Public deserves some answers

Published 11:57 pm Saturday, November 15, 2008

Local government agencies and public bodies need to realize they serve the citizens of Lawrence County and that public access is a vital part of that process.

And it is up to the community to let its elected leaders know what type of transparency it expects when it comes to city, county and school districts.

We are seeing a trend where officials are quick to cite the Ohio Revised Code’s open meetings laws or some vague language in a union contract as a way of not providing the public information that could have significant impact on the community, their lives or their tax dollars.

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One example is the recent case of an Ironton police officer who has been fired for alleged misconduct.

Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship and Police Chief Jim Carey have been cautious in what they have said, even declining to name the officer initially. And at the advice of prosecutor J.B. Collier, they have not made public the results of an internal investigation, even though that part of the inquiry is completed.

Another example is the Dawson-Bryant School Board’s decision to go into a closed-door session with teachers who appear to want further discussion when it comes to the district’s next superintendent.

Was the board legally correct in going into the closed session? Sure.

Does that absolve it of its responsibility to the community to give at least some explanation of why this was needed? Absolutely not. We hope to hear some of that information next week.

We fully understand that these governmental bodies and those elected to serve on them are essentially navigating a legal minefield when it comes to handling situations like this.

Our hope would be that all parties involved will take a little more time to study the Ohio law and understand that just because you “can” do something doesn’t mean that it is the right thing to do, especially when it comes to those who are on the public payroll.

Citizens deserve to know how its public servants are meeting the roles they are paid or elected to do.