The Seattle school district is saying that the Seattle Times will not give them access to a "full, unedited" version of a taped interview of the district's lawyer Ron English, which English wants to use to counter what he calls factual inaccuracies in an article.
But the Times says that's not the case. The Times Managing Editor Kathy best says English and the district are welcome to come to the Times office Monday and talk about their concerns, as well as listen to the tape.
The Times reported Monday that the state Auditor's Office is investigating whether the district violated any of its own policies or procedures or state law when it sold the vacant MLK school property to First AME Church last year. Although the district received a higher bid from the private Bush School and a similar bid from the non-profit CCC@MLK, it decided to sell to First AME instead because a new policy allows it to sell a property to a low bidder if it used 50 percent of the space for educational and social services.
English, who was looking after the bidding process, was interviewed by the Times about the process used to evaluate proposals for the sale, but called the article misleading after it was published. In a letter to the Times Monday, English requested a retraction and a correction, and also asked for a copy of the interview tape.
Best says that reporters and editors did not find any inaccuracies in the article after reviewing all the points in English's complaint. The Times also informed English Monday that they would be happy to sit down with him next week to go over his concerns, and have the recorded interview on hand for playback.
When I asked the school district if they were going to take the Times up on their offer, the district's chief communications officer Lesley Rogers says "we asked the Seattle Times for a copy of the tape of the May 16 interview, or to go into their office and listen to the tape in its entirety, but that request was denied."
Rogers forwarded me her response to the Times reporter who interviewed English and a Times editor:
Thank you both for your time on the phone yesterday. I am disappointed that The Seattle Times will not allow Seattle Public Schools to listen to the full tape of Ron English’s interview on May 16.
While we appreciate your offer to meet and discuss the story, we feel that an important first step is to hear the recording of the interview. Mr. English stands by his version of the interview and you, Susan, stand by your version. We are concerned about the inaccuracies pointed out by Mr. English.
Please let me know if you reconsider.
"The editor who handled the story is currently out of town, so we have reaffirmed our request to the district, that they can meet with us Monday," Best says. "We are still waiting to hear specifically from them what was wrong. We haven't heard anything from any school board member or district official. We only have English's letter."
When I asked Best whether the Times had denied the district access to the full tape, Best says, "what we have said to them is if you want to listen to the tape, come on over, we are happy to have you listen to the tape on Monday."
Best says the Times spent weeks working on the story, going over hundreds of documents and thousands of emails that it obtained from the district through public-records requests.