Updates on the bottom.
There's not too much unusual about The Post and Courier's bemoaning of how long it takes for public agencies to share public information, but what is unusual is the harshness of the State Law Enforcement Division's (SLED's) response.
See, The Post and Courier has been unhappy with how SLED has said it needs 15 days to fill requests for public information. And so they've been harassing the agency and wrote a pair of articles that were disparaging of the agency. (see: SLED denies access to budgets and Lloyd terms records 'a joke'.)
And SLED is none too happy, particularly after the last article. The state's premier law agency retorted with a press release that kicks off with this shiner:
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) will not tolerate blatant lies and other disparaging remarks made about and against this agency by members of the media.
Here's the rest:
SLED is setting the record straight about a recent article that unprofessionally and unethically misrepresented Director Reggie Lloyd during an impromptu meeting yesterday with The Post and Courier newspaper.
Today’s article titled, “Lloyd terms records ‘a joke’ ” by reporter Yvonne Wenger states that Director Lloyd referred to past SLED Chief Robert Stewart’s budget record-keeping as “shoddy.” This is an absolute lie. A previous, related article by the Post and Courier with the headline, “SLED denies access to budgets,” is yet another lie. SLED has made attempts on several occasions to assist the Post and Courier with its recent request including, web-site referrals, a conference call and FOIA request. SLED has documentation showing the lengths this agency has taken to accommodate the Post and Courier.
This is the same practice SLED has used and will continue to use with the media on similar requests in the future. We will not grant The Post and Courier special privileges that we do not extend to other media outlets or the general public.
In the past year, SLED has been transparent, opening its doors and budget documents to other media outlets including two reporters on two separate occasions from The State Newspaper, a Columbia television reporter and additional reporters for an internal tour of the agency.
Furthermore, it should be known to the community that The Post and Courier advised SLED through an e-mail, that it would run negative comments on this agency if SLED did not immediately provide the information instead of adhering to the fifteen day period to fulfill any FOIA request.
Last month, another reporter from the Post and Courier was unprofessional after stating that he was instructed by his editors to follow Director Lloyd wherever he went, including to a memorial service for a friend and home in order to get an interview with him. SLED will not be intimidated by the Post and Courier. This behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in the future.
SLED takes pride in giving the media and citizens of South Carolina valuable information about public safety and this agency. SLED will continue maintaining this professional relationship with media outlets that work within the ethical behavior recognized by professionals in their field.
Rather than get in the middle, I'll just say this: All could be averted -- and the public would be well served -- if the state would post past information to an online database. They can redact what little budgetary information would need to be.
Sunshine should not only fall on the media.
The paper has also released and audio clip of the paper's interview with Lloyd. It's a small excerpt that comes after what was certainly a tiring exchange between the two entities. Listen over here.
Update August 6: And the debate about getting the records continues, with SLED still being stubborn and The Post and Courier taking its case to other political entities.
Update August 7: The Post and Courier has written another article on the issue. Nothing too new, but much turning of the proverbial wheel.
Go read it, if you like.