Government leaders must be held accountable. That’s supposed to be the job of the mainstream media. But somewhere along the line, this changed. Many journalists employed by traditional corporate media started to twist facts to drive home a particular narrative. Others began disguising their own opinions as news. And some just stopped doing any real investigations altogether—choosing to protect our elected officials and government bureaucrats from any sort of real accountability.

Now, with fewer people trusting in the mainstream media, our nation has seen a rise in independent news media. We have a great one right here in Arizona called AZ Free News that has shown it is willing to do real research and investigation into what is happening in our state. And their latest investigative report shows exactly why independent journalism is critical for the future of our state and nation.

AZ Free News Exposes Gilbert’s Orwellian Office of Digital Government

In January, AZ Free News released an investigative report on the Town of Gilbert’s Office of Digital Government (ODG). For over a decade, the ODG, which is made up of approximately a dozen employees, has been working to ensure that Gilbert’s 30 official digital accounts—along with the personal online posts of all Town of Gilbert employees—align with a progressive, liberal agenda.

This concerted effort to control conservative speech costs Gilbert taxpayers $1.1 million each year in salary alone with Chief Digital Officer Dana Berchman making over $200,000 annually.

When asked about the allegations in the investigative report, the town doubled down on its censorship efforts, stating that it “will not tolerate divisive, offensive or culturally insensitive posts from employees purporting to represent the Town.” But as we so often see with leftist government bureaucrats: “Rules for thee, but not for me.” After all, Berchman, who interned for Hillary Clinton’s 2000 Senate Campaign, regularly used her personal social media profiles to promote then-presidential candidate Joe Biden while urging people to vote out then-President Donald Trump.

How is that not divisive? Shouldn’t Dana Berchman be held accountable for her online speech just like the rest of the Town of Gilbert’s employees?

As a devout leftist, Berchman probably figured she could get away with it, but after the AZ Free News report exposed her hypocrisy, she decided to hide, making her Twitter profile private to avoid any further backlash. (Katie Hobbs would be proud.)

But the damage was already done.

Gilbert’s Chief Digital Officer Resigns

In response to the AZ Free News report, Gilbert residents flooded the next town council meeting to demand justice for the ODG’s First Amendment violations. And later in the meeting, Councilman Jim Torgeson proposed that the council review the mission, purpose, and future existence of ODG. That review is set to take place on March 5. But it will no longer affect Dana Berchman.


Because earlier this week, Berchman emailed her resignation to the town council, effective March 7. And while the now-former head of Gilbert’s ODG didn’t specifically cite the pending town council review, it is interesting timing, isn’t it?

This is certainly great news for Gilbert residents, but it also shows the importance of real independent journalism. Had it not been for the investigation and reporting of AZ Free News, the town’s citizens would’ve been kept in the dark about this blatant government overreach. But armed with this information, the people were able to push back and hold their government accountable.

Help Protect Freedom in Arizona by Joining Our Grassroots Network

Arizona needs to have a unified voice promoting economic freedom and prosperity, and the Free Enterprise Club is committed to making that happen. But we can’t do it alone. We need YOU!

Join our FREE Grassroots Action List to stay up to date on the latest battles against big government and how YOU can help influence crucial bills at the Arizona State Legislature.