Secretive City Council buries report

Secrets destroy credibility. If Dr. Phil’s comment that people are only as sick as their secrets is true, then the collective being that is the Encinitas City Council is on life support — they are keeping secrets.
I believe the public has a right to see the reports their tax dollars pay for. Don’t you? In Encinitas, Mayor James Bond, Deputy Mayor Jerome Stocks and Councilwomen Kristin Gaspar and Maggie Houlihan believe government has the right to keep reports a secret. What do you believe?
In 2009, the city paid $96,000 for Nichols Consulting to produce a report on roads. In March 2010, the consultant delivered a completed report to the city. When residents asked to see a copy, the city denied the public access to it, labeling the report as a “draft.”
In the June 7, 2011 San Diego Union-Tribune watchdog report “Encinitas ordered to release road report draft,” Deputy Mayor Stocks was quoted as saying of the unreleased draft, “When you are constantly being questioned about why you are doing this it makes it a lot harder to move forward especially since the end result is not a dictate. The end result is a tool…so that’s why organizations, or at least government organizations, are very reticent to hand out their draft reports because they are a work in progress.”
If Nichols Consulting provided the “finished” report in 2010, why wasn’t it released to the public? If it was still considered a “draft,” what changes were made, and who was making them?
City Manager Phil Cotton was quoted in the Sept. 7, 2010 North County Times article, “Advocate sues over repair report,” as saying of releasing the report draft: “If we start handing out drafts, it really confuses the public.” What is confusing for the public is why the council won’t let citizens see a report their tax dollars paid for?
How can the public ask questions about how tax money is spent if they can’t read the report?
What is it Stocks thinks the public shouldn’t question? Stocks may not like being questioned by the public, but it is the public’s city hall, and the public has a right to read and question reports we pay for.
Schoolteachers make their students show their work to protect against cheating. We should demand the council do the same — show their work.
Taxpayers sued to see the report. Superior Court Justice Timothy Casserly then ruled May 24 that the city must release the report.
Rather than hold an open meeting, the council majority scheduled a closed meeting for 3 p.m. June 3, with only a 24-hour notice to vote on whether to file for appeal against the judge’s ruling.
Despite the short notice, outraged residents came to city hall. Mayor Bond noted the size of the crowd, saying that this was the most people ever to attend a closed meeting.
“The public deserves to hear your deliberations,” resident Tony Kranz said. Councilwoman Teresa Bath supported an open meeting. Gaspar told the public she was “not ready tonight” to have a discussion on access to public records. What did she think she was there for? The council then met behind closed doors, returning with a vote of 4-1 in favor of filing for an appeal.
I think the public has a right to hear, in open session, how their tax dollars are being spent. Bond, Stocks, Gaspar and Houlihan think they should hide those discussions. What do you think?
Founding Father John Adams warned that “‘liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people.” The council majority is hiding that knowledge. They’d rather you not know. You might have too many questions. You might get confused. It’s their secret. We pay the price.


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