Editorial submitted by Conrad Doyle
What is extortion? There are a number of definitions for the act of extortion. Simply stated it is the practice of obtaining something, especially money through force or threats. Another defines it as the practice of obtaining a benefit through coercion. Google claims that in most jurisdictions it is likely to constitute a criminal offense even here in little O’ Meade County. One particular case involves the Meade County Fair and its “owner” aka President, who attempted to induce the publisher/owner of The Meade County Messenger to give up property or property rights to a publication that is legally owned and printed by The Messenger and provided free of charge to the citizens of Meade County and surrounding addresses.
The publication he was demanding ownership of is the “Meade County Fair Magazine”. So, what has the ownership of a Fair Magazine got to do with extortion? As you may or may not know, local businesses and organizations have the opportunity to rent booth space for the Meade County Fair. In conjunction with the lease agreement, two tickets will be issued to booth workers. Local media outlets traditionally receive passes, but not this year, at least not for the staff of The Meade County Messenger. At least, not initially and not without the Messenger having to ask for them repeatedly.
The President of the Fair Board, Mr. Pace, decided not to give the paper any tickets, not even those required by the booth rental agreement. In response to Messenger staff member’s requests, Mr. Pace replied, “I’m not giving you tickets unless Rena signs a contract.” Unsure what Mr. Pace was implying, the employee left without even a ticket. Upon returning to his office, the employee relayed Mr. Pace’s demands.
A second staff member then went to speak with Pace, who again refused his request for the booth tickets stating, “I’m not giving you tickets until Rena signs a contract”. This staff member phoned his office to relay Mr. Pace’s demands.
During a third attempt to acquire their tickets, an offer was made by the paper to purchase the needed tickets for the booth workers and media, but Pace refused to sell them any tickets. Eventually, Pace did finally give a staff member the two tickets required with booth rental, and two additional tickets for the Messenger as “media” but refused to sell any additional tickets to the paper.
What makes this extortion? Pace used coercive tactics in an attempt to force the publisher of The Meade County Fair Magazine to act against the paper’s best interests, by relinquishing property (the magazine) to him in exchange for booth tickets. Extortion is criminal at both the state and federal levels. When Pace refused to “give” the booth tickets “unless Rena signed a contract”, he committed an illegal act of extortion.
Why would Pace want the magazine? Does he even have experience in publishing? The answer is NO, he has no experience in publishing, so why would he insist on a contract for this particular magazine? The answer is simple...pure GREED! He wants the money that advertisers pay to have their businesses presented in the single largest full color, printed medium in Meade and adjoining counties.
So, was Pace acting alone when he issued his coercive demand, or did he have the full support of the Fair’s Board of Directors? Who gave him the power to decide who can or cannot buy tickets to the Meade County Fair? Who picks, or appoints, members of the Fair Board? Who appoints the Director? If appointed or inherited, when and by what process are board members placed on the board? Did the Fair Board meet and collectively give him the green light to withhold tickets until he/they get what they want? I would venture a guess that the answer would be a unanimous NO-WE WERE NOT AWARE OF HIS TACTICS.
In an attempt to understand the power bestowed upon the “president”, or “principal officer” of the Meade County Fair, I decided to research the organization. In so doing I came across the Fair organization’s 501(C)3 charity or non-profit tax return dated 10/1/2012 that was for the year 2010, yes return (singular)-I could not find any forms filed past the 2010 return. Since I found no further documents indicating any changes, I am left with the impression that either Pace owns the Meade County Fair, Inc, or he owns whoever sits on the Board of Directors. It is obvious from the document I found that he has no problem operating on a need-to-know basis. The final page of the return clearly shows his intent to withhold information from the public...read for yourself, make up your own mind.