How Kansas City exposed a journalism crisis in Jersey City

A lawsuit accusing Brian Platt of encouraging his staff to lie to the media in Kansas City, Missouri, exposes the ongoing journalism crisis in Jersey City.

Steven Fulop - Sabrina Harrold - Christopher Hernandez - Brian Platt

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, Sabrina Harrold, Christopher Hernandez, and KCMO City Manager Brian Platt. (PHOTOS: Twitter, Facebook)

“Why can’t we just lie to the media?”

Brian Platt, the city manager of Kansas City, Missouri, allegedly made that suggestion when discussing media strategy for a street resurfacing plan, according to a whistleblower lawsuit filed by Christopher Hernandez.

“That’s not a good idea. We shouldn’t do that,” Hernandez, Kansas City’s former communications director, claims to have said in response to Platt’s suggestion, per KSHB-TV. Platt then allegedly replied, “Why not? In Jersey, we had a mayor who would just make up numbers on the fly from the podium, and no reporters ever called him on it.”

In New Jersey, Platt was a trusted confidant of Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop. He started as the city’s Chief Innovation Officer after the mayor was inaugurated in 2013 and eventually took over as business administrator from 2018 to 2020 (prior to leaving for KCMO).

If the quotes from Hernandez’s lawsuit are accurate, Platt did a great job articulating the journalism crisis in Jersey City. I can’t speak about the media landscape in KC, but I do know stenography masquerading as journalism is a real problem in JC.

Fulop acknowledged that issue when he liked a tweet of mine using that exact terminology to criticize a Jersey City Board of Education (JCBOE) member, local reporter, and JC Twitter activist for spreading misinformation about city officials (the City of Jersey City and JCBOE are separate entities, something Fulop once tried changing).

According to the Kansas City Star’s reporting of Hernandez’s lawsuit, the former communications director claims he was “not willing to put his credibility on the line” for Platt. Ultimately, Hernandez says he lost his job in retaliation for telling Platt that he “should not be dishonest to the news media and the public.”

Notably, Hernandez’s lawsuit isn’t the only whistleblower lawsuit Platt is involved with in which public employees have faced retaliation for opposing misconduct. On August 26, 2022, a Hudson County judge ordered Platt be deposed for a whistleblower case stemming from payroll fraud in the Jersey City Recreation Department (which resulted in a criminal conviction).

In fact, there’s so many complaints alleging “illegal transfers, title changes and/or demotions” stemming from the JC Rec Dept. while Platt was business administrator it’s hard to keep track. Even worse, while campaigning for reelection last year, Fulop misinformed the public about the status of those lawsuits when he stated  “it was ridiculous accusation, the courts threw it right out.”

The mayor’s statement was not only inaccurate at the time, but since then there’s been settlements related to those lawsuits and civil trials are pending (which Platt may have to testify in). Notably, one of the plaintiffs was elected to the Jersey City Council (Frank Gilmore).

In conclusion, Hernandez’s lawsuit should be a wake-up call for concerned citizens of Jersey City. The proof is in the pudding, as only the JC Times – which has been calling out the Fulop administration over crime stats – reported Platt’s alleged comments about local reporters.

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