OUR VIEWS: Secrets need to stop

Jul 19, 2012

 

Forgive us if we do not. Neither should the public.

Perhaps the deputy, who isn't even named by the Sheriff's Department, was simply fired this past May for being a jerk to his superiors. Maybe it was something far more nefarious. We might never know.

Why? Because the sheriff has denied a Freedom of Information Act request and an appeal seeking access to the officer's personnel file. The department has also been mum on the reason for the firing.

This failure to disclose what we contend are public records about a publicly paid employee is a source of great concern. The secretive nature of the dismissal makes us wonder what the department is hiding, and why.

When the undersheriff was asked about concerns of a cover-up, he only said, "I'm not going to respond."

The sheriff himself in the written denial of the Freedom of Information Act appeal states that he is "unable to identify any public interest in disclosure of any such records." He underlined the word "any."

A pair of experts on public records explained why this is of interest to the public.

"Full information and robust debate is vital to the democratic process, and is of particular concern for the public in the context of sheriff's departments, given that sheriffs are democratically elected officials accountable to the community they serve," wrote attorney Joseph Richotte in his lengthy appeal to Rosema that cited much case law to that effect.

"We're entitled to know why they are hired and why they are fired," added Freedom of Information Act expert David Cullier. "That's one thing we don't need in America, is secret police."

We agree wholeheartedly.

The public has a right to know. The public does have an interest. Underline the word "does."

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Kevin Collier, Nick White and Liz Stuck. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.
 

Comments

Zeke

The Freedom of Information Act was not intended to boost newspaper sales by exploiting every situation that involves any sort of government, in this case local government.

The Tribune, which wasn’t all that great to begin with, has taken a horrible turn lately toward gutter journalism, this column being a perfect example.

Sheriff Gary Rosema has been an excellent sheriff for decades, and has earned the trust of the public. In countless situations he has shared difficult truths with the community, has chosen integrity over politics, and has been more than generous with disclosing pertinent information.

If I were the one being fired I certainly would not want my name all over the paper. I would appreciate the discretion of the sheriff. If there is no pertinent information to the public then let's just give the person who got fired a break and let them save face a little bit. Have a little compassion for crying out loud!

If Sheriff Rosema had a history of covering things up or withholding information that’s one thing, but this has not been the case by any means.

Tribune staff: Please (underlined), do stories that benefit the community rather than stories to boost sales. It is so obvious, distasteful, and will drive readers away quickly. I am about at my limit personally.

Please stop this column. Put your own opinions and agendas aside and report the news as truthfully as possible. THAT will increase readership. At the very least you will be able to sleep better at night knowing you did your job with integrity.

horst

Hey Zeke, you obviously don't know any former Ottawa County Deputy's. They will tell you Rosema has become Ottawa Counties very own Hitler. Ask around. Every time something on his watch gets questioned his above the law arrogance come flowing out. Like now, in underlining "ANY" in his response. Time for some "NEW blood in Ottawa County.

Zeke

I do know several former and current deputies actually and feel I have a pretty broad base of information for my opinion. But that's almost beside the point.

We may have different views but part of what I was trying to convey is that these are real people not just "stories" for interesting news.

Disagreeing with my views is fine by me, but calling someone Hitler? Come on. Comments like that are just furthering the demonization of people whenever there's a negative story - and that is precisely what I suspect the Sheriff is trying to protect the former employee from.

FuturaGH

Grand Haven Tribune Staff,

Another comment sites the word: Integrity.

I commend you for breaking the mold. To step out as a media outlet, and voice an opinion against the establishment is something truly courageous in todays culture.

It is not mentioned often enough, the recent story of longtime Grand Haven Department of Public Safety officer predatorily, sexually assaulting women in our community.
I need not continue the long list of other off-color stories we have heard in recent years involving our local law enforcement.

Could this be another attempt to downplay a larger situation?
No suspicion would be cast, if honesty were something of value.

These are the individuals entrusted with protecting our communities. They are held to a higher degree of transparency.
Plain and simple!

I like my media to ask tough questions and force real answers!

Thanks Again Tribune Staff

truthhurts

police officers are servants of the community, if they wish to not have the reason they are fired, hired or whatever else disclosed then they should choose another less public profession. The public pays their salary and we have a right to know; good or bad.

Zippy Jones

Will the Tribune comment on these secrets?

http://www.mlive.com/news/muskeg...

Ann Romney: We've 'given all you people need'

truthhurts

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained profanity. Discussion Guidelines

No One Special

The tribune's editorial board should be lauded for challenging our sheriff's attempt to keep the public in the dark about their operations. Most of the media is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the government today. It is refreshing to see our small town newspaper buck that trend and hold government responsible. As David Cullier, the Freedom of Information expert said, "That's one thing we don't need in America, is secret police."

zwesterhouse

For the most part our Sheriff Rozema is a man of integrity. Not perfect but has demonstrated integrity throughout his career. Remember that jail break incident when then Under-Sheriff Vredeveld got cocky with the media, then later he runs and gets elected supervisor of Blendon township, then a short time later the whole township board including him gets recalled out of office. There is a time to be cocky and a time to be respectful. I'm sure Rozema or his nickname amounst criminals (Rose-mary) has figured it out. If anyone thinks our Sheriff is bad just go to a southern state once. Just watch the trilogy of "Walking Tall" or "Smokey and the Bandit" That's the way things are done down nare! Talk back to a southern Sheriff and get a baton between the teeth. And his brother Virgil Jenkins owns the local paper, Enos Jenkins is the prosecutor. so guess where the mouthy Michigander goes? Yep! right straight to the hooch cow on trumped up charges. You ask a question to a southern Sheriff in a snotty way you asked it to Rosemary and the Alabama/Mississippi/Kentucky Sheriff will break your camera - smash out your headlights and tell you to "ya all can just leave town now! and if ya-all smart go back up norf ya yankee! Believe me we have a good Sheriff. Try a southern Sheriff for once.

horst

Zeke, if they wanted privacy they should have picked a different career, not one on the public food trough. As for Mr. Rosema. Check the record. This is not the first time he has refused to come clean on information within his department which might have been unfavorable if not criminal for him in the public eye. He’s like any other politician. His biggest concern is getting re-elected, everything else is secondary. He’s needs to learn he’s not above the law and as such I stand by my Hitler comment.

ohwell

Anyone stop and think that Sheriff Rosema (spelled with a "S" not a "Z") just might have the interest of the fired deputy in mind. You know saving their name and reputation. It is no one's business why this deputy was let go. I don't care if they are paid by my tax dollars. These people deserve some sort of privacy. Problem is in today's society, that no one is happy unless they are in everyone's business. That way they can go around and gossip about everyone. Worry about yourself, then again that isn't the Grand Haven way.

theQuin

I am not sure personnel issues fall within the right of the public to know. By the same token, I also wonder why this had to be leaked to the press if it is a "personnel issue." What was the Sheriff's motive? Or how did the press find out about this?

newspaperlawyer

Sheriff Rosema has no history of covering up anything in his department. What I don't understand is the G.H. Tribune always pressing for garbage on the sheriff department... If anything people I would stop buying this fish wrapper.... Believe me their is enough garbage we could dig up on several of the G.H. Tribune's staffers... over the years that information was never released by the law enforcement community or rubbed in the editors face. Sheriff Rosema is a fine upstanding law enforcement officer and administrator. Sheriff Rosema many have several in his department that need a good swift kick in their backside to straighten them out... But if he any issues with any dis-functional deputy he will certainly get rid of the cancer. Keep up the great work and vote for ROSEMA August 2012.

zwesterhouse

I agree - he is a darn good sheriff.

43°North

Agreed, he is a good County Sheriff. And this same Trib staff would never endorse anyone else- after all, he is a Republican! You watch this fall. They only bash him here because he won't give their hired gun what they want. Two-faced backstabbers? You betcha, and leading the way in GH! Tune in this Fall!

ThomasLieber

This is really interesting. Good to know about this one. I hope everything will be alright in the future. I learned a lot from this one. - Markus Lattner

 

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