Journalists are instinctively skeptical about Public Information Officers. Often they come between us and the primary sources – the people we really want to talk to – without knowing as much as the experts.
At worst, some are more like public relations people. They don’t care if something is true or false. They care only if it reflects well upon whomever signs their paycheck. Keeping public information away from the public is a big score for them. Something to gloat over at Happy Hour after work.
Connie Cochran, the city of Stockton’s PIO, is not like that. She is helpful, diligent and honest. So it is unfortunate that Mayor Anthony Silva wants to replace her.
But not surprising. Silva has unwisely shown explicit or tacit distrust of the city’s pre-eminent bankruptcy attorney; the city attorney; the city manager; the council; city staff; and the county criminal justice veterans who devised the Marshall Plan. He does not even allow city secretaries to answer his phone or take messages.
He takes calls only through his cell phone, though the voice mail is often full. He does not use the mayor’s e-mail. He uses his personal e-mail. As I mentioned before, he had the locks changed on the mayor’s office, wary that enemies were stealing his documents.
The city charter authorized Silva to select his own PIO. He has the right. I predict he’ll use it to select a loyalist, a spin doctor. Because he’ll never find anyone more diligent than Cochran.