Top story in the Sunday Oklahoman was the disclosure that one county commissioner and the county assessor owned certain properties that were exempt from property tax, inasmuch as those properties were leased to qualifying nonprofits. Somewhere down in the guts of the article, you could find that yes, this is legal: exemptions are not based on who owns the property, but the use made of it. Scandal-mongering? Someone up the line thought so, and the paper was contrite this morning:
From the publisher …
We have published The Oklahoman 365 days per year for 110 years. Thousands of elements and hundreds of employees come together to bring you news stories, photos, graphics, sports scores, obituaries, advertising and more.
Many judgment calls go into this daily equation, and we are hopeful that more often than not our judgment is sound. But it wasn’t Sunday morning when we gave front-page billing to the story about two elected officials and tax exemptions for property owners who lease to nonprofit entities.
As reported in the story, Oklahoma County Assessor Leonard Sullivan and County Commissioner Ray Vaughn did not violate any laws; the referenced exemptions are legal, and their actions were not particularly newsworthy. Our placement on the first page of Sunday’s edition did not comport with the worthiness of the story and we have no one to blame but ourselves.
This was a poor decision on our part and it is our responsibility to our community, and ourselves, to say so. We are mindful of the Purpose Statement below which we publish every day and intend to live by.
Commissioner Vaughn and Assessor Sullivan have been gracious about the article and have our apologies.
When I read the piece Sunday afternoon, I had exactly one reaction: “Big deal.” Then again, one does not expect much from the Sunday front page.
And this was the link; the article has since been plunked into the memory hole.