By Jim Bleyer
Poynter Foundation board member and political operative Barry Edwards was charged with extortion and accused of predatory actions with a 19-year-old intern while he was at Florida State University.
Edwards, who headed the political science intern program, was fired as a result although the student did not press charges. It also led to his voluntary dismissal from the Rudolph Giuliani presidential campaign in 2008.
In the same year as he was accused of extortion, Edwards was convicted of dealing in stolen state computers.
The extortion charge probable cause affadavit can be read in THIS SORDID, GRAPHIC FOUR-PAGE SUMMARY.
Poynter is the, thus far, nonprofit parent of the Tampa Bay Times which has endorsed and been a de facto cheerleader for Rick Baker in his campaign to unseat St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.
Edwards, while on the board of the Poynter Foundation, has actively advised political candidates reportedly including Baker.
The Times and Baker have made an issue out of the 2001 arrest of Kevin King, Kriseman’s chief of staff, for solicitation of sex. The extortion arrest and computer theft conviction of Edwards occurred three years earlier. Either both incidents are “ancient history” or they are not but Baker and the Times want it both ways.
The Times, through slanted and patently false news stories, and Baker, with false and misleading advertising in the electronic media, have mired the campaign in sewage during the closing weeks. The election is Tuesday.
Poynter needs to explain to the journalistic community that it allegedly serves exactly what criteria are used to select its board members. Are there any background checks? Why do Poynter/Times/Baker demand details of the 16-year-old charges against King but ignore the criminal missteps of Edwards? Doesn’t the Poynter/Times/Baker association with Edwards show a complete lack of judgment and standards?
Does the bar for participating in political campaigns and Foundation decisions get any lower? Are we doing the Limbo Rock here?
How does the politically active Edwards being on the Foundation board not a conflict of interest with the Poynter Institute mission statement and the federal government’s rules for nonprofits?
Edwards’ political embroilment with a candidate endorsed by the Times further validates a complaint filed with the Internal Revenue Service about a month ago challenging the Poynter Institute of Media Studies’ status as a non-profit entity. Participation in political activity is prohibited for entities claiming to be a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
If the IRS finds that Poynter misappropriated or co-mingled funds, violated its mission statement, failed to adhere to the wishes of its founder Nelson Poynter or participated in political activity, the Institute would be on the hook for back taxes and penalties. In addition, its 501(c)(3) status would be revoked.