Nov 26, 2008
Anti-union crusader continues to overstay his 15 minutes of fame
Andy Warhol's famous quote about every person being famous for 15 minutes may have to be extended to 20 minutes for rightwing blogger and anti-union activist Chetly Zarko.
The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus is carrying a story about the Howell Education Association (HEA) - that represents the Howell Public School teachers - decision to appeal a Livingston County Circuit Court decision to allow an estimated 5,500 e-mails written by union leaders on school computers to be released to the public. The case came about in May 2007 after Zarko submitted a Freedom of Information Request (FOIA) to get ammunition to smear the teacher's union.
He claimed the union conducted a large amount of union business on public time on computers owned by taxpayers, including trying to retain MEA (Michigan Education Association) affiliated MESSA health-insurance and using parent-teacher conferences to recruit parents to their side of a collective-bargaining debate. He received some emails before the school district realized there may be confidential parent-teacher info in the emails and put a stop to giving him anymore.
The district and the union filed for an injunction to stop release of the emails, and Livingston County Circuit Court Judge Stanley Latreille issued an injunction that prevented Howell Public Schools from releasing more e-mails by leaders and members of the teacher’s union until they could be reviewed.
In October 2008 Latreille determined that the e-mails written by union leaders on school computers are public record, but they were not released pending an appeal. That appeal was just filed.
This has been and always will be a fishing expedition by an anti-union crusader to smear a union. With the few emails he managed to get his hands on he made the ridiculous claim that HEA leaders have "conducted a large amount of union business on public time by using public resources for union business, specifically, the email server. But when that attack failed after the district said the union has a “recognized right" to use the server he took another tack and used the emails to cherry-pick a few sentences to claim union leaders were mean to a few members.
All along he claims he has been doing this as a public service, and he has also steadfastly denied any one is paying him for this crusade. But his quote in the article is curious:
"We weren't surprised at all," said researcher Chetly Zarko, who used Michigan's Freedom of Information Act in an attempt to obtain the information.
Perhaps he can explain who "we" are. His claim that he is doing this for the public's right to know is laughable, but his quote that if "we lose this battle, it will be harder for the mainstream press to look into and report on issues" is absolutely ridiculous.
Again, this is simply an attempt to smear the union; nothing more nothing less. As a former reporter, I am a strong supporter of FOIA and sunshine laws, but I'm not sure how a teacher's union equates to the government. None the less, I say give him the emails. This is just keeping the story alive, and if anyone has managed to slog through any of his blogs, they know this ink does nothing but stroke his ample ego.
Zarko has a history with rightwing causes. He was the communications director for the California group headed by Ward Connerly that came to the state to push the racist Michigan Civil Rights Initiative on the November 2006 ballot that did away with affirmative action. His attack on the HEA came after communicating with the anti-gay hate group known as the "LOVE” PAC (Livingston Organization for Values in Education) and “LOVE” and school board member Wendy Day. In the summer and fall of 2007 he helped push for the so-called "right to work" ballot issue that failed to materialize.