Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A father, fees, fines and a front page

This item is based on submissions from students in the Covering the Senate Race course.

Jerry Lundergan, father of Alison Lundergan Grimes, refused for years to pay various fees and fines on property he owns with his daughters -- 1 percent each, he told Sam Youngman of the Lexington Herald-Leader. The newspaper described that as a "small stake" in its headline at the top of Sunday's front page.

Lundergan told Youngman that Grimes was unaware of any fees or penalties, and "If I truly believed your intent was to create a story about me and the former Continental Inn property, this would be a non-issue; however, I know that the outlying intent is to try to embarrass or link Alison Grimes to a piece of property." He said she was not involved in his decision to pay the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government.

The 1,778-word story described Lundergan's battle with the government over "more than $20,000 in storm sewer fees and fines" since he bought the property in 2005 and demolished the hotel. After getting discounts the city called "unprecedented," Lundergan made his first payment in June and a larger, second payment the day after an opposition-research firm working for Sen. Mitch McConnell asked for a city records on the matter. Youngman reported that McConnell's campaign gave the records to the newspaper, which then got "similar records" on its own.

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