A series of misleading reports in several news outlets boil down to one big correction: Mountain View has never received, requested or required $250,000 from Home Depot to help pay for the city's Day Worker Center.
The "bizarrely inaccurate" stories, as city manager Kevin Duggan described them, portrayed Mountain View as having "forced" Home Depot to pay money towards accommodations for day workers. The false stories gained traction nationally, helping to stir up the already contentious immigration debate.
The confusion seems to have begun with a late-June story by Associated Press that ran in dozens of newspapers. The article, which concerned the immigration bill that recently failed in the U.S. Senate, stated in its third paragraph that Mountain View was one of several American cities that have "forced Home Depot to build facilities for day laborers on-site or elsewhere, hire security staff and offer bathrooms in order to get the permits necessary for its operations."
Duggan said he was befuddled by the story, because the city has yet to make any decision on Home Depot's application for the Sears site at San Antonio Center. When the issue was last discussed at a study session in March, the council didn't take a position on how it should mitigate the presence of day workers outside.
"How much confusion could be generated about a thoroughly simple topic?" Duggan asked. "We had radio stations calling, TV stations calling. We have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to clarify misinformation about this topic."
As late as Thursday the "non-story," as city officials put it, continued to be reported by media outlets such as KCBS, which posted a story on its Web site that read, "The unofficial report is that Home Depot would give $250,000 to the city of Mountain View to help with labor issues."
The false story was given a boost by the
That story was also based on false information, but this time Home Depot itself was guilty. With little explanation, the paper quoted an e-mail from Home Depot spokesperson Kathryn Gallagher that read, "We have contributed the $250,000 to the city to work toward a solution in regards to day labor issues."
Gallagher told the
"I had actually said we had given the money and we hadn't," she said. "It was one of the many solutions discussed."
Last March, six options for dealing with day workers at the site were discussed in a council study session. One of them would have required Home Depot to pay $250,000 towards the Day Worker Center, but the council has yet to take a position on the subject.
At the time, Home Depot's Greg George told the council that $250,000 would be an unprecedented requirement.
"In our opinion, that's extremely aggressive," he said.
Gallagher said it was "safe to say" that that was still the opinion of Home Depot.