It’s been a week since the arrest of Alonzo Rico Ford on suspicion of the December 2011 shooting death of Pops Patel at the Ribbitz convenience store on West Point Road.
You didn’t read about that arrest in LaGrange Daily News because Troup County Sheriff Donny Turner is wantonly withholding the arrest reports from this newspaper. However, Turner is more than happy to share this information with his newsletter, the Troup County News, and WTVM Channel 9, a Columbus TV station.
It’s not from a lack of trying that you don’t see this information in LaGrange Daily News. Our reporters check with the sheriff’s office daily. He has said all public information must come from Lt. Chad Mann, the office’s public information officer. When our reporters request to speak with Mann at the station, he is unavailable. When we try to contact him by phone or email, he does not return the calls or respond to the emails. We have filed open records requests to force the release of information from the sheriff on Ford’s arrest, among others.
As a result, the public of Troup County is being denied the right to know. In the July 25 edition of the Troup County News, the top story is about a methamphetamine lab explosion on Salem Road. I’m sure other residents on Salem Road would like to know what the source of that explosion was. I’m sure they’d like to know if their neighbor is cooking meth. Pity you will only find that information in the Troup County News, again, because the sheriff won’t release that information to LaGrange Daily News.
This sheer pettiness stems from the fact that this newspaper wrote an article about the sheriff threatening an ex-employee because he was campaigning for his opponent in the 2012 election. The employee came to us with the recorded conversation and we published that information, with the recording, because the public has a right to know if their local sheriff is acting unethically by making threats.
He has taken his insecurity further in an ad in the Donny Turner Newsletter/Troup County News that accuses our parent company in Connecticut of trying to sway the vote. The fact is, Sheriff Turner is swaying the vote with unethical actions and childish retaliatory antics.
All right, Turner is angry with us and won’t talk to us.
But to order his public information officer to not talk to us or anyone is a wasteful use of his office, and drags down his whole department.
His new policy doesn’t hurt the media so much as the general public, which is denied information, and the men and women in law enforcement who are dedicated every day to making all of us safe.
The citizens of Troup County deserve and expect more from our sheriff. Let’s keep his bizarre behavior top of mind when we vote on Tuesday.