For those interested in the underpinnings of the SAU chairman’s resignation, here is a letter with my opinion published in the Eagle Tribune on June 19, 2014. You will see that I take issue with a widely held misconception concerning non-public meetings. It is one of many salvos to come in my long-standing crusade to get the rules related to non-public meetings changed in order to prevent unnecessary secrecy in public business. You will also see in a post later today that the school board chair thinks I owe the district an apology because of this letter and many other alleged transgressions.
Thank you for Dustin Luca’s coverage of the resignation of SAU 55 Chairman, Jason Cipriano.
To my mind, the controversy concerning Mr. Cipriano’s resignation comes down to two issues:
- the reasonableness of disclosing information/conclusions of a non-public meeting;
- the accountability of elected officials to voters through communication with the press.
Although this distinction seems to have dwindling acknowledgement, not everything in non-public is necessarily confidential. If it were, there would be no public minutes. The fact that SAU 55 non-public minutes have one or two topic sentence descriptors with no discussion content whatsoever shows how the board is failing to distinguish between what should be confidential and the happenstance of non-public discussion.
Conclusions leading to action made in non-public should be made public. That, at the very least, is what the public should demand.
To my mind, Mr. Cipriano not only did nothing wrong, he should be praised for respecting the voters enough to communicate to them through the press what was owing them of their elected officials. The idea that absolutely everything said in non-public is a big secret to be kept forever when the minutes are not sealed is ludicrous and harmful to the public interest.
Since this issue involved the performance review of the superintendent and as such was a personnel issue, the board as a whole should have issued a press release in consultation with the superintendent out of courtesy. That the board neglected to do this put the chairman in an awkward position but he nevertheless rightly felt the voters were owed some comment.
Mr. Luca’s article quoted me as saying I think superintendent reviews should be conducted in public and that is correct, but in that I am very much an outlier and my assertion is much more a philosophical position than a practical objection to our proceedings. Just because the law allows non-public for certain topics doesn’t mean that every discussion of those topics should be done in non-public. This is another distinction that is increasingly seldom made.
Sandown representative on the Timberlane School Board and SAU 55 Board