At the very least, the Mitchells owe us some answers

Your Publisher's mugshot.

Your Publisher’s mugshot.

Hey, remember when Catherine Nelson was arrested for re-enacting that A-ha video with her car and various downtown Rutland fixtures? Two days before her promotion to Publisher of the Rutland Herald and Times Argus?

And remember outgoing publisher John Mitchell’s inadequate explanation of the whole thing?

Well, this week it got worse. She pleaded “no contest” to charges stemming from that incident. And in the process, we learned something strange and troubling about her taste in drinking buddies. Paul Heintz:

Nelson finally admitted that she had been drinking with a man named Henry Hance, a habitual offender who, according to the Herald, has been convicted of more than a dozen DUI and drug charges, along with assault, arson and grand larceny. An hour and a half after her own DUI, Nelson blew twice the legal limit.

I’m sure those who follow the news in Rutland are painfully aware of Mr. Hance. RutVegas is full of, shall we say, colorful types; but Hance has got to be in the Top Ten. His record of violent, criminal, drug-dealing behavior covers his entire adult life.

So why the freakin’ hell is the new Publisher of the Rutland newspaper — one of the city’s most prominent citizens — hanging around with one of the city’s worst citizens?

After the court proceeding, Mitchell offered a spoonful of pablum:

“Catherine has a long track record of service and leadership to the Rutland and Barre-Montpelier communities, and feels badly about this,” he tells Seven Days. “She is showing us all the kind of person she is by taking responsibility for her actions.”

Is she? Is she really?

Might I humbly suggest a further demonstration is in order? A formal, public apology on the largest possible stage? Full and frank responses to any and all questions from the media and the public? That, in my mind, would qualify as “taking responsibility.” This does not.

Even in this age of diminished newspapers, your local daily occupies a unique position. It is very much the face of a community. It sets the news agenda. It sucks up a lot of advertising revenue. It is one of the leading institutions in town. The Publisher is, simply by default, a prominent citizen.

In the words of Uncle Ned, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Newspapers are happy to accept this deal in good times; but although they expect transparency and accountability from everybody else, they duck and cover when bad news hits their own doorsteps.

Rutland and Barre are two of Vermont’s hotbeds of drug dealing and abuse. They suffer heavily from the criminal, social, and economic impact of rampant drug use. And here is their newspaper’s Publisher, getting drunk with a known drug dealer and chronic violent offender.

Their communities deserve a great deal more from Ms. Nelson and Mr. Mitchell.

Was this the first and only time Ms. Nelson went out on the town with Mr. Hance? Who else is in her little black book, pray tell? Is she really and truly fit to hold the position entrusted to her by the Mitchell family?

Her readers and her communities need to know.


9 thoughts on “At the very least, the Mitchells owe us some answers

  1. chuck gregory

    Hey, look on the bright side. Maybe she’s in the tradition of Damon Runyon and Jimmy Breslin… My hopes are up.

  2. Brooke Paige

    Maybe we should beg John Mitchell to retake the helm, at least until Ms. Nelson demonstrates her ability to make it through the 12 step program. Ms. Nelson repeat with me Step One. “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol— that our lives had become unmanageable.”

  3. Pat Martin

    She certainly has not made a great first impression in this community and many will always look askance at her. Not just because of the DUI but more so the type of company she keeps. An educated, ethical, and moral person of character does not demean themselves by fraternizing with criminals and low-lifes. Yes, as a public figure you should treat everyone you meet with respect but making someone’s acquaintance and hanging out with them socially are two entirely different scenarios. What does anyone really know about this woman?? Given her behavior and close associates I find it impossible to view her as anything more than a drunk and a low-life who somehow slipped under the radar and now holds a position which not only degrades the image of the Rutland Herald but the publishing community as a whole. I know I certainly have no interest and take absolutely no stock in what this woman has to say in an Editorial.

    1. Patrick Michael Martin

      Just to be clear here, I did not post the comment signed by a person with a similar name. None of us knows the full story and the lack of information breeds speculation by some. I believe in hearing all the facts before forming an opinion and certainly before posting on public forums. Then anyone who has never done any of the things alleged to have taken place may post their opinion. Most people, including myself, would be disqualified from posting.

    2. Con Affetto

      Catherine is not new to the Herald or Times Argus, nor their communities. She’s been wreaking havoc for many, many years. As the top executive, she’s been the right hand woman for Mitchell and is behind the decline of both papers thanks to her “leadership.” Her legacy is only further cemented with this arrest.

  4. chuck gregory

    Being a hopelessly flaming liberal, I give her the benefit of the doubt. 85% of alcoholics function well despite their addiction. Bill Clinton never let his testosterone give Monica Lewinsky a high-paying sinecure. J. Edgar Hoover ensured that Clyde Tolson was fit to do the work he was paid for. Just so, Ms. Nelson is probably going to serve as a very effective publisher. We have forgiven Wall Street for its criminality and greedy excesses, Mother Teresa for her implacable baptism of the terminally ill and W for his eight years as President; we should cut Ms. Nelson at least as much slack.

      1. chuck gregory

        Oops, I should have posted that as a reply to the alleged patrick michael martin. Sorry. on a totally unrelated and matter, could you contact me at rrtlatsoverdotnet? thanks.

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