The Town of Edgewood should release the findings of an investigation of a court employee who resigned after being accused of using racial slurs in reference to a Black deputy prosecutor.
The town has denied requests from The Herald Bulletin and the local chapter of the NAACP for copies of the report.
“The report came from the employment attorney for the (Indiana) Supreme Court, and we don’t plan to release the report,” town attorney Mike Austin said. “It’s not fair to everyone involved to release the report. It’s a confidential employee matter.”
The town’s position on the matter is distressing. Whether the racial comments were made by the senior court reporter who later resigned is a matter of intense public interest, as are findings about how court and town officials reacted to the accusations.
The people of Edgewood and anyone who comes before the court, works in the court or otherwise has contact with court, must have confidence that court business is conducted without prejudice.
It’s difficult for anyone, given the nature of the complaint, to believe that the court operates with impartiality. The ultimate resignation of the court reporter seems to validate the substance of the complaint.
Becky Hughes, an employee of the prosecutor’s office, wrote in a June statement that senior court reporter Jaime Hudson said in May that she was tired of Madison County Deputy Prosecutor Rosemary Khoury playing the “Black card.” Furthermore, Hughes claimed that Hudson used an expletive and the “N-word” in reference to the prosecutor.
Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings expressed dismay, saying that Edgewood Court Judge Scott Norrick didn’t move quickly enough to launch an investigation of the claim. Cummings pulled his office’s resources out of the court, temporarily shutting it down.
Austin, the Edgewood town attorney, eventually asked the state Supreme Court to investigate.
The Herald Bulletin has asked Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt to provide an opinion about whether the investigation’s findings should be part of the public record. Britt expects to issue that opinion before the end of the summer.
In the meantime, while it’s unclear whether the town is required by the law to release the report, it is clear that the town is not prohibited from making it public.
In the interest of transparency and regaining the public’s trust, the town should release the investigation’s findings without further delay.