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An apology well accepted

By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

You know it isn't often when one gets an apology from a large organization, particularly government entities.

A few weeks ago I ran a column about a representative of the state legislative auditors office requesting some information about what a legal notice costs to run in our paper. The problem was that the young man involved didn't tell us that he was from that state office, but through emails, was maintaining that he was a city recorder for a town that wanted to place the legal. The town he used had been defunct for 100 years and by checking email addresses, I found him to be a state employee and figured out what was happening.

When I realized the situation and the young man called us I kind of read him the riot act about not being honest with us and gave him a lecture on government transparency.

The column also chastised the office of legislative auditor general for their practices and once I wrote it, it was off my mind, although I am sure it still stood in the recesses of my mind, filed away for some future journalistic jab I might make at state government.

However, within about two weeks after the column appeared I got a phone call one morning.

"This is John Schaff," the voice came from the other end of the line as I answered. "I am the Utah State Auditor General."

I was ready for a fight. I knew what he was calling about; the column I had written. I expected him to try and wiggle out of the situation and make all kinds of excuses about why his office had acted the way it did.

Dumb me. That wasn't it at all.

"I need to apologize to you for what happened in regards to us trying to ascertain the cost of legals in your paper," he said. "That shouldn't have happened."

To be honest I was a little taken back. I can't remember a time in my life when I was apologized to by such a high ranking state employee. I have heard the words "I am sorry" from many local officials about various things over the years, but not from the inner sanctum of the state.

Mr. Schaff went on to say that he had conferred with a number of people in state government about the situation and they all agreed that what had transpired between his office and mine was wrong.

"I just want you to know that we have looked into the matter and that we agree with you totally about how this was done," he explained. "It was wrong and I have taken care that it will not happen again."

I was flabbergasted. Gee, no fight, no bantering, no squabble with a state bureaucrat. In a way, I have to say I was disappointed to not be able to sink my teeth into a good tussle with a state government agency.

But then, I found myself being proud that we do have state employees, at the highest levels, who are concerned about how the public thinks and feels.

He then told me a few details about what had happened and said that the supervisor of the young man had approved the tactics and that a conversation about it had taken place with both of them.

I thanked him after a short conversation and we both hung up.

It was a good feeling to know that even at the highest levels people sometimes listen.





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