Sunday, June 16, 2013

Witness for the Defense

Trey Smith

In my 2:00 p.m. post today, I referenced an explosion Thursday at a chemical plant in Louisiana. At this early juncture, it is unclear what caused the explosion. But that didn't stop one public official for providing a bit of testimony for the defense.
"It's a sad day in Geismar, and particularly for the Williams Olefins work family, and frankly for the petrochem community in this area," Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeffrey Wiley said. "It's an industry that practices safety every second of every day, but regrettably, things do happen."
Now Wiley, as the local sheriff, won't be leading the investigation into the accident, but I would think his department might provide some assistance. Consequently, it sounds quite odd that he is defending the company BEFORE any determination has been made. With his personal sentiments already expressed, I suppose we should be glad that he won't be in charge of the investigation because it sure sounds like he is more than ready to exonerate Williams Olefins.

I see this problem more and more often these days. As soon as there is some type of incident or accident, too many public officials -- sometimes including some of the principles who will be involved in the investigation itself -- make public statements that condemn or exonerate the "accused" before much is known about the cause or contributing factors. If the results of the investigation turn out to be what the public official stated at the outset, it leads to the suspicion that the investigation was conducted in such a manner as to arrive at a predetermined conclusion.

So, I have some advice for public officials across the country: Shut your pie hole! When some type of accident or incident occurs in your community, it's okay to express sadness at the loss of life and injuries that have occurred. Other than that, don't say anything else. Don't try to defend or prosecute the potentially culpable parties before the facts are gathered.

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