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Editorial - Story about commissioner candidate needed to be told

Some residents in Douglas County Commissioner District 4 who read our story about a candidate, Steve Hensley, being charged with writing bad checks won't care.

They'll read his response, accept his apology and they'll still vote for him in the August 10 primary. That's their right, their privilege.

Others may view it differently. They may see it as an indication that he isn't qualified to lead the county and they won't vote for him. Again, it's their right.

It's hard to say how voters will react - only time or a crystal ball will tell.

Even reporting such a story raises difficult issues. Should it be told? Is it fair? Is it something that voters should know about?

We believe the answer to all those questions is yes. Informing readers about the charges - one is a felony level crime at this point - is worth bringing to light. It's one of several factors that some voters may want to know before casting their ballot.

Some could try to argue that Hensley is a victim of "dirty politics," that he's been smeared by the media. That's not the case, at least from the newspaper's perspective.

As Hensley himself acknowledges, he put himself in this situation months ago. Reporting the charges against him doesn't suddenly make him a victim.

We want readers to know that we've tried to be fair in reporting this story. We gave Hensley ample opportunity and space to respond to the charges against him. To his credit, he did offer a detailed statement, which is printed in full in today's paper. We spoke with Hensley on several occasions, explaining how we planned to report the story and even when it would appear.

We spoke with several different sources to verify and confirm information, including the sheriff's office, two county attorney offices and the secretary of state's office. Our goal was to report the issue in a straightforward manner to not only inform readers of the charges but also to clear up some of the rumors and gossiping that goes on when this kind of information gets out.

To be fair, we did criminal checks on the other two candidates running for the District 4 seat, incumbent Paul Anderson and challenger Arlan Kakac, and they came back clean. These are people seeking public office who will be making big decisions regarding taxpayers' money. It's important to hold all three to the same standards.

We hope readers don't leap to the conclusion that the newspaper "enjoys" reporting about these kinds of stories or that we are engaged in some kind of "sensationalism" to sell papers.

We simply reported what happened. What happens next is entirely up to the voters.

Echo Press editorials are the position of the newspaper's editorial board, which includes Jody Hanson, publisher; Al Edenloff, editor; and news reporter Celeste Beam.