Two of the bigger complaints I’ve heard over the past week are the result of government officials not wanting to release basic information to the public.
Undoubtedly the most frequent question I’ve received in recent days is why is the name of the shooter being withheld in the case of the Sparta Highway fatal shooting? By now, many of us in the community have heard the name of the person believed to have shot and killed Christopher Hollis as he was driving down the highway last Sunday afternoon.
So what’s the deal? Why isn’t law enforcement releasing his name?
The very short answer is I don’t know. And I don’t see any reason why his name can’t be released.
It’s not much to ask. I can see withholding some intimate details of the case, or a piece of key evidence if necessary. I certainly don’t want to publish something in the newspaper that may jeopardize a case for law enforcement. And I’m not asking for that.
All I’m asking for is a name. It doesn’t matter if he’s charged with a crime or not. If the two men were involved in a motor vehicle crash, we would be given both names as part of the basic accident report. This isn’t any different.
The end result is I’ve heard what I would call fairly widespread speculation in the community that this case isn’t going to be treated fairly because the alleged shooter has relatives in law enforcement. I don't think that will be the case, but any time information is kept secret, people start to form their own theories.
The same thing can be said in the saga of the Blue Building. After the deadline passed for people to submit proposals on how they wanted to redevelop the property, city officials initially declined to release those proposals. This was puzzling.
It didn’t take long for accusations to follow and I can understand why. The Blue Building is a prime piece of downtown property owned by city taxpayers.
City officials didn’t need to keep the proposals confidential. It served no purpose and it only led to speculation that something sneaky was taking place.
When the city released the Blue Building proposals after a one-week delay, all the information was refreshingly in the open. The development plans were available for everyone to see and two of the packages are tremendously promising.
All of this is to say government works best when information is in the open. People are distrustful of government when officials make decisions in secret or withhold information. This gives the appearance something might be fishy, even if it’s not.
Nothing positive happens when government officials try to slam the door on openness and keep information from the public. The events of the past week here in Warren County prove that.
Standard editor James Clark can be reached at 473-2191.