On today’s Viewpoints page, you’ll find a column by Walla Walla County Sheriff John Turner regarding an investigation into potential payroll fraud at the Sheriff’s Office.
That investigation, carried out by the state Auditor’s Office, concluded no legal wrongdoing had occurred, but that conclusion isn’t the whole story.
Turner’s column starts with the phrase, “Some folks have inquired about the following ...”
Those “folks” have been Union-Bulletin news staff.
The newspaper has been working since mid-April to report this complex story.
Turner’s column, which was sent yesterday and received this morning, was of such public interest that Editorial Page Editor Rick Eskil chose to publish the column immediately.
A comprehensive, balanced article is in the works that will help taxpayers decide whether the decisions made by their elected officials are in the best interests of the county as a whole.
Our efforts have included several requests for public records, and those records are slowly trickling in from the state auditor’s office. The county has not released any documents to date, but plans to release documents May 24.
The decision to publish the sheriff’s column today — before our news story on the issue is published — was made by the editorial staff, which operates independently from the news staff.
This dividing line, like the division between our advertising and news departments, is sacrosanct in our company.
Is it in the best interest of our readers and news staff for the sheriff to address our work before all the documents we need to report this story have been turned over to us?
Probably not, but we have an established practice of publishing columns such as these, and holding onto it until our own reporting is done would be unfair to you, our readers, as well as the sheriff and in the end, ourselves.
Alasdair Stewart is the managing editor for news and multimedia. He can be reached at email@example.com or 526-8311. To read Sheriff John Turner's column, click here.