to the
public, safety must be the primary concern.
If we were wrong, then we erred on the side of caution and no one was
injured. We are proud of this and do not
regret for one minute the decision we made.
But as this unfortunate episode demonstrates, responsibility
is a two way street. We did not reach
our decision based upon whether the police were going to press criminal charges
or even if they would pursue any investigation.
We did so independently and only after great consideration.
The citizens of the Chagrin Valley and the readers of the
CVT deserve better, and the Chagrin Valley Jaycees deserve an apology. The
Times should look into the mirror and perform a more thorough scrutiny of its
own work before so recklessly condemning the good-natured actions of others.
President, Chagrin Valley Jaycees