Our "Top Ten Stories of 2007" issue (Dec. 20) wasn't on the streets for long before we got a call from Eureka City Councilmember Larry Glass. Glass had appeared on our list — No. 8 — by virtue of the brouhaha that erupted when Eureka kazillionaire Rob Arkley exploded in anger at him at a public event back in September, allegedly threatening and shoving the councilmember.
We didn't imagine that the little look back at the affair we offered that week would be objectionable in any way. There was only enough room to offer the most perfunctory summary of that September evening, and of the hubbub and the police investigation that followed. However, Glass took great issue with one sentence of our write-up, and he wished to register his displeasure and correct the record as he saw it. The sentence was this: "After considering the matter over the weekend, Glass, who initially said that he would not press the matter, changed his mind and filed charges with the Eureka Police Department."
In his phone call to us, Glass said that he had never "changed his mind." Yes, he had made up his mind, especially after consulting with city officials from across the state at a convention in Sacramento he happened to be attending. But he never changed his mind, he said. He had at no point ruled out pressing charges against Arkley for the (alleged) threats or the (alleged) shove. In other words, to use a stupid but unkillable phrase, Glass denied "flip-flopping" on the issue.
This was a bit confusing, because I half-recalled press coverage in the immediate aftermath of the incident suggesting that Glass was inclined to let the matter lie. Glass remembered such coverage, too, but he said that it was in error.
"I do recall that," he said. "I remember reading that. You read them after they come out, you can't unprint them."
It seemed to me that Glass' objection called for a bit of research. I'm certain that I'm not the only one who remembered that Glass seemed to originally signal that he was inclined to let the whole Arkley matter fade from memory as quickly as possible, and that he then seemed to have changed his mind. Was that understanding in error? Does it matter? I'm rather inclined to think it doesn't matter: People should be allowed to change their minds without penalty. But it mattered to Glass, and I stood accused of perpetuating a myth. So I figured I owed it to everyone to figure out the truth of the matter.
I was unsuccessful. But here's what I found.
The story in question was from the Times-Standard's Sept. 7 edition — the first coverage of the incident in the paper, on the Friday following the Wednesday evening incident. It was headlined: "Councilman: I was shoved by Rob Arkley," and it was written by T-S staffers Thadeus Greenson and Chris Durant. It laid out Glass' version of events — the shoving, the threats — and it got an early peek at Arkley's side of the story. Brian Morrissey, vice-president of Security National, Arkley's company, told the T-S that Arkley was ticked off that Glass had given away "No Arkleyville" stickers in his record store prior to being elected to the City Council, which Morrissey said had "caused [Arkley's] daughters a hardship."
It also contained the section that I had half-remembered:
Eureka Police Chief Garr Nielsen confirmed that Glass made a report.
"It was documented as an incident," Nielsen said. "This is what we would do in any case."
Charges could stem from the report, but that would be Glass' decision to start the process, Nielsen said. Glass said he wasn't interested in escalating the matter, but made a report so it would be on record.
It's the last sentence that had stuck in my head. If Glass "wasn't interested in escalating the matter," but later decided to press charges in the case, doesn't that qualify as a "change of mind"? (The charges and the subsequent EPD investigation are now sitting on the desk of the California Attorney General's office, where they await a prosecutorial decision.)
I called Glass back, and, in short, he denied ever saying such a thing to the T-S.Glass added that he had said something along these lines to Nielsen when he filed his original report, but in a completely different context. He said that he told Nielsen that he just wanted to keep the matter between himself and the police, if possible — that he wanted to avoid making a circus out of the thing.
So there seemed to me to be three options. One: Perhaps Glass was flat-out lying to me. Two: Perhaps the Times-Standard got something very badly wrong, and hadn't corrected it. Neither of those options seemed very likely. Three, the likeliest: Perhaps something got garbled in transmission — perhaps Nielsen had conveyed Glass' sentiments about "escalating the matter" to the T-S, and the quote was improperly attributed and perhaps taken out of context.
I put these matters to the Times-Standard reporters involved and to T-SEditor Rich Somerville. Somerville said that he couldn't speak to the sources used in the story, particularly since one of the reporters was on vacation. He did note, though, that Glass had called him about a follow-up editorial in the paper. The editorial said that "the councilman seems inclined to let the fuss die down." But, Somerville said, Glass didn't complain about that sentence — he complained about being called an "anti-Arkley gadfly" elsewhere in the same editorial. Glass was paying attention, Somerville concluded, and if he had objected to the "let the fuss die down" language in the editorial he hadn't brought it up in their conversation.
That's that. The only other person left to contact would be Chief Nielsen, and I couldn't get hold of him as this paper went to bed on New Year's Eve. In any case, he'd have to be superhuman to remember a quick conversation with a reporter that took place four months ago. So if I had to guess, I'd guess that this small little bit of uncertainty will join all the other, larger, stranger bits of uncertainty attached to that night that Rob Arkley got aggro on Larry Glass, shoving him or not shoving him, threatening to destroy him (or not), all in front of a roomful of society people who carefully and fastidiously failed to witness any of it.