The Sacramento Bee ended its relationship with editorial board member Pia Lopez because of her conflicts of interest.
Lopez’s conflicts of interest related to “topics addressed by the board and campaign donations and support.” She should not have represented herself as a member of the board when helping with her husband’s now-failed political campaign, according to an editor’s note to readers about her removal from the board.
Lopez had taken a brief “leave of absence” when her husband Jim Read (Dem.) was running for Congress. Read ran for Republican Michele Bachmann’s seat in Congress in Minnesota. He suspended his campaign in May.
“Lopez used her board title and company email ” while campaigning for her husband, the paper said.
“In some email conversations with Sacramento-area sources prior to her leave,” the Sacramento Bee reported, “Lopez discussed Read’s campaign as she conducted editorial board business.”
“These activities are incompatible with Lopez’s role on the editorial board,” the Bee stated.
The newspaper’s letter about Lopez’s removal was signed by the Bee‘s publisher and president Cheryl Dell, executive editor and senior vice president Joyce Terhaar and editorial page editor Dan Morain.
The Bee has claimed that Lopez’s conflicts didn’t actually affect the board but because of the appearance of a conflict of interest she had to go. The Bee wrote:
“The Bee did not alter its editorial positions during this period. But appearances matter, as does any public perception that the favor of the editorial board depended on political contributions to Read’s Minnesota race. It did not, and we apologize if anyone felt otherwise.”
iMediaEthics has asked Bee executive editor how it determined that Lopez’s conflicts didn’t affect the newspaper’s editorials and how it learned of her troublesome conflicts of interest. We’ve also reached out to Lopez via Facebook seeking comment.
Hat Tip: Jim Romenesko
UPDATE: 8/11/2014 1:28 PM EST Pam Dinsmore, Director of Community Affairs for the Sacramento Bee, told iMediaEthics that the “Note to Readers” is the paper’s only comment.