In a Janesville Gazette story from 12.5, Whitewater’s city manager, Cameron Clapper, is reported as saying that another paper’s coverage incorrectly implied that Toppers Pizza might move its Whitewater headquarters. In fact, the video of a recent Community Development Authority (CDA) meeting from 11.21.19 reveals that it was Clapper, himself, who implied that Toppers might move. (See the video embedded above for the relevant portion of the meeting, transcribed below. The full meeting video is also available online.)
Here’s a transcription of what Clapper said at the meeting about Toppers Pizza:
Clapper: So only a couple of things I have additional to add at this meeting. In prior meetings I had mentioned that I had been playing, I think I’ve mentioned, I’ve had some phone tag with the owner of Toppers Pizza.
I left a message again anticipating this meeting this week, and am waiting for a response back to meet with him and go over future plans for Toppers Pizza in the area. And just essentially just a business retention expansion visit.
But we know that the building has changed owners and so…
Stanek: Is that related to the grocery store?
Clapper: It is potentially related to the grocery store. If Toppers wants to not be there anymore, that is a potential location perhaps where we might be looking…
Stanek: It was a grocery store at one time.
In the Gazette story, Clapper is reported to have said that another paper’s account raised a wrong implication:
Clapper pointed to another news outlet’s recent coverage, which he said incorrectly implied Toppers Pizza could leave its headquarters and open a space that might interest a grocer.
The city manager emphasized he has no reason to think the pizza chain will do anything but stay where it is.
That’s not right – Clapper implied Toppers might depart, as his remarks on 11.21.19 plainly show. The other paper (the Register) did not make a mistake – Clapper is accusing that other paper of error simply for reporting his own public comments.
The worthy course for Whitewater’s city manager would have been to admit that he wrongly implied a business departure; it’s not right to blame the Register for his own plain words.
As for the Gazette’s reporter, he’s turned in another disappointing story by failing to hold an official accountable for that official’s own words. (When I wrote about the Gazette story yesterday, it seemed weak, but now it’s evidently negligent.)
As always – the best record of public meetings is a recording. Without that solid source to verify officials’ statements, minimal & verifiable accountability would be replaced with official excuse-making and journalistic negligence.