Word on the street: Asheville media outlets consider suing for audit report in Asheville Police Department investigation
Asheville media outlets, who have banded together in calling for the release of an audit report done in connection with an investigation into evidence missing from the Asheville Police Department’s property room, are considering legal options for forcing the release of the report they believe is a public record, according to buzz on the street.
The media outlets are considering filing a lawsuit to force the release of the report, which cost $175,000. The audit was conducted after the Asheville Police Department’s evidence room manager resigned after being suspended. The State Bureau of Investigation stepped in to seal the room, an investigation was announced at the police chief at the time, Bill Hogan, announced his early retirement. District Attorney Ron Moore said drugs and money were missing from the evidence room, and noted that problems with the handling of evidence could affect pending court cases.
On May 11, new police Chief William Anderson announced the department will hire a new evidence room manager. But all the calls to release the audit by the Asheville Citizen-Times, Mountain Xpress, Carolina Public Press and WLOS have not resulted in any action. Moore has said the report is not a public record under state law, and law enforcement officials argue the report is part of an ongoing investigation and will not be released. N.C. Press Association attorneys have said the report is indeed a public record and can be released even though an investigation is ongoing.
According to the contract between the city and the company that conducted the audit, Asheville City Council is owed a copy of the report, which it has yet to receive.
I think there’s a bigger story here that the media outlets could band together to tell, and that is the fact that problems with police department evidence rooms are not unusual. The theft of cash and drugs from police storage rooms happens all the time. Why is that? How do other Western North Carolina police departments handle the issue? What are best practices?
Category: Asheville News