Why we published article on C.B. 1 member’s ouster

From the editors: The large number of letters we received criticizing last week’s article about the non reappointment of Community Board 1 member Andy Neale warrants a response.

Our decision to publish was not made easily and is not one we took any pleasure in. We agree with the letter writers who recognized that we were reporting public information which is “fair game.” We also agree that community board members are volunteers who devote considerable time to serving on the board, often to make their neighborhoods better places to live. Their private lives do not deserve the same level of scrutiny as paid elected leaders.

Neale was co-chairperson of the Tribeca Committee and had weighed in on many important issues in the neighborhood. The decision not to reappoint him originally came with no explanation. We felt readers deserved to know why.

One of the reasons we endorsed Borough President Scott Stringer three years ago is that he pledged to raise the professionalism of the community board selection process. We have since praised the measures he has taken. It is impossible for us to continue to evaluate this process without finding out why members are not reappointed. Community board members are important representatives and we do not agree that they should disappear without mentioning the reason.

The district attorney’s office confirmed to us serious charges against Neale, and Stringer’s spokesperson confirmed the offences were an important reason for the reappointment decision.

We had to give Neale a chance to respond. He made the decision to do so and to tell us about his alcohol abuse. We feel this explanation put his crimes in better context. Leaving out his explanation or printing only vague references to the crimes would have certainly shortened the article, but it would have been unfair. Some readers would have assumed the vagueness was covering up worse crimes than were actually committed, and others may have assumed that Stringer was overreacting to minor offenses.

When public officials’ private lives lead to their removal, we feel obligated to report it. We have no interest in digging into the private lives of community board members.