People often demand transparency in government, but when a state or federal entity is investigating a crime there’s a reason for their silence.

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Acting State Attorney General John Hoffman and U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Paul Fishman talked about the topic after a day-long event in Trenton on Sept. 30 that focused on strengthening relationships between police and the communities they serve.

“We do not release the names of individuals that are subject to and then cleared of an investigation. Imagine after we concluded any investigation of any individual and made a determination that they should not be charged then we release the names of those individuals. That would be wrong. That would be inappropriate,” said Hoffman, in response to a question about why the names of police officers are not released after they’ve been investigated.

The U.S. Attorney talked broadly about the topic of secrecy during investigations. He also pointed out that his office has only confirmed one probe before charges were filed, but even that one came with a disclaimer.

“We probably open two or three thousand investigations most of which you’ve never heard of,” said Fishman. “We have to be able to investigate quietly so that we don’t taint the case and contaminate witnesses. We start investigations on tips, information sometimes from disgruntled spouses, sometimes from former business partners, sometimes from opposition candidates, sometimes from people in the community who see something or record something. That doesn’t necessarily mean that somebody committed a crime.”

By the way, the one case Fishman did talk about while the investigation was still ongoing is one you’ve almost definitely heard something about if you live in New Jersey.

“In my time as the U.S. Attorney in the last six years we have only publicly acknowledged the existence of one investigation in my office and we did that deliberately and it was the investigation involving the George Washington Bridge and even then we didn’t say we were investigating. All we said was that we had received a referral from the Inspector General which the Inspector General had publicly announced,” Hoffman explained.

Most investigations of most people don’t end in criminal charges, Hoffman said.

Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at Follow him on twitter at @kevinmcardle1.