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Mississippi paper lodges complaint Arizona wildfires force evacuations

by Compiled Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports | June 8, 2021 at 2:00 a.m.

Mississippi paper

lodges complaint

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Miss. -- A newspaper has filed a complaint with the Mississippi Ethics Commission after it said a city employee told one of its journalists not to take photographs of public records.

The Commercial Dispatch reported it mailed the complaint to the commission's Jackson office Thursday, the day after news editor Isabelle Altman went to the Columbus registrar's office to examine campaign finance reports for candidates in today's city election.

City Registrar Brenda Williams gave the reports to Altman but told her, unprompted, that she could not photograph them, the newspaper reported.

A Mississippi law dealing with campaign finance reports says municipal clerks "shall make all reports received under this subsection available for public inspection and copying."

In April 2019, the newspaper's managing editor, Zack Plair, interviewed the Trotter Convention Center director, and she said he could not photograph the center's booking receipts and rental contracts.

In neither case did the Dispatch reporters ask for additional public resources to be used, such as physical copies with city equipment or paper or the employees' time.

"While the most recent incident forms the crux of the complaint, it and the 2019 incident establish a pattern of city policy that effectively denies adequate access to public documents for no clear reason under the law," the newspaper's complaint to the Ethics Commission says.

"There's no question about the public's right to make a photocopy of a public document," Dispatch publisher Peter Imes said. "What's the difference between that and taking a photograph of the same document?"

City attorney Jeff Turnage declined to comment on city policy about photographing public documents.

"I will make the city's position about your complaint known when we file our response with the Ethics Commission," Turnage said Friday.

Arizona wildfires

force evacuations

The New York Times

Two wildfires in Arizona have burned tens of thousands of acres and forced hundreds of residents to evacuate, the latest in what experts fear will prove to be an unusually damaging and dangerous fire season.

The two fires, less than 50 miles away from each other, were little contained as of Monday. No deaths or injuries have been reported, and the causes are under investigation.

The Telegraph Fire, which was first reported Friday afternoon, had consumed more than 41,000 acres as of Monday morning and come within a mile of the town of Top-of-the-World, according to fire officials. It was located about 70 miles east of Phoenix.

Farther east, the Mescal Fire, which began June 1 about 12 miles southeast of the city of Globe, covered nearly 50,000 acres and was 8% contained, fire officials said.

The few hundred residents of Top-of-the-World and several other areas were ordered to evacuate, while those in Superior, a nearby town a few miles from the Telegraph Fire, were warned to be ready.

"If you choose to ignore this advisement, you must understand emergency services may not be able to assist you further," the Pinal County sheriff's office told residents Sunday.

For the Mescal Fire, evacuations were ordered for Coyote Flats, Soda Canyon and some residents in El Capitan, while several other areas were told to be prepared for evacuations.

Several roads in the area were closed, including U.S. 60.

A severe multiyear drought sparked wildfires months earlier than usual this spring, with soil moisture depleted and dried-out vegetation more prone to combustion. In April, a wildfire in the Hualapai Mountains in Arizona caused the evacuation of hundreds of homes.

With summer not yet begun and the drought predicted to worsen, experts expect this year's wildfires could top last year's total of 10.3 million acres burned in the United States.

Temperatures in Arizona have reached as high as 97 degrees in recent days with low humidity, conditions that are expected to continue in the coming days. High winds, combined with the hot and dry weather, "will persist and aid in fire spread in all directions," officials said.

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