By: Roger Alford, Associated Press Writer
(AP) A judge has ordered a Kentucky newspaper to stop publishing under its name, which has been legally acquired by the head of a water board that has been the subject of several critical stories.
Judge Daniel Sparks issued the restraining order Tuesday against Mountain Citizen Inc. The name was acquired by Martin County Water Board Chairman John Triplett after the paper inadvertently allowed incorporation papers to lapse.
Lisa Stayton, owner of the weekly newspaper that goes to about 6,000 homes, was busy preparing for Tuesday night’s press run despite the judge’s ruling.
Stayton said the ruling won’t affect the newspaper because it has never included “Inc.” in its published name.
“We’re not the Mountain Citizen Inc.,” she said. “We’re The Mountain Citizen. You don’t have to have a corporation to put out a newspaper or a magazine.”
Triplett said he’s not happy with that interpretation. “That doesn’t satisfy me. I don’t know that it will satisfy the judge, but it might satisfy everybody else.”
Triplett won’t say why he wanted the newspaper’s name or what he plans to do with it, but he spoke at length about what he considered unfair reporting by the newspaper.
Publisher Roger Smith said the newspaper has published several stories about problems with Martin County’s water treatment plant and its distribution lines. Photographs in the paper have shown muddy water coming out of faucets and sand collecting in sinks.
State officials have warned that a collapse of the water system could occur if aging equipment and staffing problems aren’t addressed.
Last week, Triplett sent a letter to Smith demanding that the newspaper stop using the name because it belongs to him.
Lisa Summers, spokeswoman for the secretary of state, said Kentucky corporations are required to submit annual reports. Those that don’t are presumed inactive and are dissolved.
Summers said the Mountain Citizen hadn’t filed an annual report in two years, making that name — along with two others held by parent company New Wave Communications — fair game.
Stayton said she can’t understand why Triplett doesn’t focus on making repairs to the water system, rather than trying to quiet the newspaper.
“I’m shocked that they would go this far,” she said.