3 local governments flunk openness test

Tue, 01/08/2008 - 4:42pm
By: anonymous

The new year traditionally brings a spirit of optimism in our local governments. The newly-elected politicians are sworn in, and they’re ready to get down to solving the people’s problems with a can-do spirit.

Sadly, three of our governments have already started the year off on the wrong course.

On Dec. 17, the Fayette County Board of Education approved a new set of boundaries for the system’s elementary school students. Unless you were one of the 100 or so crammed into the meeting room, you probably haven’t seen the final map.

This newspaper fielded a phone call from South Africa from an agitated parent who tried to find someone at the school system to email a copy of the map. The parent was frustrated, because nobody answered the phone system Dec. 21.

We understand it was the holiday season, but something this important should have been posted on the system’s website the next day, and disseminated to the local media. We finally got our copy this past Monday afternoon, nearly three weeks after the map decision was made.

Last Wednesday, the Fayette County Commission held its first meeting of the year and stubbed its toe.

Commissioner Peter Pfeifer wanted approval of the Aug. 1, 2007, meeting minutes tabled until the new county attorney could review the minutes. Pfeifer maintains the County Commission broke the law by holding an executive session without having an attorney present. He also received a ruling from the state’s Attorney General stating the meeting was illegal.

Pfeifer didn’t receive a second for his motion to table the issue, and the minutes were subsequently approved, without another thought or mention of the county breaking the law.

But perhaps the most egregious errors occurred during last Thursday’s Tyrone Town Council meeting. Since last November’s elections, some of Tyrone’s residents have proclaimed the government was being returned to the people.

That may be the case if you were fortunate enough to attend a December meeting at newly-elected Mayor Don Rehwaldt’s house.

During the meeting, apparently, the fate of two long-standing appointees in Tyrone’s government was decided. On Thursday night, without discussion, the Town Council appointed former County Administrator Chris Venice and former County Attorney Bill McNally as town manager and attorney respectively.

Do you know how much Venice will be making or how much McNally’s hourly rate will be? Probably not, because there’s no documentation supporting the appointments.

It’s ironic that one of the other moves the new Tyrone Council made was to call for a complete audit of the local government’s fund balances.

We totally support a system of checks and balances that an audit provides, but how about providing the public with answers about what you’re doing instead of trying to cast aspersions on the former council?

Conduct your business in the sunshine, instead of at somebody’s home.

The new council members may not know better, but Councilmen Grace Caldwell and Gloria Furr should have had better sense than to let this occur.

It’s only January, but we’re hoping that Fayette’s governments will soon start warming up — and opening up — to the constituents they are supposed to serve.

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