Onondaga County Deputy Comptroller Richard Sheeran was indicted on 134 charges of violating Civil Service and Election Laws pertaining to making his employees contribute to the Republican Party. When the trial verdict was announced, he was acquitted of all the felonies and convicted of most of the misdemeanors. The prosecution had failed to convince the jury that Sheeran was part of a conspiracy; they convicted him as if he was working alone. The court fined Sheeran $2700; the county later promoted him to director of the Division of Purchasing.
The Syracuse Newspapers, under publisher Stephen Rogers, had created and maintained a local climate in which corrupt politicians did bad things and were publicly rewarded for it. I couldn’t stand it, so I wrote to “60 Minutes” and asked them to do a story on how newspapers, instead of being the watchdog of government, could enter into a plot with the government to lie to the people.
One day I was sitting at my desk when the phone rang. It was Don Hewitt, producer of “60 Minutes.” Our conversation was brief and mainly consisted of him asking me if Peter Andreoli would talk to him. I said I figured it was likely, then immediately called Mr. Andreoli to give him a heads-up. It would have been wrong for Andreoli to solicit news coverage but, when asked, he certainly could cooperate. I think he was impressed by the action I’d taken, and its effectiveness.
The Special Prosecutor’s Office had maintained a complete file of every word published about the investigation. Among other things, whenever the prosecutors’ lost a court decision—which was very rarely—it would be reported by The Syracuse Newspapers with front-page headlines. When they won—which was almost all the time—it either would go unreported or be reported in a small story on an inside page. County Executive John Mulroy went to court to get the investigation un-funded; he failed. The public never knew. District Attorney Richard Hennessey went to court to get the investigation transferred to him; he failed. The public never knew. A local judge compared Andreoli to a sodomizer, then ruled against him; the judge was overturned on appeal. The public never knew. At every turn, the law said that the investigation was legal and proper; the newspapers ignored the law and reported that it was a witch-hunt.
A “60 Minutes” researcher came to the Special Prosecutor’s Office, read the files of court orders and newspaper reports, and concluded that The Syracuse Newspapers were engaged in a conspiracy to prevent the citizens from knowing the truth.
It was late in the television season and “60 Minutes” staff time was already committed, so the story never got aired.
All people share the right and the responsibility to make the decisions that affect their lives together.