Politicians are for open government until they’re against it. The latest ones to prove this truism are Gary Gold and Christine Ludi, members of the West Las Vegas school board.
Recently, David Romero, the board’s newest member, proposed that the board start recording its meetings, a practice that inexplicably stopped a few years ago.
His proposal sounded reasonable: While the board is not legally required to tape meetings, having a record would mean that board members could be held accountable for what they say. Besides, most governing bodies record already.
But reason seems to have escaped both Gold and Ludi during the discussion on whether to record meetings.
Said Gold: “I want open government, but when you’re dealing with highly technical issues, sometimes we have a tendency to put our foot in our mouth. That recording and statements by an inexperienced board member could jeopardize the district in the way of lawsuits. I’m still learning, and I don’t want to do something stupid that would take money away from education.”
“I don’t want something I say to be misconstrued and taken out of context,” she said.
Say what? If an entire meeting is recorded, that is the context. What more do you need?
Romero and board members Caroline Lopez and Kenny Lujan batted down such arguments.
“I may be the new one here,” Romero said, “but I have no problem being accountable for what I say. What happens when I say one thing today and tomorrow I conveniently forget about it?”
Why don’t Gold and Ludi want their words recorded? They say they’re afraid of lawsuits, but an entity can be sued for anything it does. A phobia of litigation shouldn’t preempt openness in government.
A couple of months ago, the Las Vegas City Council encountered a similar issue. The city originally produced minutes from an early February meeting in which then-Utilities Director George DuFour was fired. Those minutes included the essentials of that entire discussion, but city staffers asked that the council delay consideration of those minutes. Later, the council was asked to consider revised minutes that excluded the entire discussion, only leaving the council’s official actions.
That was a case in which the city apparently didn’t want to give DuFour any ammunition for his lawsuit. But in so doing, the city was violating the mayor’s oft-stated goal of transparency.
In the case of West, the board majority has common sense on this issue. We urge that the members bring up the matter again at a subsequent meeting and vote in favor of recordings.
Apparently, we have more confidence in Gold and Ludi than they do in themselves. We feel they will do just fine with this added measure of accountability.
With this lone exception of greatly failed logic, these two board members usually make a whole lot more sense.