Delivery delay from new law

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In the big picture of things, delivery of the Marshall County Tribune on Saturday last weekend instead of Friday, might be blamed on an act of Congress, Enron CEO Kenneth Lay, or both.

"It was, basically, a wrinkle in the system," Postal Service spokeswoman Beth Barnett said Friday when the newspaper office received hundreds of calls from subscribers asking for their paper.

That surprised Tribune staffers since they weren't told of the change.

"It's a rude way to be told of a change by not sending out the product," Tribune publisher Hugh Jones said.

In 2002, Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act because of large corporate financial scandals at Enron, WorldCom and others. The law was to fix public trust in corporate accountability. Criminal and civil penalties are possible, and the Postal Act of 2006 says the Postal Service is to comply with the 2002 law.

But compliance wasn't to start until Oct. 1 this year, Barnett said.

Bundles of the Marshall County Tribune to be mailed to subscribers' homes and offices are left on the postal service dock at the building on East Commerce Street in the early morning hours every Wednesday and Friday.

Documents about the newspapers to be delivered have been routinely provided to postal employees after they get to work on delivery days.

Seven weeks after the 2006 law was to be enforced, the Nov. 20 edition of the Tribune couldn't be delivered until the appropriate documents were at the Post Office, according to Barnett.

"It's a real hot issue for a lot of folks including the Postal Service," she said. "It's a rule we have to comply with to be the upstanding organization we are."

Funds are available from an account accessed electronically by the Postal Service after it receives documents from the Tribune.

"We're working with the folks at the Tribune to make sure it won't happen again," Barnett said.

Noting there was no warning that enforcement of a law enacted three years ago was to start, and that the Nov. 18 edition was mailed without a problem, Tribune General Manager Jim Ward issued the following statement.

"I was disappointed in the post office employee that took it on himself to hold the Tribune without notifying us in advance," Ward said.

"We didn't know until after receiving several hundred calls as well as the post office getting calls," the newspaper manager said.

"I was also disturbed on how the post office employees handled the calls and the comments they made," he said.

"Thankfully, postal employees acknowledge the importance of getting periodicals delivered on the day expected and that all documents will arrive in a timely manner," Ward said.

Meanwhile, there's a new officer in charge at the Lewisburg Post Office.

Fran Zeller, an acting postmaster here before, is back on East Commerce Street. She succeeds Michael Vaccarella and, before him, Robert Wakefield, a long-time postal employee who's been an acting postmaster here.

There is no cause and effect relationship between the personnel change and the newspaper delivery issue, Barnett said.