Is Something Being Hidden?

   Written by on September 7, 2017 at 10:49 am

All too often a small but vocal group affects Southside Virginia Board decisions. Apparently some Board members, both School and Supervisors, equate volume and intensity with numbers.

These groups inflate their influence by contacting all board members instead of only the one representing them. A group of six citizens who each contact all seven Board of Supervisors or School Board members does not expand into a group of 42. They are still only six people.

We regularly ask various board members who say “I’ve had a lot of constituent response” how many is a lot? Is “a lot” two, twelve, or twenty? Is “numerous” more than “a lot”?  Frankly, the only thing that counts is an actual count. Why can’t Mr. or Ms. Supervisor or Board member say “I’ve had three calls”?

When I attempt to get a general number from these people they usually say, “I don’t keep track of that.” What do you mean you “don’t keep track”? You just said you are voting a certain way due to citizen response? How can you not keep track?

Your position involves representing your constituents. How can you not keep track?

Anytime someone cites citizen response as a reason for a vote but refuses to give even a general number or range it is cause for alarm.  Even if it is unintentional it appears they are hiding something.

If they really don’t remember roughly how many people contacted them there is more cause for alarm. Do we want people representing us and making decisions regarding our schools and county who can’t or don’t count?

The same is true when someone refuses to answer questions citing closed session. Under the Freedom of Information Act the only information that is protected is what actually happened in closed session and even then anything that does not comply with the requirements is not protected. Votes are public. The reason you chose to vote as you did is not protected. What happens before and after the closed session is not protected. Again, when someone broadly cites closed sessions it appears they are hiding something.

On a similar vein, refusing to speak with the press is a cause for alarm. No one has to speak with me or anyone else. On the other hand, we represent the public who have the right to know what is happening and how their tax money is being spent and why certain decisions are made. Why don’t you want them to know why you voted as you did?

In our recent article on the School Board’s decision not to renew Coach J. R. Allen’s stipend I spoke with one board member on press day. He declined to comment on the record. I emailed the rest of the board. As I told numerous (4) people, “Don’t complain about the article being one-sided when you are refusing to give the other side. I cannot print what you won’t give me. My job is to give you the opportunity to comment. Your job is to present your side.”

In our first article three weeks ago with the time constraints before press time I did not list the school board members who did not respond because they may not have had time, or they may not have received my message in time. I believe everyone should have adequate time to respond. The following week they had ample time.

We did not consider it an important story when we discovered J.R. Allen would not be retained as R-H baseball coach even though a small vocal group was bragging “We got him fired.”    Schools routinely reassign teachers and coaches. Small groups often take credit where it is undeserved.

This story became news when another group came forward with another side and then the first group changed the story or refused to comment.

Something happened and no one would say why and for the most part they still haven’t. That is what made it news.

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