By: Roger Alford, Associated Press Writer
(AP) The head of the local water board has acquired the name of an eastern Kentucky newspaper that has doggedly reported on drinking water issues, and he’s told the paper to stop using it.
The Mountain Citizen inadvertently allowed incorporation papers to lapse in the secretary of state’s office. John R. Triplett, chairman of the Martin County Water District, said he filed the necessary paperwork to claim the name for himself.
Triplett won’t say why he wanted the weekly 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.
“Every week there’s something dramatic in the headlines,” he said last week. “If you read the paper, I’ve been featured prominently. I don’t know what their motivation is for these stories and these headlines.”
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, even sand collecting in sinks.
“This is an attempt to shut us up,” Smith said. “We don’t want a political war. We just want clean, reliable water.”
Smith said he plans to continue using the name.
“It’s on our window and it’s on our paper,” he said. “I’d like to see them try to take it off.”
Triplett sent a letter to Smith last week demanding that the newspaper stop using the name because it now belongs to him. “There’s no theft,” Triplett said. “It was just available.”
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.
Because the state doesn’t allow two companies to have the same name, the newspaper will have to change its name when it incorporates again, Summers said. She said that could be as simple as adding one additional word to the name.
Smith said his brother, who died earlier this month, had been battling cancer. He said he and his family had been so busy taking care of the needs of his brother, Gary Lee Smith, that they had given no thought to submitting the annual report to the secretary of state.
David Thompson, president of the Kentucky Press Association, said he has never heard of a similar situation involving a newspaper. He said he plans to alert other newspapers to keep reports to the secretary of state up to date to avoid the same circumstance.
The Kentucky Division of Water and the Public Service Commission have been monitoring water problems in Martin County since December because of fears that aging equipment could shut down distribution. State officials have warned that a collapse of the water system could occur if major equipment and staffing problems aren’t addressed.