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Former Publisher in Election Flap

May 7, 2001

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PETOSKEY, Mich. (AP) _ The former publisher of the Cheboygan Daily Tribune was ordered Monday to perform 80 hours of community service for violating state campaign finance law.

Roy S. Trahan II pleaded guilty April 10 to violating the Michigan Campaign Finance Act by giving one mayoral candidate special rates on advertisements. In exchange for his plea, the state dismissed three additional counts of the same charge.

The maximum penalty is three years in prison.

In ordering community service, Circuit Court Judge Charles Johnson delayed formal sentencing for one year.

``If he’s stayed out of trouble and abided by the court orders, the prosecution will typically file a motion to dismiss the charge,″ Johnson said.

Trahan resigned as publisher of the newspaper in northern Lower Michigan on last May, after being placed on leave by Liberty Group Publishing, owner of the Tribune. He now is publisher at The News-Gazette in Winchester, Ind., and the News-Times of Hartford City, Ind., both owned by Community Media Group of West Frankfort, Ill.

Trahan charged mayoral candidate Thomas J. VerWys $1 each for four campaign ads that ran in the Tribune in March 2000, without granting similar discounts to VerWys’ opponent, Mayor Bill Chlopan. Chlopan, who won the election, was charged the standard rate of $5.20 per column inch for advertising.

Michigan law requires that any bargain rates be offered to all candidates.

``I did not know I was breaking the law,″ Trahan told the judge Monday.

Trahan said he was trying to help VerWys get elected and that VerWys had no knowledge of the scheme.

``My actions give me tremendous embarrassment and this will push me, no, drive me, to never make this mistake again,″ Trahan said. ``I allowed myself to become embroiled in the local political scene.″

A spokesman for the attorney general’s office, Chris De Witt, has said he knew of no previous cases of newspaper officials being charged with similar violations.

The Tribune’s former editor, Adrienne Janney, said she tipped police about the cut-rate ads. She was fired after the election and later filed suit, claiming her dismissal violated the state whistleblower law, which prohibits employers from firing workers who report suspected workplace violations. Her lawsuit was settled out of court for undisclosed terms.

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