EDITORIAL: Where We Went Wrong Reporting Wilhelmina Dunbar’s Termination

Thursday, February 4, 2016 || By THE VILLAGE FREE PRESS || Editorial 

In a Jan. 22 post entitled, “Maywood HR Coordinator Wilhelmina Dunbar Terminated,” we reported that Dunbar had been fired from her position and, because we were unable to contact either Dunbar herself or Maywood Village Manager Willie Norfleet, Jr., who terminated Dunbar, we offered up some details hoping to provide some context.

On further review of our reporting, we decided that this post would have been better off without including those details a) because one of them was not presented accurately and b), instead of clarifying the context of Dunbar’s termination, they may have helped fuel the public speculation about her termination — the full context of which we still don’t know.

For these reasons, we decided to delete them altogether.

In the initial posting regarding Dunbar’s termination, we noted that a vote of no confidence had been issued by the local SEIU chapter, which, we wrote, represents Maywood firefighters. This, as it turned out, may have led some to believe that a vote of no confidence was issued directly by the Maywood firefighters, which was not the case.

Moreover, after an additional review of the source of that information, which came from this post from 2013 (which notes, “At a December 11, LLOC meeting, Nick Carone, a field organizer with the SEIU Local 73 mentioned during public comments that he was asked by union members in the Fire Department to issue a lack of confidence in the village’s HR department”), we would realize that we were wrong even in that December 2013 report.

After the Jan. 22 Dunbar article, we received a letter from the Maywood Firefighters Union SEIU Local 73 that corrected our original 2013 reporting. The letter noted that union members contacted Carone, who said that clerical employees, not firefighters, requested the lack of confidence issue — and, still, it isn’t clear to us whether or not that request materialized into an actual no-confidence vote.

To say that there was a vote of no-confidence and to imply that such a thing emanated from a request by firefighters (SEIU Local 73 represents other village employees as well) is not accurate.

In addition, other details we offered to try to give some possible context to Dunbar’s termination, such as a recent water scandal, seemed to us, upon deeper evaluation, more guesswork (that could, indeed, stoke the flames of speculation and unfair incrimination) than responsible reporting.

When we first learned of Dunbar’s termination, we decided to report it quickly, because of the position’s significance. There’s nothing wrong with this. But in hindsight, we should’ve simply stated the obvious fact of her termination and not much more, despite our yearning for some context (we stand by our reference to Open the Books regarding her salary information).

With this said, we understand we’re going to make mistakes, even though we’d like to keep them few and far between. When we do, however, go wrong, we rely on the public to correct us (and even to chastise us when we deserve it).

After all, public correction and showing our shame when we realize that our errors may have hurt people (even when we mean no harm), are essential if we’re going to be accountable to a reading and voting public.

We genuinely regret these errors and apologize to both the Maywood Firefighters Union and to Wilhelmina Dunbar for dropping the ball on this one. We only ask that readers bear with us as we endeavor to pick it back up and get better.

And a great, big thank you for the firefighters for holding our feet to the fire. VFP

If you have any concerns about our reporting methods or the accuracy of the information we put out, please let us know by emailing: thevillagefreepress@gmail.com.

4 thoughts on “EDITORIAL: Where We Went Wrong Reporting Wilhelmina Dunbar’s Termination”

  1. Thanks for clarifying your mistake,
    Nobody is perfect, I appreciate you admitting the error and letting everyone know about it. You do the village proud,
    Please continue doing the great job of reporting the local news. Our village needs you

  2. Mike, thanks for showing the integrity of a professional who can admit he made a mistake and doing the right thing — admitting it and taking responsibility for it. Good luck.

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