Monday, September 8, 2008

Credit where credit is due

Politicians take a beating on blogs, on the radio, in newspapers and on TV, so in the interest of fairness, I think we should praise elected officials when they do a good job. I'd like to throw out an "atta boy" to Washington County's new district attorney, Steve Toprani, who seems to be a breath of fresh air in county politics. I've not directly witnessed any court proceedings since Toprani ousted longtime DA John Pettit, and I've never met Mr. Toprani, but the general feeling I get is that he's a competent administrator, and old cases are being moved through the judicial system. Also, the DA's Drug Task Force has been doing land office business, and Toprani's not even up for re-election. In addition, just last week, the new DA took the first step toward shutting down an alleged nuisance bar in Canton Township. That's the bar being padlocked in the photo above. Toprani said residents in the area of the bar were living in fear, and something needed to be done. It's apparently the first time in more than a decade that such an action has been taken, and Toprani says it's not likely to be the last. Said the DA, "We are putting area bar owners on notice: If you attract or permit dangerous and illicit activity on your premises, we will take all ncecessary legal action to protect our residents." Good work, Mr. Toprani. Keep it up.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shame your newspaper did a non-endorsement last year when the choice was being made. In fact, Lou Florian's editorial basically pointed out the Pettit attack line on Toprani and avoided the obvious mess that was Pettit. You are at times a breath of fresh air from O-R. It is also easier to now praise Toprani after he won of course.

September 8, 2008 at 2:10 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

In my position, on the news side rather than the editorial side, I'm not permitted to support any electoral candidate, but now that it's over, I think we got the right guy. And, yes, if a canned ham had been running against Pettit, I think the O-R should have endorsed the ham.

September 8, 2008 at 3:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Toprani seems like a nice guy, but he has gotten better media coverage than any politician I have seen in years. It's like everyone is lining up to make this guy king or something.

I'll be impressed when he actually wins a case in a courtroom.

September 9, 2008 at 1:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve Toprani is the the real deal. I look for him to run for State Rep soon. Rumor has it he has his eye on the 46th District.

September 9, 2008 at 7:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He doesn't live in the 46th and why run for State House when D.A. is more powerful.
BTW Many D.A. around the state DON"T prosecute cases themselves, Steve Zappala for example does not. They are administrators. It is not like it is on tv.

September 9, 2008 at 8:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brant, so why did the O-R not endorse him? Why did they repeat Pettit's argument against him?

September 9, 2008 at 8:15 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

You would have to ask the people on our editorial board, who are the ones who interview the candidates and make that decision. My guess, and it's just a guess, is that they were concerned about Toprani's relative lack of experience. That being said, there are times, in my personal opinion, when the incumbent simply needs to go, and even if the opponent if totally lacking in experience, you back him or her and bite the bullet while they get some on-the-job training.

September 9, 2008 at 8:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will be impressed with D.A. Toprani when I can stop reading about gunshots ringing out, stabbings, drug dealings etc. on a daily basis when I open up the O.R. I will be impressed when I can stop seeing the same names in the police beat on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Don't start tooting his horn just yet, he barely has gotten his feet wet and I still believe there are still a few bad apples leftover from the Pettit regime that need to be thrown out.

September 9, 2008 at 11:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's no reason to guess why the O-R did not endorse in the district attorney race. The editorial was quite clear that we could not recommend a candidate for DA who had never tried a criminal case. We were also unwilling to endorse Pettit with so many clouds hanging over him. While we weren't given the choice, it's doubtful we would have endorsed a canned ham either.

The reason we were unspecific about "that obvious mess that was Pettit" was that it wasn't obvious and still isn't. Eventually, the federal grand jury may hand down an indictment - or it may not - but we wouldn't go off half-cocked on the basis of rumor and speculation. The worst we could say about him with any certainty was that there were "too many clouds," while Toprani's total lack of experience was the elephant in the living room that we couldn't ignore.

By the way, while it is true that I write all of the endorsement editorials, I do so on behalf of a board. They generally reflect our discussions and are read by the other members of the board before they appear in print. While the writing is indeed mine, they aren't "my editorials."

Lou Florian

September 9, 2008 at 11:54 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

Thanks for the information, Lou. I agree that in some areas, the claims against Pettit, at least at this point, are nothing more than rumors. But we do know, for a fact, that Lonnie Barnes and Tiger Yarbor, while certainly no angels, got railroaded in the Hannen murder case, and Pettit's modus operandi was to use scum-of-the-earth jailhouse snitches to win convictions when the real evidence might have been weak. A district attorney's job, his duty, is to seek justice, not to pursue convictions at any cost. And I think, just speaking for myself, that our justice system in Washington County was being dragged into the sewer, and anybody who was running against the incumbent would have been the correct choice in the election. I also agree with the poster who noted that the DA doesn't have to prosecute cases himself. He just has to surround himself with quality people who can do so. It's the same deal with our coroners. Farrell Jackson was not a pathologist, but it's hard to imagine anyone doing a better job than he did for many years.

September 9, 2008 at 1:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We all know why the top brass did the non endorsement... don't we Lou!
The Truth hurts sometimes...
Thanks Brant for a bit of honesty and fresh air up there..

September 10, 2008 at 9:05 AM  
Blogger Dale Lolley said...

Come on Cody, just sign your name to the posts. It's no big deal.

September 11, 2008 at 1:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are bad apples in the office that need to go. They should have been kicked out day one.

September 11, 2008 at 9:36 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

If the one poster is suggesting that the O-R was in bed with or beholden to Pettit, and that's the reason for the non-endorsement, that's absolutely ridiculous. I've never heard anyone in the office here singing the praises of the former DA. I don't know the makeup of the current DA's staff, but I'm willing to leave it to him to decide who left and who was held over from Pettit's staff. Of course, you know better, having never worked there. There has to be some carryover from one regime to the next. Otherwise, you would have chaos, especially if the ousted DA has no interest in helping with the transition. Perhaps if Mr. Toprani is re-elected, he'll want to bring in more of "his people" the next time around. Give the guy a break.

September 11, 2008 at 9:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder how many hours a day Cody Knotts spends on this blog writing comments.

Maybe if paid this much attention to his own newspaper, people would actually read it.

September 11, 2008 at 4:29 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

Which one is cody knotts? There are only 15 comments on this blog post... Your comment would have been more appropriate on the Palin Baby Bump post that has 122 comments... at least that way, there was a possibility that cody knotts was spending a lot of time on here... The 15 comments on this post probably took a sum total of 10 minutes to type up.

-ellipses...just sayin'

September 11, 2008 at 4:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's the holdup (pun intended) locking up the bar on Wylie Avenue and the one by the "New Tower" on Chestnut? Someone seems to get shot at one of these two outstanding establishments each week.

Of course, there never seems to be any witnesses. The rest of the people must be totally shitfaced at all times.

September 11, 2008 at 8:38 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

People always complain that the police aren't doing enough to help clean up their neighborhoods, but somebody gets shot in broad daylight in full view of witnesses, and nobody sees anything. You can understand, to some degree, that people are fearful of retaliation if they are seen giving information to police after a shooting, but they certainly could make a phone call later to tell what they know. Without cooperation from citizens, the police have a really difficult job. The ones that really get me are the cases in which the victims don't know who shot them. Yeah, right.

September 11, 2008 at 8:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go Toprani, Go Toprani Go Toprani Go...
He shutting down the racketeers
He arresting the drug dealers
No more John Pettit to be seen...
Go Toprani, Go Toprani Go Toprani Go....
(sung to Speed Racer)

September 12, 2008 at 5:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

September 14, 2008 at 3:20 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

To the previous poster: I have had to remove your comments. Just as an example for future reference, you can't say "So-and-so raped 12 people" unless you have the facts to back that up. Are we clear? I'm not trying to prevent you from commenting, even when you criticize the newspaper, so I will reprint the first part of your comments here, then reply to them.

YOUR COMMENTS: Questions about the relationship between the OR, Toprani, and Pettit? Umm, let's start with a few facts. One, the son of an OR editor was driving after knocking back a few drinks, had an accident, fled the scene. The charge by Pettit? Having an open can of alcohol in the car, usually applied when your passenger is drinking. Took years to get around to paying fines and court costs, but no action by Pettit.

Next, an editor at the OR was seeking female companship of 12 year old girls for years on the internet, possibly in person when he went to high school and middle school sporting events representing the OR, Pettit never prosecuted him, it took the state Attorney General's office to get him charged. I've heard that there was at least one other OR employee whose computer was seized during the investigation, and who may have committed similar acts.

That's just what I know about, God knows what else Pettit covered up for Brant's colleagues.

The news coverage during the election? Barbara Miller did everything she could to destroy Toprani's candidacy. There was only rumor of Pettit's crimes?

MY REPLY: I don't even know where to begin, considering the amount of innuendo, half-truths, rumors and just plain lies included in your comments.
First, the old chestnut about the son of an O-R editor. I believe Park answered this one a long time ago, and I don't remember the particulars. If, indeed, it happened as you say, and that seems quetionable based on the rest of your remarks, it's conceivable that the DA's office, unsure of who actually was driving the car, agreed to a plea deal. Happens all the time, everywhere.
The Tom Rose story was fully covered by the O-R. No attempt to cover it up. Of course Pettit never prosecuted him. He didn't have a child-predator unit. The AG's office does. Seeking companionship of 12-year-old girls "for years"? That's pretty vague. Also, no one from any school in the area came to the O-R with any suggestion that Rose was acting inappropriately on their campuses. Plus, we don't cover middle school sports. Finally, you "heard" wrong about another O-R employee having a computer seized. That's bullshit. You're just smearing everyone who works at the Observer, which seems to be your overall goal.
Of course, you mention no specifics when alleging that one of our reporters tried to scuttle Toprani's candidacy. Also, we at the O-R try to deal in provable facts, not third-hand street talk from the same sort of scumbags that Pettit relied on as witnesses. We will trust the AG's office to put the results of his investigation before the grand jury to see if an indictment is warranted.
Then you make all kinds of unsubstantiated domments about Pettit's conduct in office. As I've made it clear here, I thought Pettit was a cancer on the justice system of Washington County, but you cannot just throw out rumors as if they are fact. The O-R does its best to report on FACTS known about the former DA. We have a small staff and do not have an "investigative team" that we can send out for three months to probe the rumors you cite about Pettit. You've watched "All the President's Men" too often.
And, finally, you said the O-R is "up to its neck in corruption." You, sir or madam, are an outright liar. There's no other way to put it.
At the end of your remarks, you went out of your way to say you were not Cody Knotts. Of course, we have no way of confirming that, since you were too cowardly to put your name on what you said.

September 14, 2008 at 9:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I shouldnt have brought Mr. Knotts into it. There are those here who claim every post they dont like is his, so that's why I made the comment.

You can believe what you choose, just like your paper chose not to print what was going on in this county for years, but, the bottom line is, the PG, which is based in Pittsburgh and only has limited reporting staff out here, was able to report much that the OR did not chose to report about the old DA. Your paper presumably has better contacts among local people, who could have given you much more information than even the PG dug up, and I find it hard to believe that the PG has more reporters covering Washington county than the OR.

If memory serves me, the OR had no problem writing many stories about a former county commissioner who used his county cell phone to make personal calls, despite the fact he was never convicted of any misuse of public property. They've had no problem writing many other stories that didnt start with a criminal conviction but involved wrong doing by public officials. Yet with the DA the rules of coverage were different. I realize you werent here during the constant coverage of the county commissioner's cell phone, but you might check the archives someday and see what your employer printed about it.

I stand corrected on the fact you dont cover middle school sports, but there are young kids at high school games.

The point was, if you have one or more colleagues or family members of editors committing crimes and either not getting prosecuted or getting favorable treatment by the DA, and you wont cover the negative stuff that an out of county newspaper will about the same official, it IS reasonable for people to conclude that there is a link. And county DAs DO have authority to, and many are active in, prosecuting child predators.

And the victimized women you are calling "scumbags" include college kids who drove drunk and people whose primary problem was drug abuse. Although their actions were wrong, it didnt give any official license to force them into having sex.

By the way, not everyone who lives in public housing is a "scumbag". Most are just not affluent enough to live whereever you live.

Information on political contributions is public information, and if the PG could find the link between contributors and favorable treatment, why couldnt the OR? If the PG higher ups who dont live or work in Washington county could decide that the connections, and the criminal investigation, were important stories, why didnt the OR editors, who spend their lives here among us, decide the same?

By the way, for someone in the newspaper business, you dont seem to have much concern about finding out the truth for yourself. You could have waited till Monday to respond, and gone to the courthouse to look up the charge I referred to about an open container of alcohol. It wasnt a plea bargain, that was the original charge.

You are a naive fool if you believe everything you are told by those you work with. Then again, maybe you always thought the now convicted child predator you worked with was a good guy.

I may not be 100% accurate in what I wrote, but I bet I was 90%, and that's pretty good considering this is an opinion page, and I'm not a reporter writing a news article. In fact, I wonder if you, as an editor, get 90% of your information right in what you approve for printing in the paper. Since there is no objective evaluation of newspaper editors' job performance, like there are stats on baseball players, I guess we will never know. You certainly twisted what I said about the Rose situation; I never said the OR failed to cover it. In fact, the only coverage I discussed was that regarding the DA.

Put my name on my posts? Coming from a newspaper whose main editorials are never signed, that's laughable.

September 14, 2008 at 11:05 AM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

I always thought Tom Rose was a good guy, considering I went to school with his daughter... That's what made the situation so shocking... he was generally regarded as a good guy.


September 14, 2008 at 11:23 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

Again, if you have specific instances in which the Observer covered something up, bring it, complete with all the facts, the names, etc. Then we are on a leval playing field. How could I look up the case about the open container charge when you don't even give me a name of the person involved or when the case occurred? In fact, send the details to my personal e-mail at, so no one's name will be dragged through the mud here for something that might not be factual. Of course, if you e-mail me, you won't be so anonymous. But I can assure you I will not reveal your identity. When I was talking about the "scumbags," I was referring to the people whom the former DA relied on as jailhouse snitches to get convictions. In the past, I have given Cody credit for being out in front on the Pettit matters. I'll do so again. I don't think the O-R should be immune to criticism in its handling of stories, including the Pettit story, but comparing the Metro Petrosky matter to Pettit's case is apples and oranges. Petrosky's case was based on factual documents. The Pettit case, at this point, is nothing more than rumors and second-hand information. There is no smoking gun, if you will. That's why the information is being presented to a grand jury: to determine what, if any, laws were broken and then bring appropriate charges, if warranted. Apparently you have little understanding of the workings of a newspaper. Editorials are not signed. They represent the collective opinion of the newspaper on a particular issue. Columns on the editorial or commentary pages are signed, with a byline, because they represent the opinions of individuals. So your comments on that are, to use your words, laughable. Finally, I recognize quite a few times when Cody does, indeed, post on this blog. As a regular reader of his paper, I can recognize his writing style.

September 14, 2008 at 11:35 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

By the way, I should point out that I have no problem with people posting comments anonymously or by using screen names in most cases, but if you are making pointed allegations against someone, have enough guts to put your name behind it. If you don't, and we don't know where the allegations are coming from, why in the world would we believe any of it?

September 14, 2008 at 11:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you say that you know Cody Knotts' "style" when he posts something on this blog, you mean the bad grammar and spelling errors, right?

September 15, 2008 at 1:38 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

I'll just leave that one open to interpretation.

September 15, 2008 at 3:49 PM  

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