New Canaan Patch Editor Plays Favs for RTC Chairman O’Hora

This story has been updated because the AOL Patch editor is upset his own emails caught him in a lie and thinks he needs police protection

Original Text

New Canaan’s rookie Patch editor, Paul Devlin, is already playing favorites with an elected member of the town’s Republican committee and has even agreed to delete comments posted on Patch for him.

Around noon today, New Canaan RTC Chairman James O’Hora sent an email to Devlin asking for comments made publicly by Roy Abramowitz (RTC Treasurer) to be removed on a Patch story about the Wilton teens stealing the NC High School flag because he claimed Abramowitz was trying to seek revenge against him for winning Chairmanship of the RTC.

Abramowitz, a CPA and outspoken member of New Canaan’s Republican Party, was expressing frustration at the Patch for their sensational coverage of a high school prank that led to the arrest of two teens. His comment was trying to direct the editor’s attention to another drama brewing inside the RTC over O’Hora and a member of the town council who according to Abramowitz publicly disparaged his junior high school daughter to gain an edge during the local RTC elections.

Around noon today O’Hora wrote to Patch’s Devlin:

“Roy is referring to myself and Penny Young in his comment and it has no relevance to the article and it’s actually untrue and just a rant!

FYI…Roy was a member of the New Canaan Republican Town Committee and he ran for re-election in January at our caucus; and he was unsuccessful. He lost!

So he is trying to blame others for his defeat and exact revenge by making these type of comments. I believe numerous people have flagged the comment as inappropriate yet it still remains.”

Within 20 minutes Devlin responded:

Thank you for your note. It’s been removed.

Meanwhile, Roy noticed the comment was taken down and tried to post another one which read:

“I would appreciate knowing why my post concerning the bullying of a 12 year student by a NC political party officer and senior female Town Council member who are hypocrites concerning civility was deleted. It is the truth and more important than a sportsman prank concerning a banner. I guess the political machine does not care. Appalling.”

Now here’s where it gets weird. Devlin proactively emails Roy after deleting his second comment saying:

“We don’t like to post comments with accusations that are unsubstantiated and cast a wide net over a certain group.
If you’d like to elaborate further and want us to look into your claim,
please let us know. “

The two ended up having a phone call and according to Roy he asked Devlin if O’Hora asked him to take the comment down and Devlin said “NO it was an edit choice by the Patch”. When I reached Devlin by phone this evening he also commented on the record that O’Hora hadn’t requested the comment removed. I then let him know I’d been forwarded emails of his exchange with O’Hora so how could he deny this? Devlin got flustered and then said on the record Patch doesn’t comment on its editorial decisions. Oh Boy – talk about being caught in a lie for what down the road could look like a pay-for-play between a local editor and a leader of the New Canaan Republican party. I can’t even speculate on Devlin’s motive since he hung up while I was asking him why he’d do this.

Now this is not the first time O’Hora took aim at Abramowitz. I confirmed last Spring when Roy appeared in a News Channel 12 editorial pertaining to Governor Malloy’s then state tax proposals, O’Hora contacted the station’s edit staff and ranted about Abramowitz’s appearance. Apparently he was little bothered by the fact that Roy was speaking as a member of the New Canaan RTC (At the time of the TV interview Roy held an elected RTC position so O’Hora’s complaint didn’t really add up).

I was able to reach O’Hora this evening who admitted he asked Devlin to take the comment down. O’Hora’s only on record comment about the event was, “I am chairman of the committee and Roy is not longer an elected official. My dealings with Roy are over.” (Roy holds his RTC position of Treasurer until March 12th so O’Hora actually still works with him as Roy is the only RTC member who can sign on the group bank account.)

O’Hora when questioned didn’t hide from the fact he made the comment removal request so why did the editor, Paul Devlin, feel the need to lie to his reader and another journalist? Roy didn’t actually name O’Hora or 20-yr town council vet Penny Young in his Patch comments but did attempt to indirectly describe them. The comment also wasn’t talking about a ‘group’ which Devlin uses as an excuse for removal – Roy was specifically talking about the actions of two people in public office. I find it hard to believe the Patch editor took the time to independently figure out if Roy’s comments were also unsubstantiated. How could he – he didn’t even call or email Roy until after he removed his comment the second time? Roy used his full name to express his views which thank goodness in this country the First Amendment allows.

Patch editors publicly state they want an open dialog from their readers (and by the way it really helps their page views when locals get all vocal on their site and spit out a running comment debate. You see Fortune pointed out this week- they are in desperate need of page views to garner ad rev which is in the tank). So when we see an AOL publication like Patch playing favs to remove a comment talking about a real political down and dirty drama going on it just smells like bad journalism. If you want to understand more about the shady editorial ethics at Patch, my fellow journalist over at Business Insider have done a bang up job on reporting out their editorial issue from plagiarism to holding news reports to appease advertisers for over a year.

The personal fight between O’Hora and Abramowitz that involved Roy’s daughter getting questioned by school officials during the time they were running for RTC elections is actually quite an interesting political drama that I think our local papers should try to interview out and report on. O’Hora told me he wasn’t going to comment on it but Roy said he’s open to an interview should any New Canaan reporter want to run with it.

As far as Devlin goes – Journalism 101 – don’t lie to your readers about simple things like comment removal because it makes them question what else you’re not telling them. And lying to a professional journalist like myself, with a seasoned track record of investigative reporting for most major publications, is just downright stupid.

Patch Editor Paul Devlin working at New Canaan Library 2-19-2012

UPDATE 2-20-12: I have been notified by NCPD, Officer Micena, that Patch editor Paul Devlin has filed a claim of harassment for the content of this story and is using the NCPD to tell me that I can not call him. Really Paul? So apparently the Patch editor doesn’t want to be contacted for further comment on any stories I might write about Patch or their editorial decisions.
The email quoted in this story between Devlin/O’Hora was forwarded to me by a source who said they saw Devlin’s Gmail account because he left it open at the New Canaan Library where he at times works from on a public computer. A fact Devlin and O’Hora were both made aware of when I called them for comment. Paul and I as journalists are both considered public figures and I find it odd that he is trying to use the NCPD to stop me from following journalistic standards to call him for comment on a story. I have not been charged for any wrong doing in expressing my first amendment rights in this story so it’s unclear if this is the NCPD bullying a journalist or a local editor afraid of what other facts I might’ve uncovered.

2-22-12: Top media blogger, Jim Romenesko, wrote about the Patch editor’s NCPD complaint today. Devlin’s gone radio silent and wouldn’t comment for Romenesko. As of 9 p.m. Patch has now listed their regional floating editor, Chandra Johnson Greene, as New Canaan’s editor. It’s unclear if Devlin was fired as editor or just removed from his title as a public relations tactic by AOL and still allowed to report for another Patch town.

Editors Note: For readers from New Canaan who are new to my byline I suggest you check out my about page. I am an internationally known freelance investigative financial journalist who lives in New Canaan. At times when I see a local story that needs reporting and is being ignored by our local papers I will report on the issues here.