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Truth Squad: Fact-checking candidates
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The Covington News takes its election coverage seriously. Not only did we spend 45 minutes interviewing each candidate, we also went back and checked their comments for accuracy, using the best local authorities we knew.

As part of our election coverage, we're introducing The Truth Squad, a special service of The Covington News. We'll be verifying statements made by officials on important issues, not just during the election, but anytime we feel it's warranted. The point is not to play a game of "gotcha," but to hold officials accountable and prevent inaccuracies from spreading.

Let us know when you hear something fishy (email and we'll do our best to find out the truth.

Statement #1 - Bobby Sigman - "We are able now to land a cargo plane (at the Covington airport) and if we can get a UPS or a FedEx for a distribution drop center here that would be a very, very (big) plus. They can land."

Verdict - True

We checked with Airport Engineer Vincent Passariello, who oversees the Covington Municipal Airport daily. Here's what he had to say:

"Now and before (the runway extension) cargo planes could have landed depending on the size and weight of the aircraft," he responded in an email. "I have seen Fed Ex operate at an airport smaller than Covington. I believe this will depend on the demand and the strategic plan of the cargo company."

That was good enough for us to mark this two-pronged statement true.

Statement #2 - Bobby Sigman - "Before we made the (runway) extension we could sill land a C-5A on the airport, because it's not the distance of the runway, it's the compact of the ground. We could handle it at that time."

Verdict - False

Had he stopped with the first statement, Sigman would have been OK, but his C-5A comment went too far. Here's Passariello's take:

"A C-5A is an extremely large airplane. They require at least 8,500 feet for take off. Normally C-5As operate from airports with a runway with of at least 10,000 feet," he said.

Covington's runway was extended to 5,500 feet in 2006; before that it was 4,200 feet. Clearly, based on Passariello's expertise, that's far too small to accommodate a C-5A. Even if one did land at Covington, what would be the point if it couldn't take off?

Statement #3 - Ronnie Johnston - Speaking about the process for searching for the next city manager - "It's my understanding that's already been predetermined. There is a process (that) will look within and outside the city; (we'll) go though a proper process to screen candidates. It will be the council's decision, the final decision. That's my understanding with the charter, how that process is determined."

Verdict - Half True

This didn't sound quite right given the fact the council and mayor were still actively having discussions about how to proceed. We thought the best person to ask would be the city manager himself, Steve Horton.

First off, he said there is a process for recruiting and hiring city employees, but in his opinion, it is not meant to be used to hire the city manager. Secondly, no vote has been taken to approve or define a process for how the next city manager will be selected. Elected officials have shared their opinions on next steps, but that's about it.

That doesn't sound like a predetermined process to us, but Johnston did nail the last part as laid out on the city's charter - the final decision will be made by the council.

Statement #4 - Ronnie Johnston - We asked both candidates if they had clean criminal records, and Johnston said he did.

Verdict - Mostly true

Because of state law, Johnston actually does have a misdemeanor for writing a bad check of $42.50 on May 18, 2010. We went to the source himself and found out that he had closed a bank account, but forgot to tell his wife who paid a dry cleaning bill with one of the old checks.

According to Covington police, a misdemeanor bad check (anything less than $500) rarely leads to an arrest, but usually results in a probate warrant being filed. Once the bad check writer receives notice - like Johnston did in October - he pays the check plus a fine.

It ranks pretty about low on the scale as they come, but technically it's a criminal offense.

Editor's note: We covered Bobby Sigman's background in a previous story. Sigman was convicted for a 1989 DUI and arrested for DUI in 1998. Technically, these are traffic offenses, not criminal offenses. They get wiped from a person's record after seven years, assuming no additional offenses.