Marion County Residents Have the Right to Know

“I’m a big fan of your paper,” said the caller Saturday night. “I love the whole paper.”

A Jimplecute reader left a voicemail asking for us to call him back. We often tell our customers, when they can’t find us in the office, to send us an email or call us. We will receive their message immediately and return their message if needed.  

The caller wanted to know if the Jimp would be publishing the weekly jail report. We explained that Marion County Sheriff David McKnight in a juvenile fit of pique, now requires the Jimplecute to submit a weekly Texas Public Information Act request for the jail information, allowing him to delay the release for 10 business days.

The sheriff is apparently upset over the Jimplecute’s pursuit of public records regarding the Elmer Facebook post. We now tender the request but also demand copies of the jail report, blotter report and the front page of every offense report. Readers will see the results of those reports in upcoming editions.

While some found Elmer (a fictitious county animal control officer offering to “skint” stray animals) offensive, others thought it funny. Our interest is not about Elmer.

Many residents of Jefferson and Marion County adopted one or more of the Dixie Humane Society dogs. The Jimplecute even adopted a treeing walker coonhound named Billy Boy. This issue is not about animal control, nor animal conditions in Marion County.

Marion County residents have the right to know how Marion County employees use their tax money to operate the Marion County government. Cell phones used for official business, mobile equipment paid for by the county and certainly office computers create public documents. The content of those documents should reflect credit on Marion County, not derision. Also, we are concerned that peace officers, entrusted with the right to lawfully kill another human being, are being held to the highest standards of trust and integrity.

When they tell a suspect, “Put the gun down or I will shoot you,” the suspect must know

they mean it. When they tell a grand jury, “The defendant was armed and threatened to shoot me,” the courtroom must not question his or her credibility.

The Jefferson ISD staff handbook requires ethical and professional communication on the district’s electronic devices. And as many, if not all, Marion County residents know, a high standard of professional conduct using electronic devices is SOP for employment in any corporation or large organization.

This should not be too tall a hill to climb for the Sheriff’s Department.

Other readers have made the point to the Jimp that a law enforcement officer’s job is difficult and Marion County is lucky to have a sheriff with a no-nonsense reputation.
You should be able to see this is a false choice. We should not be forced to choose between effective and professional. The job requires both.

In fact, you don’t have to be a public service employee to perform effectively and professionally in a demanding job. Most Marion County residents do it everyday.

The time is now for Marion County to move forward into the 21st Century. Doing so will not destroy the beautiful historic homes downtown or the stunning lakes and outdoor views we all enjoy. The museums and historical markers will not disappear. The priceless memories and stories of old will not be forgotten.

Thanks to a Texas Public Information Act request by the Jimplecute, we now know Sheriff McKnight’s claim the Elmer Facebook post was the result of hacking is false. In a text message, McKnight admits he made the post.

Judge Leward LaFleur cannot fire Sheriff McKnight. Whether or not McKnight’s future court testimony is compromised is a conversation for District Attorney Angela Smoak and McKnight. Whether this Elmer affair is a warning sign of burnout and a good time to retire, is a decision for McKnight.

LaFleur, however, is the chief executive officer of the county. He can speak with the moral authority of the county government.

In April, County Judge LaFleur said he would withhold a decision until the facts were known. The facts are now known, but LaFleur has declined to comment. Whether you are a big fan of the Jimp or not, whether you love the Jimp or not, Judge LaFleur, when you live in Marion County you know, #MarionCountyMattersMost.

 

 

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