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Editorial: Decaturish rushed a story about Scottish Rite and missed an opportunity to inform readers

Business D'ish Decatur Editor's Pick

Editorial: Decaturish rushed a story about Scottish Rite and missed an opportunity to inform readers

The old Scottish Rite Hospital property. Photo by: Dan Whisenhunt

Mistakes are never fun to own up to, but I admit to making one this past Saturday when I wrote about the sale of the Scottish Rite property in Oakhurst.

While the story itself was not wrong, it lacked context and information that would’ve helped readers better understand the situation. That was not a fault of our city officials but a fault of my own reporting.

I apologize to our city officials, Assistant City Manager Lyn Menne, members of the Decatur Development Authority, the purchasers of the property and our readers for not waiting for more comments before I published my story. My first instinct was to get what I considered to be an important piece of news out to the public. The Scottish Rite property is a valuable asset to the community. But I now realize that in following my instinct, I presented a story that was unfair to the people involved. It resulted in needless speculation that could’ve been put to rest with more information.

The rush to report the story was a mistake and I sincerely regret it. I note that this apology does not come at the behest of city officials dissatisfied with my story. This apology is prompted by my own self-reflection after gathering more information. This is entirely on me.

I have made a substantive update to the story that provides more insight into the situation. You can read it by clicking here.

The short version of the updated story is this: the DDA wound up in a shotgun marriage when it bought the Scottish Rite property. The intent was to prevent the property from being foreclosed on, find a buyer and sell it to pay off the money borrowed to purchase it. Based on my follow up reporting, that’s what the DDA did.

My subsequent research shows the property sale was discussed at length in Decatur Development Authority meetings, even though I was not personally aware of it. I do not attend DDA meetings, partially because the big news that comes out of them always trickles up to the City Commission level which is something that’s always on my radar. I try to be mindful of the time I spend in meetings and balance that against my other responsibilities. But I will be making a point to be present at these meetings in the future, so I do not miss out on important information about our community.

Whenever a piece of public property gets sold outside of a bid process — something the DDA is legally allowed to do — it always concerns me. It makes me wonder who might have been left out of the process and if there were any better ideas left on the table. That aspect of this transaction is something I will continue to learn more about and if anything of note arises out of that process, I will make a point to inform you.

But, that aside, I acknowledge that I made a misstep in my reporting process here. I should have waited, and I didn’t. It isn’t the first time I have erred and, unfortunately, probably won’t be my last screw up. My goal is to never make the same mistake twice and to learn, and that’s what I intend to do.