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Editorial: Time for straight talk from Kilgore College

By Longview News-Journal
April 7, 2015 at 11:55 p.m.

When exactly does evidence become evidence? We aren't sure how to answer that, particularly in the case of Kilgore College, where officials previously said they couldn't seriously consider allegations of mishandling of asbestos at the college because the claims were not in writing.

Now that three employees have signed sworn affidavits saying they have been personally involved in improper and illegal handling of asbestos on campus, college President Bill Holda says there still is no evidence it ever took place.

We're not sure what kind of evidence he's looking for, but at this point, we suspect nothing would be good enough, that Holda and other Kilgore College officials are determined to deny any problems no matter what facts they're presented.

At this stage, their act has gotten more than a little silly. Smoke is not certain evidence of a fire, either, but it's a pretty darn good sign that ought to be checked out. To simply ignore it is not wise.

But it appears ignoring it is just what is being done by a majority of the board and top-ranking officials at Kilgore College.

Their denial of facts illustrates what we have said before: This is not about the dangers presented by asbestos. It is about leadership and a commitment to tell the truth to the patrons of Kilgore College, no matter how difficult that might be.

If such a commitment exists, we have not been able to discern it.

What is painfully obvious is a desire simply to wish it all away, to call those who speak up troublemakers, to bash those who report such news. The problems all are caused by someone else.

But the evidence — and, yes, sworn affidavits are real evidence — points to another conclusion.

Members of the college's board of trustees need to show leadership in this matter. The credulity of the board majority is stupefying. Its members seem content to accept whatever they are told with no need to verify, even in the face of contrary evidence. That evidence now includes a fourth witness, a former student and employee who says he documented asbestos contamination on campus in 2009. And don't forget the recordings of college officials discussing the situation.

Perhaps the college is reluctant to acknowledge the asbestos problems, thinking that by doing so the college's liability would increase in the event of a lawsuit. We don't know about that but in any event cannot imagine ignorance would provide Kilgore College with any protection.

It would be refreshing to hear some straight talk from the college instead of obfuscation. We'd say the public deserves it by now.



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