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Wayne Independent - Honesdale, PA
  • Editorial: Learning lessons should be result of this past week

  • It has certainly been a week for lessons in government, more specifically open government.
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  • It has certainly been a week for lessons in government, more specifically open government.
    We have spent a good deal of time this week sorting through the situation surrounding Honesdale Borough and various issues involving executive sessions.
    The borough council conducted two highly questionable executive sessions recently and then were stopped from doing a third after getting advice from the state borough organization.
    That, however, didn't stop them from trying to do another executive session even after they were told the wording was not specific enough to let the public know exactly what was happening.
    Some on the council, we have heard, are adamant they didn't do anything wrong and believe it's some kind of conspiracy by the newspaper to make them look bad.
    Sorry, that would be too easy.
    The fact is they looked bad because they didn't do the right things.
    It is that simple. There can be no other explanation.
    It's always easy for elected officials to point fingers and say someone is out to make them look bad.
    But that's not the case.
    There's a real easy way to remedy the problem: Do the right thing.
    Boroughs, cities and towns all across this country somehow manage to know the open meetings laws and follow them properly.
    The laws were written and passed for a reason. It is because the elected officials are spending the money of the people.
    Thus, the people not only have a right to know, but, more importantly, deserve to know what is happening with that money.
    This is anything but rocket science.
    In fact, it's quite a simple matter if you really stop and think about it.
    If the council is going to conduct an executive session for police negotiations, why not say "executive session for police negotiations?"
    Instead, they used the old faithful "personnel," but this time were called on the carpet for it and told to change their ways.
    Some on the council still believe that two executive sessions held recently were perfectly legal. That in spite of the fact they simply weren't.
    During one, a borough employee, Sgt. Ron Kominski, was the target of discussion behind closed doors. State law is very clear and says if discussion is going to be held about an employee, that employee has the right to know about it and be involved. The employee also has the right to have the meeting open to the public.
    None of that happened.
    So how can it be argued this meeting was not illegal?
    Page 2 of 2 - We welcome any member of the council, or anyone for that matter, to present this argument. Contact us and we'll do an extensive interview with you about why the meeting was legal.
    We'll then publish the story on the front page so your side of the story gets out.
    Another meeting involved a closed-door session in which a resume was distributed by the president of the council of a potential candidate for chief of police.
    That was in spite of the fact the session was supposed to be an update on the police negotiations.
    Again, please, if you are someone who sees nothing illegal about this happening, come on down and let's discuss the situation.
    We've talked to an attorney who specializes in open meetings and she said both of these situations should never have happened.
    Apparently, some people say that because this attorney is paid by the Pennsylvania Press Association, she is going to tell us anything we want to hear.
    Boy, are they mistaken.
    We talk to this expert all of the time and more times than not, she delivers news we don't want to hear. Our expert is quick to point out when what we are thinking is wrong and what government bodies are doing is within the law.
    But in this case, she was adamant and said the council acted inappropriately.
    She is right.
    We're not out to get anyone here, however, we are out for the truth. We simply want to see the council follow the laws which were established by the legislature.
    That seems like such a simple task but apparently it is more difficult than we think.
    Hopefully, these past couple of weeks will send a signal that following the law is not only the legal thing to do, it is the right thing to do.
    The taxpayers deserve nothing less.

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