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Our Opinion: Thiede should know better

In the newspaper business, going public with secondhand information is bad form. Not just because the newspaper's credibility runs the risk of being damaged, but it misinforms the public of what actually happened.

In the newspaper business, going public with secondhand information is bad form. Not just because the newspaper's credibility runs the risk of being damaged, but it misinforms the public of what actually happened.

Apparently that same logic isn't shared by Crow Wing County Commissioner Paul Thiede.

On Tuesday at Crow Wing County's committee of the whole meeting, Thiede said he would not support a $3,000 appropriation to the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce because Josh Heintzeman was not allowed to speak at an event in October at Clow Stamping in Merrifield.

Thiede said he was incensed the chamber didn't allow Heintzeman, who at the time was campaigning as a candidate for the House 10A seat and attended the event, to speak along with legislators who were invited. Thiede characterized the event as planned and sponsored by the chamber. However, after Tuesday's meeting Thiede was unable to provide the specific event to which he referred and said he received the information secondhand.

Thiede read from a prepared statement Tuesday, but wasn't prepared when he presented his facts.

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The October event in question was part of Minnesota Manufacturers Week and was organized by the Manufacturers Alliance, a group to which the chamber provides a logistical support role, Matt Kilian, chamber president, told the Dispatch on Tuesday.

Several sitting area legislators were invited to participate in a panel discussion at the event on the future of manufacturing in the state. Of those invited, former Reps. John Ward and Joe Radinovich, and Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Cass County, attended. It was never intended to be a debate and was not related to the election, Kilian said, so candidates running for office were not included on the panel.

Kilian notes the chamber itself stays away from party politics and doesn't endorse candidates. Heintzeman told the Dispatch while he was frustrated at the time, he has a good relationship with Kilian and the chamber.

Thiede was apparently unaware of any of this when he made his statements against the chamber.

The issue here isn't whether the chamber deserves $3,000 in taxpayer money, the merits of which county commissioners must debate; or whether Heintzeman, then a candidate and now our representative, should have been allowed to speak at the event. Right or wrong, that should have been, and was, decided by the organizers of the event.

The problem is that Thiede, five months after the fact, made public statements without all the facts, creating a controversy where one doesn't exist. In the process, he wrongly dragged the chamber's name and membership through the mud.

The local chamber, of which the Dispatch is a member, is recognized as one of the largest and most successful in the state. It has received state and national recognition for programs like "The Bridges Workplace Connection" in partnership with CLC. The Brainerd chamber, including Pequot Lakes and Crosslake, has 910 business members with 90 percent having 25 employees or less. It is a very large organization working on hundreds for programs that benefit Crow Wing County. Most of those are successful because the volunteer hours provided by those small business owners.

As a former newspaperman himself, Thiede should have known better.

Related Topics: CROW WING COUNTY BOARD
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