The way a story about misspending of public funds came to light last week gave the appearance the story had been “hidden” for the past year, when in fact it was under investigation.
Though readers may question county officials’ lack of transparency about possible misspending or theft of sheriff’s department funds, it’s typical for someone’s identity and details of a criminal investigation to be withheld until all facts are gathered and a determination about charges (if any) has been made. Was an action a mistake or was it intentional? Who, exactly, was involved? What time period is covered? Those questions should be answered before fingers are pointed. Due process of law is the foundation of democracy.
There have been cases where individuals were accused of embezzlement from their employers. Word often gets around town before any charges are filed. The Stone County Leader does not print stories about accusations until felony-level charges are filed.
Until this week (see story on page 1).
In hindsight, we knew about it and we should have printed a story about an investigation of the sheriff’s department being underway. The “who” of the story could have been withheld pending the results, but it would have been obvious to most because a person who had been front-and-center of most things regarding the department was now absent. For that reason, we resisted.
The Stone County Leader is not in the business of covering up news. We ARE in the business of treating people fairly.
Everyone can count on the same consideration.