By: Dorothy Giobbe
Editor resigns to take job offered to him by the governor his
paper supported; competing newspaper criticizes his actions sp.
THE EDITOR OF the Torrington, Conn., Register Citizen has been nominated to an appointed position in state government, stirring criticism from an area newspaper.
On July 17, three days after being nominated to serve on Connecticut’s Freedom of Information (FoI) Commission, Andy Thibault resigned as editor of the Register Citizen. Thibault will serve as an interim member until the state Legislature considers his nomination during the next legislative session, in February 1996.
Thibault was nominated to the commission by Governor John Rowland, whom the Register Citizen endorsed during last year’s election.
If his nomination succeeds, Thibault will replace a commission member who clashed with Rowland during the election and, subsequently, was not reappointed to the five-member body.
During the campaign, the FoI Commission member supported the release of police reports concerning a 1994 domestic incident between Rowland and his former wife.
Rowland sought to keep the police reports from the media. While the controversy was in full swing, the Register Citizen wrote a number of editorials supporting Rowland’s candidacy.
The Register Citizen also ran an editorial criticizing the commission member who supported releasing the police reports to the media.
Thibault’s nomination has come under fire from the the editorial page of the Hartford Courant, which urged the Legislature to reject the appointment.
“In appointing Andy Thibault to the state Freedom of Information Commission, Gov. John G. Rowland displays either a lack of understanding of the commission’s purpose or blatant disregard for it,” read the Courant’s edit-
Despite resigning from the Register Citizen, Thibault’s impartiality would be suspect in cases that could affect the Journal Register Co., the Register Citizen’s parent company and owner of three other newspapers in the state, the Courant argued.
Also, the newspaper editorialized, Thibault’s nomination “reeks of political payback.”
“On Mr. Thibault’s watch, the newspaper supported the governor in [editorials], apparently while Mr. Thibault was inquiring about a job with the Rowland administration. That doesn’t speak well for his ethical sense ? or Mr. Rowland’s judgment,” concluded the editorial.
Two days later, Thibault fired back in a letter to the editor which the Courant ran.
“I believe in public service,” Thibault wrote. “When the chief executive of my home state asked me to serve, I said yes. Sorry, I’m not going to apologize for supporting Gov. John G. Rowland or supporting his policies as governor.”
Thibault also denied approaching the Rowland team for a job. After the election, he said, a member of the transition team asked if he would be interested in serving in the Rowland administration.
“My editorials and writing speak for themselves,” his letter concluded. “I encourage anyone to read them, and I ask that you read before drawing any conclusions.”
Thibault is the third editor to leave the Register Citizen since it was bought in October 1993 by Journal Register Co.
The newspaper was at the center of controversy last year after editorial staff members accused the Journal Register Co. of forbidding any negative coverage of the company or its properties.
More recently, the Register Citizen has been engaged in a spirited circulation war with the Courant and the Waterbury Republican-American.