Claremore Daily Progress

August 25, 2013

Shooting the messenger

Bailey Dabney


Shooting the messenger.
The expression “Don’t shoot the messenger” has been around since there have been messengers. It’s what disturbed despots did when told things they didn’t want to hear. 
Sigmund Freud opined that killing the messenger was a desperate leader’s way of demonstrating absolute power over fearful subjects.
We live in a more civilized society, yet we still face ruthless authorities lacking for leadership ability. 
They have more practical ways of shooting messengers — public embarrassment, character assassination and unwarranted legal action. As your messenger, we have seen all of that lately.
In July, our reporter Salesha Wilken received a tip that records containing personal information — names, addresses and Social Security numbers — were strewn about a hallway of the old courthouse. 
Contractors, county employees, salvagers, offenders doing community service and any number of unidentified strangers had been stepping on, over and in these records for months.
Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton said the old courthouse has looked like Wal-Mart with so many people coming and going.
Given the growth of the identity theft industry, this situation shows reprehensible disregard for you, your security and your financial peace. 
Upon investigation, we learned the scattered records weren’t just personal. They were an index of victims and criminals — including juveniles — that should have been secured.
So who is vilified because of this? You guessed it — the messenger.
A day after Wilken’s report about these records, County Commission Chairman Kirt Thacker called for an investigation of “unauthorized entry” at the old courthouse. 
Later, the district attorney’s office prompted commissioners to meet in closed session to talk about access to the courthouse. That’s when commissioners formally asked District Attorney Janice Steidley’s office to investigate — even though her assistants had already been investigating for nearly three weeks.
Walton has said his department’s investigation into Wilken’s access to the old courthouse concluded as quickly as it began, with a finding that she did nothing improper.
So why does this investigation persist? And why is it focused on who’s coming and going from the courthouse, and not the security of the records themselves?
Any investigation must include the question of why the records were left unsecured. 
In a meeting with Wilken on Aug. 6, Thacker ranted about her “breach” at the old courthouse. Oddly, he showed no perceptible interest in the records, or whether it is even possible to determine how many might be missing. His priority seems to be to hang this on the messenger.
 At their meeting Monday — their fourth since this debacle began — commissioners have another chance to publicly acknowledge that they were wrong to vilify the messenger. We recommend they take the opportunity to focus on the real issue here — the security of the records.