An interesting situation has arisen over the past day or two that is a segue from the conversation about ethics in politics. This time, however, the accusation of impropriety did not come from a political figure, it came from a nameless, faceless accuser. In fact, the accusation came on WLVL's Dialog hosted by Scott Leffler.
Apparently, and for the record I did not hear the live broadcast but did catch the podcast, during a show in which Lockport 4th Ward Alderman Pat Schrader was being taken to task for his role in the accident that sent a nine year-old girl to the hospital, someone called the show to enlighten the audience with a story about 5th Ward Alderman John Lombardi.
I won't get into the very ugly details of what occurred, but the caller made some extremely disturbing comments about Lombardi. These comments were so harsh that they potentially could impact Lombardi, his family, his business as well as another individual who was named by the cowardly caller.
The concern is that where does the right to privacy end for an elected official? More importantly, what constitutes criticism of an elected official, and what crosses that line? When Bill Leardini stood at the podium and called the Niagara County Legislature "corrupt", I was told by an attorney that the statement absolutely constitutes slander. But as an elected official, what do you do, sue him? Then you're thin-skinned.
In this situation with Lombardi, who's responsible? It's my understanding that in legal terms, once a media outlet broadcasts such a slanderous allegation as the one on WLVL, that media outlet is responsible.
In other words, if candidate X writes a letter to the editor saying that candidate Y is a pedophile, the paper is not off the hook simply because candidate X signed his name to the letter. The paper has a legal responsibility to not print unfounded, slanderous, libelous statements.
So where does that leave WLVL? The questions of their responsibility are already flying. Are they negligent for not having a delay, as most radio stations do? Should Leffler have disconnected the call the moment he realized where the caller was going, instead of allowing the caller to embellish the story even further?
Whatever the outcome, I wish Lombardi and his family the best. No one deserves this type of disgraceful accusation. Not even an elected official.