PD Hatchet
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Settlement Article
Geniella Article Annotated
Response to PD

Press Democrat Hatchet Job

By Vince Taylor

On Saturday, August 16, the lead article in the "Empire" section of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, by Mike Geniella, was entitled, "Anti-logging Activist Settles Timber Violation." The article reported on a settlement agreement between me and the California Department of Forestry (CDF). The agreement settled a civil action brought by CDF against me.

The message of Mr. Geniella’s story was that while I was accusing CDF of illegally logging Jackson State Forest I was egregiously violating timber laws on my own property.

The obvious purpose of the article, based on documents supplied to the reporter by timber-industry representatives, was to discredit the person who has effectively opposed logging in our largest, publicly owned, state redwood forest.

The article created an entirely false picture through careful selection and organization of information, presentation of allegations as fact, and omission of a crucial part of the settlement agreement. The article was a skillful hatchet job designed to make me appear dishonest, unethical, and hypocritical – none of which are supported by the facts.

Judge for yourself by reading Mr. Geniella’s article accompanied by my detailed comments. Read also my letter to the editor of the Press Democrat.

You will conclude, I am certain, that an accurate and unbiased article would have been entitled "State Ends Harassment and Settles with Pro-Forest Activist on His Terms."

The facts cited in my letter show that CDF tardily and with gross discrimination singled me out for prosecution. I demonstrated this to CDF’s lawyer and pointed out that the Campaign’s lawsuits were depriving CDF of $10-15 million of annual revenue. The lawyer apparently realized that CDF was conducting illegal "retaliatory prosecution," because CDF then almost immediately agreed to eliminate the proposed fines of $3,000 (which were the whole point of the civil action). They also agreed that my inadvertent (as detailed in my letter) and minor violation of the forest laws was fully mitigated by a permit granted by them MORE THAN A YEAR BEFORE THEY BROUGHT CIVIL CHARGES AGAINST ME.

After spending a year and a half and many thousands of dollars in staff and legal time trying to create a prosecutable case against me, CDF ended up with a settlement that was exactly what they would have obtained simply by issuing a citation and an acknowledgement that the violations had been fully mitigated.

Mr. Geniella, whose previous biased article on Jackson Forest was the focus of a letter-writing campaign to his editors initiated by me, was apparently only too happy to accept a creative and inaccurate interpretation of the settlement agreement that painted me in the worst possible light.

Mr. Geniella called me before writing the article, but at that time he had apparently not read the documents. He started out by asking what I had to say about the settlement agreement where I’d been fined $3,000. I told him he was in error, and he argued with me that he had the document in his hand. What he had was the charges initially filed against me, not the settlement agreement which contained no fine. He finally got it straight.

Mr. Geniella did not tell me he was planning to write an article, and obviously did not ask me to comment on the assertions he planned to make in the article. I mistakenly (and I now know, naively) assumed he was only reviewing the documents and that he would not print any serious charges against me without allowing me to comment in detail. His failure to do so continues his pattern of unprofessional and biased reporting.

Please read my letter to the Press Democrat. If you agree that Mr. Geniella’s article was unprofessional, inaccurate and inappropriate, please take the time to write your own letter for publication to the letters editor of the Press Democrat:

Letters Editor
Santa Rosa Press Democrat
P.O. Box 910
Santa Rosa, CA 9540
Fax: 707 521-5330

E-mail: letters@pressdemocrat.com
(include mailing address and phone number)