Clearing up misconception about Idaho Statesman editorial board, former member | Opinion

An Idaho Statesman reader sent us a letter to the editor raising concerns about Maryanne Jordan, a former editorial board community member who is now the campaign treasurer for former Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson, who is running for mayor against incumbent Lauren McLean.

The reader also raised concerns about a pair of guest opinion pieces written by Masterson that were published in the Statesman while Jordan was a board member.

Let me explain.

Maryanne Jordan joined the editorial board as a community member in June 2022, along with former Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa.

Having Ysursa and Jordan on the board was a no-brainer. Both brought a wealth of knowledge and experience. Jordan was a former Boise City Council member and state legislator.

She was invaluable to the board last year in helping with endorsements in statewide and legislative races, as well as federal and county commission races. She helped navigate the beginning weeks of the legislative session.

In February, well before the filing period for candidates, Jordan told me she was going to be the campaign treasurer for the reelection campaign for Boise City Council Member Jimmy Hallyburton. At that point, Feb. 3, I asked Jordan to step down from the board, and she agreed.

It was going to be a big year for city elections, and having her as a campaign treasurer for one of the City Council candidates was not going to be feasible. While editorials and endorsements are necessarily subjective and our opinion, it’s necessary to be clear that we’re giving candidates a fair shot and that we’re not prejudging candidates, or affiliated with or supporting candidates beforehand.

I also had to ask Ysursa to step down from the editorial board in August 2022, when he joined the campaign of Tom Arkoosh, who was running for Idaho attorney general at the time.

When Jordan stepped down from the board, it had nothing to do with Masterson, who had not even announced he was running for mayor at that point.

On Feb. 23, the Idaho Statesman’s Ian Max Stevenson wrote that Masterson was considering a run. By then, Jordan was off the editorial board. Masterson didn’t officially announce he was running for mayor until March 21, filing the necessary paperwork, which showed Jordan as his campaign treasurer.

I had never even spoken to Jordan about Masterson prior to that, and I was not even aware that Masterson was considering running for mayor. I’m not sure she knew at the time that Masterson would throw his hat in the ring.

Other than opinion writer Bryan Clark and myself, editorial board members are not involved in decisions about running guest opinion pieces.

In November and December 2022, Masterson wrote two guest opinion pieces, first about the revelations that retired Boise police officer Matt Bryngelson had written a racist screed, recorded a video interview espousing racist beliefs and was scheduled to be a guest speaker at a white supremacy convention.

Publishing a guest opinion piece from a retired police chief, who had been chief for 10 years, including years that overlapped with Bryngelson’s time on the force, made perfect sense. In it, Masterson explained that the revelations were a complete surprise, and he urged the community not to judge the entire force.

Then, in December, he wrote a guest opinion piece criticizing the Steptoe and Johnson investigation commissioned by the city. Specifically, he called out McLean for her handling of the contract and the impact of the investigation on the police force. Again, having a retired police chief weigh in made sense.

At the time, Masterson was not running for mayor or anything else. In fact, Masterson told the Idaho Statesman editorial board that it wasn’t until after he published those pieces that community members approached him about possibly running for mayor.

Once Masterson announced he was seeking to unseat McLean, I stopped accepting guest opinion pieces from him, as I typically do with candidates for public office.

We run many guest opinion pieces from prominent people in the community, and we seldom know whether someone is going to run for mayor or something else in the future. Similarly, we invite community members to serve on the board without knowing whether, at some point in the future, they may support a candidate or even serve on someone’s campaign.

We have an open policy about sharing any conflicts of interest on the board. If it’s minor, board members may recuse themselves or simply disclose it. If it’s serious enough that it would affect their service on the board, we ask them to step down, as we did with Ysursa and Jordan.

I will also note that no one person dominates the editorial board — and that’s by design. The board consists of me, Clark, editor Chadd Cripe, newsroom editors Jim Keyser and Dana Oland, and two members from the community.

In the past, Bob Kustra, Marty Peterson, Bill Myers, Sophie Sestero, Christy Perry and the late J.J. Saldaña have served as community members. Currently, Mary Rohlfing and Patricia Nilsson serve as community members.

In Jordan’s case, I accept the criticism that we weren’t transparent enough. I should have told our readers the circumstances of her departure from our board in February, as soon as it happened. Frankly, I didn’t write about it because I thought most of our readers wouldn’t be that interested, that it was too “inside baseball.”

Ironically, I’ve written this before about government agencies: Secrecy breeds suspicion.

From now on, I will heed my own advice and make sure I keep you apprised of what’s happening on the board.