Waterfield criticized for stopping taping of candidates forum
May 30, 2010
An Oceano woman has posted a Youtube video, criticizing state Assembly candidate Etta Waterfield after a campaign staff member objected to the taping of a candidates’ forum Friday night in San Luis Obispo.
Nina Grabiel claims that Joanie Brown, host of the event, requested that Grabiel stop taping the forum after a little more than one minute in response to a request from the Etta Waterfield campaign.
The forum, held at the San Luis Obispo Country Club, featured candidates for the Republican state Assembly race. The winner of the June 8 primary will advance into the November election race against Democrat Hilda Zacarias to determine who replaces incumbent Sam Blakeslee in Sacramento.
Grabiel, who insists she is not working for any of the candidates, has been recording debates and one-on-one interviews with candidates for posting on YouTube. Her goal, she says, is merely to educate the voters.
“I’m doing this so that people who could not attend could see it so they could make an informed decision,” Grabiel wrote in an email. “I have recorded other races and posted them on YouTube. They are being shown on SLO Public Access TV Mondays at 9:30 p.m. and the Republican Party of San Luis Obispo has links for the videos posted on their web site.”
Grabiel said she had contacted the organizers of the event two weeks prior, indicating her desire to attend and to record the event. The response from the organizers, Grabiel claims, was “happy at the prospect of having the Assembly forum recorded and posted for the public.”
On Friday night, she showed up at the Country Club forum about thirty minutes early and set up her camcorder in the back on the room, well in view of the candidates already assembled.
The brief excerpt posted on YouTube shows the opening welcome by Brown as candidates Fred Strong, Matt Kokkonen, Katcho Achadjian, and Etta Waterfield take their places on stage.
At the 1:00 mark, Brown announces, “I’m afraid I have to ask the videographer–we have a candidate who said, ‘Please do not tape us,’–so will you turn it off, please? Thank you.”
Grabiel complied immediately, packed up her gear, and slipped out quietly. She later asked which candidate had made the request and was told it was Waterfield.
The one-minute excerpt is now on YouTube along with a blistering indictment of the Waterfield campaign by Grabiel. “I consider the way I was told to be nothing short of cowardly. I was there thirty minutes early. Ms. Waterfield or any of her attending staff could have easily approached me and queried me as to what I was doing and what my intentions were, and I would have gladly told them. None of that respect or opportunity was given to me. Instead, they cowardly went behind the scenes and approached someone else to tell me to turn off the camera in front of the whole audience, slipped in between gracious acknowledgments, which made it even more unexpected and startling.”
Heather Moreno of the Waterfield for Assembly campaign, the staff member responsible for requesting a halt to the taping, issued the following statement in response to Grabiel’s accusations.
“I noticed the camera right before the event began and I asked Joanie Brown if they were the ones taping. She said they were not and she wasn’t aware that it was being taped. I pointed it out to her and she seemed surprised.
“She asked if I’d like to have it removed and I made a quick call to do so. We have a particular candidate using underhanded techniques…that without more information, I didn’t trust it wasn’t his campaign taping with the intent to cut and paste for further attacks.
“In hindsight, I wish the organizers and candidates had been told beforehand of the intent to tape and make it available to the public. Having it up on YouTube would be a great resource to the voters. Without that knowledge, I made a split second instinctual decision.”
Grabiel wants people to watch her short video and decide for themselves. For her, the issue remains one of transparency.
“We have a candidate running for public office who already wants to privatize things. The last thing we need is another person in any public office who wants to do things behind closed doors.”