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Let’s make one thing clear at the outset: The notion of government – federal, state or local – running a park system is ridiculous. It’s another excuse for unnecessary bureaucracy, people … even if it does make for endearing situation comedy.

Anyway, the City of Columbia, S.C. recently hired an individual by the name of Jeff Caton to manage its 200-person parks department (you read that right – Columbia’s parks department employs 200 friggin’ people).

According to a prominently-placed excerpt in The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper on Friday, Caton “has more than 25 years of military and public parks supervisory experience and is certified in the parks and recreation field.”

The State‘s “story” also quotes Caton as saying that he plans to create “a professional, dynamic and responsive parks and recreation system that is widely respected as the leading parks agency in the state.”

Typically mainstream bureaucratic fluff piece, right?

Well … half-right.

The State‘s article conveniently neglects to mention one glaring fact – that Caton was fired last year by Spartanburg County after an amusement park train derailment at a local park killed a 6-year-old boy from Gaffney, S.C.

Caton also later leveled all sorts of unproven allegations at his former colleagues and superiors as part of an unsuccessful effort to get his old job back.

“Jeff Caton’s malicious allegations are simply an attempt to shift the focus from his own lack of leadership and the negative working environment that he created while directing the Parks and Rec Department,” one local official told The Spartanburg Herald-Journal in response to Caton’s charges.

None of these details made it into The State‘s report, which basically copied and pasted information from the City of Columbia’s press release (which also failed to mention any of those salient points).

“Why (did) Columbia chose to hire a guy who got fired from his last job for cause?” one city political observer asked us.

This source also bashed The State for “printing press releases and calling it journalism.”

We’re not sure what the truth is regarding Caton’s tenure in Spartanburg, S.C. – and we honestly don’t care. City politics has never interested us that much … although for the paper of record in a city as big as Columbia to completely ignore this guy’s past strikes us as curious.

It’s been a rough stretch for the mainstream media in South Carolina recently … although we did credit The State earlier this week for (finally) reporting on the true size of South Carolina’s state budget.

Sadly, it looks as though the paper is back to its old ways again already …