Wed, Feb. 19

Editorial: If you say you’re going to do something, then do it

Key to personal integrity is doing what you say you are going to do.

That’s amplified many times over when you are an elected official. At this level, doing what you say you are going to do is paramount to winning and keeping the public’s trust.

Tuesday night, the Mingus Union School Board failed to do this.

The agenda for the Tuesday meeting clearly stated Mingus board members would have a “discussion” and possibly take action on a variety of things that are clearly the public’s business.

Among the things on which the Mingus School Board promised the community there would be “discussion and possible action” were the following:

• Selection of a new superintendent and terms of a contract for a new superintendent.

• Instructions given to the Mingus attorney over a request to delay the school district consolidation election from 2019 to 2020.

• Legal counsel to represent Mingus over the request to delay the school district consolidation election.

• And, whether or not to seek restitution from former administrative assistant Brandi Bateman as part of her misdemeanor conviction after originally being accused of forging a letter to the Arizona Attorney General Civil Litigation Division and purporting it to be authored by former Mingus Union Superintendent Penny Hargrove.

In addition, prior to Tuesday’s meeting, School Board President Lori Drake told The Verde Independent the superintendent issue would be “thoroughly and transparently discussed by the governing board as a whole at our June 11 meeting.”

That did not happen on the superintendent issue, or any of the other issues on which full discussion was promised, in writing, according to the meeting agenda.

Instead, on each of those four issues, following two hours of closed-door discussions behind the public’s back, school board members unanimously voted to instruct the Mingus attorney to “act according to instructions given in Executive Session.”

That was the extent of the board’s “discussion” on these issues.

What’s especially puzzling about this tight-lipped approach to conducting the public’s business is that none of the four issues are particularly sensitive or volatile.

As for the superintendent issue, there is only one applicant. Where is the harm in telling the public the school board wants to negotiate an employment contract with Mike Westcott? Or, in the alternative, that Mingus wants to advertise further in hopes of attracting more applicants?

With the school district consolidation issue, why not just come out and say what your preference is on having the election in 2019 vs. 2020?

As for hiring outside legal counsel to arrive at an answer on an election date, do board members not think the community deserves to know if Mingus is going to lawyer up at taxpayer expense to decide when and if an election is going to happen. The last time that happened, Mingus succeeded in getting the consolidation election shelved.

Finally, with the Bateman restitution, why keep everyone in the dark. Mingus is either going to seek restitution or say enough is enough with this case. If it’s the former, OK, good, we’re done with it. If it’s the latter, Mingus runs the risk of coming across as a bully to some folks in the community and that might explain the reason for secrecy.

But with each of these four issues, Mingus Union School Board members, in writing, through the board’s published agenda, promised the community they would discuss these issues.

They didn’t do that.

They didn’t do what they said they would do.

We should expect better from elected officials.

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