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Ashland divided over ex- editor's charges

ASHLAND — Despite rocky relationships with Ashland Daily Tidings Editor Andrew Scot Bolsinger, community leaders appear divided over Bolsinger's status as editor of the town's newspaper in light of his criminal and civil legal troubles.

Bolsinger, editor of the Daily Tidings since 2003, turned himself over to the Marion County Sheriff's Department in Salem on Friday after learning that a warrant had been issued for his arrest on sex abuse charges. He was jailed through Tuesday until a court hearing and is now free on $250,000 bail. Bolsinger has been suspended from his duties at the newspaper pending a resolution of the case.

Bolsinger is accused of having a sexual relationship with an unidentified woman in 2000 when she was a 16-year-old student at a private school where he taught history and journalism for about four years. He faces five counts of second-degree sexual abuse, a felony in Oregon generally defined as sexual intercourse or sexual penetration without the victim's consent. It carries a penalty of five years in prison.

But recent revelations that Bolsinger also failed to pay food and beverage taxes collected by his Ashland Plaza restaurant, Pipon's Cantina, for a period in 2006 have at least one City Council member upset.

"His not paying is not fair to the other restaurants, and it's not fair to the public because the public paid that money," Councilwoman Alice Hardesty said.

Bolsinger also owned the now-closed Jefferson State Pub and The Main Source, a commercial printing company.

"The more businesses he bought up, the more obvious was the potential for conflict of interest," Hardesty said, adding that Bolsinger has contributed to the "polarization of the city" on such thorny issues as the Mount Ashland expansion.

"Under his editorship he really did politicize the newspaper," Hardesty said. "A new editor would help — somebody with a lot of integrity."

Councilman David Chapman said Bolsinger's mounting business troubles, which include several civil court actions to collect debts, are unrelated to his role as editor of the town's newspaper.

"He was always pro-business and he had some businesses, but I don't think that is a conflict," Chapman said.

Chapman said he knew that the city successfully sued Pipon's for not submitting the food and beverage tax it collected, but he didn't make the connection to Bolsinger.

Mayor John Morrison, noting he and Bolsinger have disagreed frequently on policy issues, said he'd "like to see the newspaper as a partner."

Morrison added that there is widespread criticism of Bolsinger and some of the newspaper's policies, mostly related to the newspaper's online reader comments, which are primarily anonymous and most often strident in their opinions of city management and other issues.

"I am aware of the criticisms of Bolsinger, but right now is not the time for me to say negative things — or positive things — about the newspaper," said Morrison, whose council biography mentions that he is a "former journalist (and) newspaper publisher."

Councilman Eric Navickas, who repeatedly butted heads with Bolsinger as an activist leader opposed to the Mount Ashland expansion, said now is "a good opportunity" for the newspaper to refocus and name a new editor.

"I cannot really imagine Bolsinger coming back as the editor," Navickas said.

Local political observer George Kramer said he was "sorry to hear" of Bolsinger's criminal charges and "further disappointed" to hear of his business problems.

"It will be difficult for him to come back to Ashland unless this story unfolds differently than it appears it might," Kramer said. "In small towns you have your reputation, and it's hard to both build one and recapture it."

Kramer said even if Bolsinger is exonerated of the sex abuse charges and is able to "clarify" his finances, it might be difficult for him to lead the Tidings.

"A lot of people just hear the charges and not the answer, and you don't have to look any further than the Pete Seda case to see that," Kramer said, referring to the Ashland activist who is fighting charges of funding fundamentalist Muslim terrorism through an Ashland chapter of an Islamic foundation.

Kramer added regarding Bolsinger: "I have no idea if he is getting his comeuppance or if he's being railroaded."

Ashland resident Jeff Golden said there is a presumption of innocence that everyone should consider before rushing to judgment.

"It strikes me that although we all know about the principle of 'innocent until proven guilty,' it's harder for us to hold onto when the charges are really upsetting — and it should really apply to whatever the charges are."

Chris Rizo is a freelance writer for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at csrizo@hotmail.com

Ashland divided over ex- editor's charges