Public business must be conducted in the open for all to see
March 11, 2008
In the past two weeks, the newspaper ” and by extension the public ” has been blindsided.
This did not happen because we were lazy, because we skipped public meetings, fell out of touch with sources or did not otherwise keep our ear to the ground.
It happened, we firmly believe, because leaders did not want the public to know what they were doing.
Privacy is not a luxury for public officials ” not when tax dollars are involved.
The first slap in the face came on Feb 27, the day before we published the story, “Four of five E. Grand schools have openings for principals.”
We discovered that Middle Park High School and Granby Elementary School were in a search for new principals.
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The decision was made by East Grand Superintendent Robb Rankin on Monday, Feb. 18. The following day, Feb. 19, the school board met.
Reporter Will Bublitz was there for the entire meeting. During that meeting, the highly significant fact that two East Grand School District principals would not have their contracts renewed was not announced or given even the briefest mention.
Though our reporter spoke with members of the school board, the matter was not brought to his attention.
We found out a week later while reading the job listings in the classified ads of our newspaper.
When Will Bublitz started making calls on this matter, he was told that they didn’t announce the situation at the board meeting because they knew we would write about it and they didn’t want to embarrass the principals involved.
Instead, the school district should be embarrassed for being less than transparent about a matter that involves the well-being of the children of this county.
They treat us like those children they serve by withholding information that is not theirs to withhold.
Whether the decision was right or wrong is not for us to decide, but when things happen behind closed doors, quietly, it gives them an air of impropriety.
Or such is the case last week in the dismissal of Cyndy Flores from her position as executive director of the Fraser Valley Metropolitan Recreation District.
Reporter Stephanie Miller regularly attends meetings of the Fraser Rec District board of directors. Her coverage has increased over recent months with the passage of a $19.5 million bond that will be used for improvements to the Pole Creek Golf Course, Fraser Valley Sports Complex and the construction of a new recreation center.
Flores was dismissed after 22 years with the district. If there was a vote on this matter, it was not held during the regular board meeting with our reporter present.
When we called to ask for more information about this decision ” when it was made or by whom ” we were stonewalled.
Board President Jim Fox became audibly frustrated with reporter Tonya Bina for pressing the issue ” as if it was no one’s business.
After waving its arms with billboards and ad campaigns for months, after winning $19.5 million from voters’ pockets, the Fraser Rec. District is not allowed to do its business in private.
The exact reason behind the decision to let Flores go may be the stuff of executive session, but the vote itself must be made in public. (This newspaper does not plan to drop this issue until the minutes from the meeting where the decision was made are released to us.)
Both decisions ” not to renew the contracts of two principals and to dismiss the executive director ” may be justified, but making those decisions out of the public eye is not.