EX-MAYOR WINS MEDIA DISPUTE - JOURNALISM GROUP FINDS MAGAZINE ARTICLE WAS UNFAIR
LENORA CHU, Pioneer Press
Date: June 19, 2004

The man who single-handedly turned Roseville City Council meetings into must-see cable TV is back in the news again, this time in connection with a story about "juicy political scandals" in the "not-so-sleepy suburbs."

Two complaints filed by former Roseville Mayor John Kysylyczyn against Minnesota Law and Politics magazine were upheld this week by the Minnesota News Council, which works to resolve complaints from the public about media coverage and policies.

The council ruled that a June 2003 article by the magazine was unfair because it reported ethics charges against Kysylyczyn without allowing him or his attorneys to respond.

"That means a lot to me, that professionals in the journalism field agreed with me," Kysylyczyn said of the 7-3 vote by the council, which is made up of media professionals and representatives of the public.

The article, titled "The Day the Strippers Tried to Take Over City Hall," detailed city government controversies in smaller Minnesota cities, including the case of a Coates strip-club owner's alleged attempt to elect City Council members friendly to adult entertainment.

A section titled "Roseville's Thorn" detailed ethics charges against Kysylyczyn -- which were later dropped -- and other issues regarding reimbursement of his attorney's fees and the dissolution of the city's Ethics Commission.

"(The magazine) never gave Kysylyczyn a chance to address the story," said Reed Anfinson, a News Council member who voted in favor of the former mayor.

"Here you've got a young man with a political career, and you make him look like an idiot -- you've basically done a character assassination of him."

The council also voted in favor of Kysylyczyn on his second complaint -- that the article stated fact without documentation or attribution -- but by a narrower margin of 6-4.

But Willie Johnson, who voted in favor of Law and Politics, said the article was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. "I didn't think there was a gross neglect since it was kind of like a feature story," said Johnson, who added that journalistic standards "do apply but not as severely."

Law and Politics Editor Steve Kaplan said he has no problem with the News Council's ruling, but remarked that a number of other grievances Kysylyczyn presented before the council were inaccurate.

"He thinks that it's the press' responsibility not only to tell stories, but to tell them such that they're favorable to him," Kaplan said.

This isn't the first time Kysylyczyn has appeared before the News Council. Two complaints brought by the city of Roseville against the Pioneer Press last August resulted in a mediation session in which the newspaper agreed to consider publishing a guest column by Kysylyczyn and also cover news about Ramsey County's search for a new suburban court space.

Kysylyczyn, 32, failed in his bid for a seat on the Roseville City Council last year and has kept busy as a full-time dad to his 15-month-old daughter, Sarah. His wife, Teri, works as an accountant.

But the former state Senate media technician said he hasn't ruled out running for office again. "I've probably got another 30 good years left in me, so that's a good possibility," Kysylyczyn said.

Meanwhile, he keeps active in the political arena by volunteering for two political campaigns he declined to name and by serving as a self-appointed Roseville city government watchdog.

He's attended nearly every City Council meeting since he finished his four-year term as mayor in January, missing only two sessions while he was out of town. Kysylyczyn said he's spoken as a citizen at every meeting he's attended.

"Many times these people don't know the history of what the issue is," Kysylyczyn said of the current council members. "A lot of times I have to go up there and remind them."

Lenora Chu can be reached at lchu@pioneerpress.com or 651-228-2109.

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