This started as an innocuous item about the whereabouts of our mayor. Because if you read the local press accounts on the aftermath of the Christmas Eve break-in at the Davidson County Election Commission, you might have concluded he was studiously pacing about City Hall, barking at department heads and reviewing the operation of Metro Government. WKRN-Channel 2, for one, reported that Karl Dean is calling for a “citywide security audit.” The City Paper
told us in a front-page headline that “Dean Demands Security Audit.” The Tennessean
similarly reported, “Councilman Michael Craddock, who is chairman of the Metro Council's Public Safety Committee, and Mayor Karl Dean are posing their own questions about the break-in.”
Of course, there's nary a mention about how Dean is managing the messy aftermath of the election heist…from somewhere in Africa. I thought that was a little unusual—not that he’s vacationing in Africa but that no media outlet reported this simple fact—and called Dean press secretary Janel Lacy just to confirm Dean’s whereabouts. But a fiercely guarded Lacy wouldn't tell, except to inform us that he's out of town on a family vacation planned before he was elected mayor. Then she asked if I could hold off on what I was writing—as if I were breaking the local sequel to the My Lai massacre—for about an hour. I reluctantly agreed. Calls to the editor’s office ensued. It seemed the mayor's office was in crisis mode. Never mind that what was most interesting about all this was that media outlets were being disingenuous with readers and viewers. After all, mayors go on vacation. It’s not a federal case. But why not say so?
After about an hour without hearing from Lacy, I called again and she confirmed that, yes, the mayor is in Africa vacationing with his family. Any implication, she said, that the mayor wasn’t attentive to the burgeoning break-in fallout is inaccurate. I never implied such a thing—and still don’t.
“During his trip, he has been in contact with the deputy mayor, Greg Hinote, and Sue Cain, the law director, basically every day through email,” she huffed.
Where exactly in Africa are we talking about? Is Dean lost in the Congo? Lacy wouldn’t know. The mayor's press secretary could only tell us what continent he's on—and only then reluctantly. She did say, though, that Dean would be back in North America (our words there) Monday morning.