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Commission defers taking sides in legals fuss

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By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

For the third time this year, Andy Andrews asked that his weekly publication be named the official newspaper of record for the county's legal advertising and publication of the delinquent tax rolls.

Once again the Levy County Commission took no action, instead deciding to hold a workshop at a future date on whether it needs to have a declared newspaper of record, how to define it and the process of awarding the designation. Commissioners pressured Commissioner Mike Joyner to withdraw his motion to simply pass a proclamation saying the Levy County Journal is the newspaper of record without defining what that means.

The Commission, which spent more than an hour hearing from Andrews and the Chiefland Citizen General Manager Tom Ten Broeck, did indicate it will stick with a deal it struck at Andrews' request four years ago to rotate the publication of the tax rolls between two Florida Newspapers LLC publications — the Chiefland Citizen and the Williston Pioneer Sun-News, and Andrews' paper, the Levy County Journal.

The 2013 tax rolls, which can mean $60,000 in income to the county's weeklies,   will be published by the Chiefland Citizen.

Andrews once again accused the Citizen of being a tool of a large media corporation and not in touch with the values and traditions of Levy County. He also accused the Citizen of attacking him personally.

In contrast, Ten Broeck presented the commission with a packet that showed the Journal's paid subscription circulation is only one-third of the Citizen's approximately 1,200 subscriptions. Ten Broeck also asked the commission why they would want to pay $7 an inch for legal advertising in the Journal when it costs only $4 in Florida Newspapers' three Levy County publications ? the Citizen, Pioneer and Cedar Key Beacon.

Andrews claimed the Journal, founded in 1928 is the county's longest continuously published paper, something Ten Broeck refuted by noting the Williston Pioneer Sun-News can trace its lineage to a paper started in 1879. The Citizen was founded in 1950.

While Andrews admitted he claims and the paper is “known by reputation” as the newspaper of record for Levy County, Ten Broeck called his hand saying Andrews has been unable to find any record of the paper being officially designated the county's newspaper of record.

Ten Broeck also said the only such designation was for a newspaper in Cedar Key that is no longer published and later, the forerunner of the Williston paper, the Sun-News.

Andrews also claimed the Citizen's parent company tried to buy his newspaper. “We're the only one that refused to sell,” Andrews said.

Andrews' statement was repudiated during an October 2010 jury trial that he lost to the Citizen, Florida Newspapers and Landmark Media Enterprises. In a deposition introduced at the defamation trial without objection, Max Heath of Landmark Media Enterprises, parent company for Florida Newspapers LLC, said he told Andrews if he was ever interested in selling his paper Landmark would like the opportunity to bid for it.

Ten Broeck reminded the commissioners that it was in that trial that Andrews testified, “You can print the truth over and over; the truth becomes offensive.”

Andrews mentioned that a recent article in the Citizen said he did not have a home in Levy County, instead owning a home he shared with his late wife and two daughters in Gainesville where he also sent his children to school. Andrews does own property in Levy County that have houses on them, but he claims a business office as his residence. 

He testified in a 2009 suite he filed to be declared a leval City of Chiefland resident and registered voter that he showered, prepared meals and even occasionally slept in a recliner in his office on 1st Street in Chiefland. In that suit Andrews was suing to be declared a legally registered voter in Chiefland after being investigated for voting irregularities in a 2007 city election. He won the suit and was never prosecuted in the voting case.

He claimed the Journal is the only countywide publication, but in a packet presented to the commissioners Ten Broeck showed the Citizen is sold throughout the county.