It’s Worth The Time To Actually Read The O’Connor Emails
When we launched Western Wire earlier this year, our goal was to write stories and cover issues that traditional media was slow to report on. We had a hunch that the dwindling number of reporters meant there were important stories that weren’t getting the time and attention they deserve.
A perfect example is Western Wire’s coverage of the cozy ties between elected officials and a controversial anti-fracking activist from Boulder County in Colorado. This is a story about transparency and accountability that has now become a front-and-center topic of the Broomfield City Council, so much so that the hometown newspaper is now finding space to cover it.
The story began with a letter-to-the-editor published in the Boulder Daily Camera. In his original piece, which was subsequently edited, Andrew O’Connor of Lafayette wrote, “If the oil and gas industry puts fracking wells in our neighborhoods, threatening our lives and our children’s lives, then don’t we have a moral responsibility to blow up wells and eliminate fracking and workers?”
Western Wire was the first – but far from the only – news outlet to cover the alarming rhetoric. In an interview, O’Connor told Colorado Politics, “I wouldn’t have a problem with a sniper shooting one of the workers” at a well site. Denver TV news station 9News ran two segments on the letter.
Therefore, when Western Wire obtained a series of e-mails released via the Colorado Open Records Act revealing conversations between O’Connor and elected officials in Broomfield and Boulder, we felt compelled to report on these emails and make them available to the general public. The emails revealed O’Connor frequently emailing Democratic lawmakers, including State Rep. Mike Foote (D-Boulder County) and Broomfield City Council Member Kevin Kreeger.
For our reporting, we reached out to these officials and offered them an opportunity to respond and provide comment. Broomfield City Council Member Kreeger denied “working” with O’Connor and told Western Wire, “I do not know Andrew and have not met him.” State Rep. Mike Foote (D-Boulder County) did not respond at all. Following the article being discussed at a Broomfield City Council meeting on June 13, Kreeger attempted to minimize his communications with O’Connor, refused to apologize and blasted what he called “nasty, disgusting Washington, D.C.-level of personal attacks.”
Some in the media that followed up on our reporting actually seem sympathetic to Kreeger’s response. But we suspect these outlets may have been slow to read the emails themselves.
For example, in early March, before O’Connor’s controversial endorsement of violence against energy workers was published, the activist berated Broomfield Councilmember Elizabeth Law-Evans for not supporting a moratorium on oil and gas permitting. In an e-mail, O’Connor called Law-Evans an “idiot” and insulted the city of Broomfield itself as “an ultraconservative, mediocre town.”
Separately, O’Connor contacted Kreeger to ask him what he thought of the exchange with Law-Evans, because the activist viewed Kreeger as “the only reasonable person” on the city council. Kreeger not only took the compliment, he apologized for the city’s failure to impose the moratorium O’Connor wanted.
O’Connor responded by calling Law-Evans a “moron” and he even compared her to a dog. “We have a blue heeler in the backyard and I swear that Einstein is smarter than Liz,” O’Connor said. The e-mails show no effort on Kreeger’s part to defend Law-Evans, stick up for Broomfield, or cut off communications with O’Connor.
In fact, weeks later, after O’Connor’s infamous views on violence against oil and gas workers became public, Kreeger was ready to offer both advice and words of encouragement. Rather than condemn O’Connor’s views, Kreeger said “you walk a fine line” and warned him against “blatantly” calling for violence. “I applaud your energy and desire to fight for what’s right,” Kreeger said, further advising O’Connor to “tread lightly when it comes to certain statements” in the future.
Based on these e-mails, Kreeger is the last person in Broomfield who should be complaining about D.C.-level personal attacks. He offered advice and encouragement to an out-of-town activist who called one of his colleagues dumber than a dog and called Broomfield a mediocre city. He went out of his way not to criticize O’Connor or his personal attacks. And when confronted with these communications, Kreeger scrambled to distance himself from O’Connor, claiming to have never known or worked with him. Ask yourself: Does that sound more like the behavior of a Broomfield elected official or a politician in Washington, D.C.?
Residents of Broomfield took notice of these emails themselves. Camille Cave of Broomfield spoke at the City Council meeting and said she was “shocked to learn that a member of this city council would have dealings with someone like Andrew O’Connor,” who is a “fringe environmental activist who wants to completely eliminate oil and gas development, not just change the way it is regulated.”
We suspect that the Broomfield City Council meeting this evening will allow for additional comment on these troubling and disturbing emails. The residents of Broomfield deserve to have an open, honest dialogue about what these emails reveal. We appreciate some on the City Council will do their best to turn attention away from the emails and defect to attack the messenger. But doing so would be a disservice to the residents of Broomfield. It is our hope that elected officials and anyone else interested will actually take the time to read these emails and not just take someone else’s word on what they reveal. This is yet another case in which transparency wins the day.