To The Daily Sun,
As was reflected in the Gilmanton selectmen's minutes of April 4, 11 ,18 and 25, the selectmen were unanimous in their support of audio-recording their public minutes and the saving of those recordings for seven years. At the time, I imagine, they felt there was nothing to fear in having the meetings recorded. They have obviously discovered otherwise. They have completely reversed their decision and there will no longer be any further recording (see story - May 20). It would seem, then, that they have in fact found that there is something to fear after all. And that would be: themselves! The truth is the Gilmanton selectmen and town administrator have discontinued recordings to
protect themselves, from themselves.
It won't work, and this is why:
If anyone in Gilmanton were to take the time to review the existing recordings and documented minutes of the last few months, they would discover their local governing body consists of two completely inexperienced selectmen and one, though a bit more experienced, more a follower than a leader and thereby oftentimes ineffective, and a town administrator who has developed a consistent history of passing the buck and scapegoating. Combinations which have resulted in more than a few serious mistakes. Worse, the tapes and minutes demonstrate that when confronted with these mistakes, they have shown a very unflattering side of themselves as less of a governing body and
more as a group more driven by their own arrogant self-centeredness, self-interests and agendas than public service. Not exactly what you want to have an audio record of . . . and so they stopped recording.
The point is though, it's too late! The decision to quit recording falls somewhere between putting your foot in your mouth (which they've done sowell, so often ) and shooting yourself in the foot. By fully advocating something and then discontinuing it because it revealed things they did not want the community to be aware of, the selectman and town administrator have simply drawn even more attention and scrutiny to themselves. The spotlight is on! Now, everyone at these meetings will be recording their own minutes and matching those recordings to the officially released minutes, and I would think those minutes had better match up to the extent that they satisfy the guidelines under RSA 91-A:2 "Meetings Open To The Public." If the board and administrator think they can sugar-coat and somehow edit out their embarrassing inadequacies from the public minutes, they are mistaken.
It may help if they try to remember that transparency isn't some gift they give to the people, or some talking-point they use to get elected. It is a legal obligation. They need to abide by it, and be held to it.