Thursday, November 15, 2007

Oaths: Made to be Broken?

What's wrong with leaking executive session information?

First of all, a board member makes certain pledges. Here's one: "I will recognize that authority rests with the Board of Education and will make no personal promises nor take any private action that may compromise the board."

Here's another: "I will hold confidential all matters pertaining to the schools which, if disclosed, would needlessly injure individuals or the schools. In all other matters, I will provide accurate information and, in concert with my fellow board members, interpret to the staff the aspirations of the community for its school."

In other words, the board as a whole, not any individual, works out those matters of personnel, contracts and possible litigation that are protected by the rules for executive session. The board always has to vote in public at some point on these matters and that's when a dissenter can vote "no" or express an opinion.

Leaking such matters is simply breaking the rules.

Waiting for an official decision might have only staved off the dismay that many felt at this new sign of trouble in the school district, but both the administrators and board members who obeyed the closed session rules would at least know they upheld their oaths. The post-6/11 team did not go public in a press conference. But while the outcome is still unknown, now they are being portrayed in online forums as "bandits" ruled by greed. Speculation is taking the place of facts. Once again, Plainfield is coming across as a lawless place where anything goes.

Pulling strings and pushing buttons are two of Plainfield's favorite indoor sports. But who benefits? Not the community. And maybe not even the string-pullers and button-pushers, who can find themselves the next victims of the everyone-for-himself mentality.

Next time an elected official raises one hand to take an oath, somebody should look behind his or her back to see whether the other hand has its fingers crossed.

--Bernice Paglia


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