Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Public Officials Need to Operate in Public

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Public Officials Need to Operate in Public

Article excerpt

I've always found Evansville Police Chief Billy Bolin and Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Nick Hermann to be honest, honorable men. I don't know Superior Court Judge David Kiely or County Clerk Susan Kirk, but have no reason to think differently of them. So why, for the past 10 days or so, have those appointed and elected leaders and this newspaper been on such opposite sides of an issue?

Communication, for one. Common practice, for another. Both sides, no doubt, believe they're simply doing their job.

The dispute's origin was a search warrant served two Thursdays ago at a house on East Powell in the Center City. Acting on tips, including one from a local television station, that anonymous posts on a blog included a specific threat to Bolin and general warnings to all police, officials sought the computer IP address that they believed would identify the perpetrator.

They took their information to the prosecutor's office, which helped draft an affidavit requesting a search warrant. They took the warrant to the judge, who signed off. And in the end, they sent the SWAT team to the address, breaking a window and unlocked storm door, tossing in what's described as a "stun grenade," and handcuffing an 18-year-old Signature School student and her 68- year-old grandmother. The problem: Neither had anything to do with the threats.

Wondering what warranted the warrant, we requested - as specified under Indiana law - a copy of the warrant and affidavit. We were refused. The warrant was sealed, we were told, though it wasn't (and even if it had been, it became unsealed by law once it was returned to the clerk's office).

So the newspaper filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act. We enlisted the help of the Hoosier State Press Association, our corporate counsel and our local attorney. …

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