Lott bypassed SLED to avoid appearance of conflict of interest


When I was paid and paid well to do actual journalism, I would never have done what I did in this earlier post: Raise a question and not bother to call the source and get the question answered before publishing.

But this is not my day job, and I find myself slacking off in ways I would never have done in my former life. Some days, I don’t even have the time to raise the question for discussion, much less answer it. And I never feel good about that — or about the typos that inevitably crop up because I don’t have an editor. I rationalize that I don’t pretend this is a news blog — I raise questions; I don’t do much in the way of reporting. But there’s some value in raising questions, right? Or so I tell myself.

So I was suitably embarrassed today when Sheriff Leon Lott called me to answer my question. On the other hand, I was gratified to see that the sheriff was keeping up with my blog. (Always look on the bright side.)

The question was, why did the sheriff go straight to the feds to ask for an independent investigation into the Spring Valley High School incident instead of going to the State Law Enforcement Division first?

And as it turns out, the sheriff had a pretty good answer.

To begin with, this incident was a nationwide scandal before the sheriff even knew about it. Given the severity of what the deputy had done, and the national attention, it was particularly important that there not be even the slightest appearance of a conflict of interest in the investigation.

And with SLED, there was the danger of such an appearance. To begin with, “My wife works there — she’s an agent.” I had not realized that.

Moreover, “many of the higher-ups” in the agency once worked at the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, and are good friends of his.

So while he fully respects SLED and did not mean to diss the agency in any way, he thought it best to avoid any appearance of cronyism.

Besides, he figured it would end up in federal hands eventually, anyway.

I thought that was a pretty good answer. You?

Anyway, the sheriff and I went on to have a pretty good discussion about an issue this incident raises. I’ll write about that tomorrow…

2 thoughts on “Lott bypassed SLED to avoid appearance of conflict of interest

  1. Lynn Teague

    Yes, it was a good answer, and it is always a pleasure to have a public official acknowledge the importance of avoiding cronyism and conflicts of interest. Unfortunately, around here we don’t experience that pleasure nearly as often as we should.

  2. Jean Smolen

    I appreciate your frankness in explaining your different approach to a blog entry as compared to a news story. I wish more people understood the difference. Don’t be modest about your blog – your reasoned viewpoints are essential reading, in my opinion, for both local and national events.

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