Why the fear of sunshine?
What are they thinking?
Start with the former city manager, Doug Paris, whose contract City Council terminated for undisclosed reasons last week. A subordinate to whom Paris gave promotions and substantial raises has also resigned, and both are receiving severance packages. Somebody has been up to something that goes against the council’s expectations. City Council has to be able to trust the city manager to responsibly handle the power that comes with the job. Paris is smart enough to know that.
Someone on the council should get credit for sensing that something was amiss; Brian Miller called for the executive session. And council members united in the decision to take action. But the council doesn’t get off scot-free. What did council members know and when did they know it? Unfortunately, personnel law is so broad and forgiving that the council and Paris can easily hide behind it. Meanwhile, the level of secrecy surrounding Paris’ exit jeopardizes public confidence in the administration of city services.
This incident makes it imperative that City Council and City Hall make more public records accessible on the city’s website. Some budget information is there, if you can find it. But it’s past time to take transparency to a higher level by posting the city’s check register and entire payroll online as well, as Rowan County has done. It’s harder to keep secrets when people can so easily follow the money.
Speaking of secrecy, by the time you read this the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education may have voted on a location for the central office at an 8 a.m. meeting today. That location may be great, but it’s hard to feel good about it when board members and the people they’ve been negotiating with have insisted on keeping the public in the dark. The endless closed-door budget mediation sessions are still fresh in voters’ minds. Now the same school board reportedly has gone to great lengths to keep the names of participants in this land deal confidential. What else might this board be finding ways to keep secret?
The voter disenchantment that is pushing out county commission Chairman Jim Sides is alive and well — and highly skeptical of elected officials who control millions of the public’s dollars yet won’t give voters a red cent’s worth of information on crucial decisions. What are they thinking?