Local Editorials

Our view: Cary officials can do better

Cary Village Hall is seen Oct. 24.
Cary Village Hall is seen Oct. 24.

Earlier this year, infighting between Cary trustees led to a harassment complaint.

That complaint led to an independent lawyer investigation and that investigation led to a bill of $4,845, which for months Cary trustees voted to not pay, arguing that Village Administrator Jake Rife overstepped his bounds by hiring the firm in the first place.

Eventually, the bill was paid.

But the village has attempted to keep the report a secret.

That attempt went so far that trustees agreed after a vote in closed session to attempt to dispose of the report, which would ultimately cost the village and taxpayers $4,845.

Luckily for trustees, the board asked its lawyer about disposing of the costly report before doing so, and Village Attorney Scott Uhler advised the penalty for doing so “can be considered a Class 4 felony.”

The problem here goes beyond the infighting between Trustees Ellen McAlpine and Jim Cosler, which cost the taxpayers in village funds. Those actions were deemed by Chicago-based law firm Rosenthal, Murphey, Coblentz & Donahue in a follow-up review to not violate the village’s harassment policy on the technicality that the actions were not based on a protected status

But they were certainly unprofessional at best.

And the actions that followed by the board were no better.

For starters, voting in any manner in closed session is not allowed for any public body.

Whether Mayor Mark Kownick wants to call it a poll or consensus when he goes board member to board member and asks an opinion, he’s still violating the Open Meetings Act.

Beyond that, whether board members want a document to be public or not should never be up for a vote in the first place since it’s not a matter of opinion.

Instead, it’s a matter of law.

Public records need to be released and government needs to be transparent.

We treated the attorney’s report as such once it was obtained, reporting on its contents and posting it for our readers to view and make their own choices based upon viewing the document which had cost them about $5,000 to obtain.

Going forward, Cary officials need to change how they operate, stop voting outside of the law behind closed doors, and start being more transparent with their actions.

Also, trustees need to regain civility. There are ways to advocate for your opinions and for doing your best as a public representative without name-calling and attacking a political opponent’s character. It’s time to start caring more about integrity and less about personal beefs.

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