If you’ve been in this business as long as we have, you would understand the bane of journalism is the iron curtain of personnel matters and closed sessions.
And never has this big curtain been so frustrating than in the recent news of the city’s top-ranking law enforcement officers — Chief Bobby Martin and Captain Jamie Hardy — being placed on unpaid administrative leave.
We have requested more detailed information from the city manager and city attorney.
While we doubt our request will be granted, we have to at least try. As of this writing, the city has not responded.
We understand the city is following the letter of the law when it comes to personnel matters. This hasn’t, as far as we know, turned into a criminal matter so it’s not like we can ask for search warrants or arrest warrants.
Other than hearing snippets of this and that in off-the-record conversations — the truth is we’re just as much in the dark as the general public.
What we believe and what is covered under state personnel laws is vastly different.
We believe there are extenuating circumstances which demand more information be released.
Over the weekend we received a couple of messages — one being through the cesspool of snark and cynicism called Facebook and the other via email — implying we were covering this matter up when late Saturday WRAL had broken the story.
They had their moment but as we know there are no scoops — only stories.
Just because we didn’t follow suit immediately does not mean a cover-up. It only means we have our own way of doing things and we wanted to go into this fresh Monday morning.
In our email to the city manager and city attorney we respectfully requested the release of detailed information concerning the administrative leaves of Martin and Hardy.
We did so because we believe the public has a right to know whether the city’s two top-ranking law enforcement officers have committed ethical breaches in their sworn duties, whether they were derelict in those duties, or whether more serious offenses have occurred.
We fully understand the statutes regarding personnel matters but believe the public’s right to know about any untoward actions leading to their administrative leaves supersedes the protection afforded them under those statutes.
We believe that officers need to be held to exacting standards and mistakes they make should be reported on in the same manner as those from the public they arrest.
But thus far this issue does remain a personnel matter.
Should it come down to a criminal matter, we will treat it with the same zest we did when reporting on the Operation Rockfish police corruption case a few years ago and we are making every effort to encourage the city to release additional information about this.
This isn’t the first time we’ve tried to penetrate the iron curtain of personnel matters and it probably won’t be the last.
We don’t win many of the battles, with the exception of winning a couple of rare challenges that prevented closed sessions, but we do try.
Unfortunately, in this job, it is one of the more frustrating things we have to deal with and as we stated before we understand the laws but in this case we believe there is a precedent for opening the iron curtain to let some sunshine in.
While we might be facing an uphill battle in this matter, our request was made in the spirit of transparency and an attempt to shed light as we remain in the dark outside the iron curtain — Editor