The right thing to do

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The issue: Missing money from the Selma Police Department.

Our position: If the attorney general was asked to investigate, this was the right move.

Recently, members of the Selma City Council asked the mayor for an accounting of some missing money from the Selma Police Department.

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News escaped from close quarters of the previous police administration. In January, the department had to break into its drug evidence holding safe.

At the time, acting police chief Jimmy Martin said about $3,300 was missing from the safe.

Martin said if the funds were not accounted for, there would be an investigation. He didn&8217;t say who would investigate.

Martin&8217;s comments came nearly seven months ago.

Several times, city council members have asked about the investigation. They were told that police chief William Riley III would take care of the issue as soon as he got his feet under him.

Riley was hired in February.

Last week, Mayor James Perkins Jr.&8217;s administrative assistant, Darlene Rudolph, passed out a folder with &8220;answers to questions,&8221; posed by council members on a variety of issues.

Nobody read the answers aloud, leaving the public present and the general population wondering about questions and answers.

Among those answers from the mayor: The state attorney general&8217;s office is handling the case of the missing police money.

The attorney general&8217;s spokesperson, Joy Patterson, couldn&8217;t say either way.

All this brings home the issue of open government. The city council should have made the answer to this question public last week.

Additionally, some kind of press release should have come from the police department as soon as the attorney general&8217;s office began handling the case.

If sunshine is allowed to shine in government, fewer questions surface.

If leadership communicates with the electorate, fewer suspicions surface.

Certainly, the public has a right to know about the money. Certainly, the public has a right to know the attorney general&8217;s office has become involved in the investigation.

Any other details would constitute probing into an active investigation, which is not the point.

On the other hand, an agency should not investigate itself.

If the city asked the attorney general&8217;s office to investigative the missing money, the city did the proper thing.

Now, once the investigation is complete, we would expect the attorney general&8217;s office or the city to step forward and continue doing the proper thing by telling the public what happened to the money in the safe and what actions the city will take in the future to prevent this kind of debacle.

After all, it&8217;s the right thing to do.