OUR VIEW: McInnis, it's time to come clean (vote in poll)

July 13, 2010
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Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis had better start talking and soon. He owes Coloradans a full explanation, in his own words and from his own mouth, regarding serious charges of plagiarism. The explanation had better be good and it should improve on the original, which involved using a spokesman to pass the blame to a researcher.

The Denver Post on Monday reported on a series of articles McInnis claimed he wrote as a major requirement for fulfilling a fellowship for the Hasan Family Foundation in 2005 and 2006. The foundation paid him $300,000 for his work. One member of the organization’s board, Malik Hasan, wants the money back. Board Chair Seeme Hasan, in a statement released Monday night, said the board will demand a full refund if an internal investigation proves the work McInnis submitted wasn’t his.

By all appearances, entire sentences, paragraphs and pages were lifted nearly verbatim from an essay written about water in 1984 by now-Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory J. Hobbs.

McInnis spokesman Sean Duffy told the Post that McInnis acknowledged the similarities between his articles and the Hobbs essay, but said the candidate blamed a researcher. Duffy said Rolly Fischer, a veteran Glenwood Springs engineer who worked at the Colorado River Water Conservation District, handled parts of the McInnis articles that contained full passages from the Hobbs essay.

The Post story, by Karen E. Crummy, cites a letter written to Seeme Hasan in 2005 that says “all articles are original and not reprinted from any other source.” If the letter is genuine, it means McInnis was saying the written material originated with him — not with Hobbs and not with a researcher.

As a seasoned lawyer, a former cop and a former member of Congress, it’s hard to understand why McInnis would submit written assurance that material was original unless he knew it was true.

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In her release Monday night, Seeme Hasan wrote: “At no time was it brought to our attention that Mr. McInnis used information not cited or unethically used work that was not his own. All work was represented to be original and final.”

In other words, Hasan’s board had no intention of paying $300,000 to a former Congressman so that he could re-publish writings handed over by a researcher — even if the researcher had indeed written them.

The Post quoted Teresa Fishman, director of the Center for Academic Integrity at Clemson University, identifying the McInnis writings as a clear case of plagiarism of ideas and words.

If all of this is true, and McInnis cannot prove otherwise or somehow justify his actions, he has a serious problem involving Supreme Court Justice Hobbs, the Hasan Foundation, the Republican Party and the people of Colorado. The moment one puts his or her name on written material and presents it for publication, that person becomes responsible for the content. The moment a person submits a promise that says “all the articles are original and not reprinted from any other source,” the person takes an extraordinary step to present the content as original. The moment one accepts $300,000, in large part for articles, the ramifications of ownership and originality become even greater.

Mr. McInnis, it is time to start talking and answering questions from the press and the public. Only you, in your own words from your own mouth as a sworn officer of the court, have any chance to make this go away.

Wayne Laugesen , editorial page editor, for the editorial board. Friend him on Facebook

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