Last month, I wrote a column on our difficulties in getting documents from Lee County about an out-of-state trip in 2011.
In early November, then-State's Attorney Henry Dixon informed us in a letter that he wouldn't release the records, saying doing so would compromise an investigation. Shortly after, though, an assistant state's attorney, Peter Buh, said he and his boss decided to release the documents after all. We waited and still didn't get them.
Our request for the documents was made Oct. 30. The 5-day deadline under the Freedom of Information Act has long since passed.
In late November, we found the state's attorney's financial claims for the trip – taken more than a year ago – at the county clerk's office. They showed the trip cost more than $5,000 and involved three people.
We had many questions. Soon after, I scheduled an interview with Sheriff John Varga, whose office was involved with the investigation. I met with Buh, Varga and two other Sheriff's Department officials who were at Varga's office when I arrived. They told me that any information released about the trip would hamper the investigation. It would tip off the person they identified as the bad guy.
Please hold off on a story, they requested.
For how long?
It could be months before the investigation is done, they said.
Of course, we don't want to interfere with the cops catching someone who committed a crime. At the same time, we should be leery of government requests to hold off on publishing stories about the spending of taxpayers' dollars.
For the time being, the bosses at Sauk Valley Media have decided to hold off on revealing details on the trip.
David Giuliani is a reporter for Sauk Valley Media. He can be reached at dgiuliani@saukvalley or at 800-798-4085, ext. 525.