Westside's Stories

Until the tiny Gazette gets its story straight, county honcho Bertha Henry should stop sending it checks

Now it's $600 billion? Damn, that's nearly equal to the Gross Domestic Product of India. Who knew Gazette readers were such a global economic force? Why, they could rebuild New Orleans andIraq and still have a couple of hundred billion left.

Why the county couldn't locate a copy of this loony media kit is a mystery. Broward Community College, which also advertised in the Gazette at the time, was furnished a copy by the newspaper, according to BCC Chairman Levi Williams. BCC also became aware of the five-page complaint and conducted a review of its own.

"[The Gazette] was using those circulation figures to get more money for ads than other newspapers, like the [black-owned] Broward Times and El Heraldo," Williams says.

Bobby Henry didn't respond to BCC's request for an explanation.

"And we dropped them, of course," Williams adds.

That would be what some might call a "responsible" way to do business with public money. Not Broward County, which didn't bother to question Bobby Henry or Bertha Henry and pays inflated ad rates to the Gazetteto this day. Just last week, the county ran a half-page ad in the newspaper, at a cost of about $2,000, urging citizens to recycle. Other governmental bodies placing ads during the past two weeks include Hollywood, Oakland Park, the State of Florida, the School Board, the Sheriff's Office, and the Broward County Housing Authority.

So what is the newspaper's actual circulation? Well, Bobby Henry recently issued a new media kit, which can be downloaded from the Gazette website. In it, he claims his paper has "grown to a weekly circulation of 30,000." Damn the luck -- another overnight 20,000 slide.

There is no claim in the new media kit that the new figure has been audited or certified. But the newspaper still asserts, hilariously, that it has 300,000 readers -- meaning each newspaper is read by an average of ten people -- who have a spending power of $60 billion and an economic base of $600 billion.

If you met Bertha Henry, you wouldn't expect such shenanigans to come from her household. She's a pleasant woman who exudes professionalism. But did she steer county money to her family's newspaper?

No evidence has come to light proving that she did, but the steep increase in county payments to the Gazette doesn't look good. In his investigative report, Paul defended the administrator by pointing out that there were other steep increases in dollars given to the Gazette in 1996 and 1998, before she was hired. Apparently Paul and his bosses had forgotten that Henry first worked for the county in 1996 before leaving in 1998 for a stint with the City of Miami.

Don't worry; the new county boss has a blanket defense. "I don't engage in discussion with any of the staff about where they advertise or don't advertise," she says. "I'm very conscious about how that conversation might be perceived."

When asked if she was going to investigate her, um, family, she said, "It would depend on the relationship the county has with the Westside Gazette. I'm not going to engage in speculation."

It's about time we got some refreshingly straight talk like that from a bureaucrat. Though she was listed as an officer with her husband in a Gazette-related printing company in the early 1980s, Henry says she has absolutely nothing to do with the newspaper today, other than reading spare copies in her house.

"I find that hard to believe," she said after I recounted the evidence that the newspaper had engaged in circulation fraud. "I don't even understand the issue of circulation with respect to how that's done. I'm not involved in the business. I can't tell you what their circulation numbers are or aren't."

That makes all of us.

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