Last week’s editorial column seemed well-intentioned, but needed more information and context.  I applaud the paper’s new owner in seeking integrity and openness in our local government.  Unfortunately, there’s some confusion about what’s transparent, and what’s hidden.  

Firstly, the executive Session at last week’s assembly meeting clearly met the requirements of the Open Meetings Act.  It’s not only legal, but appropriate for parties seeking legal settlement to negotiate directly and confidentially with elected leaders.  The meeting was recorded, and all actions occurred by assembly vote after reconvening in public.  Nothing “secret” about it, and entirely consistent with applicable law.  A successful settlement in this case could also clearly avoid financial burdens to the borough.

Contrast this with another situation, in which the assembly directed the borough manager to meet with Southeast Road Builders which is also appealing a permitting decision by the borough. The manager is conducting these meetings without involvement from any elected official, with minimal reporting in public of the content or intent of negotiations, and without the transparency requirements of the Open Meetings Act. 

This party is appealing the current assembly’s overturning of a permit. Shouldn’t the assembly members be present, to ensure that their employee (the manager) is representing their intention on this matter?  Which of these two settlement processes is more “secret” and in need of greater scrutiny by journalists?  Hint: in seeking transparency and integrity, one can’t just take an administrator’s statements as truth, without documentation or other verification. Innocently or not, borough administrators sometimes make incorrect statements regarding applicable law.

Nicholas Szatkowski

Chilkat Valley Rural Citizens