The public’s business should be done in public. We have sounded this charge time and time again over the years. In the wake of a curious situation that the Hamilton City Council was faced with, we believe it’s a great opportunity to sound this charge again.
The Hamilton council, at its meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 19, was tasked with repealing a resolution for water department raises which it had swept through for approval at its previous meeting on Feb. 4. It then turned around and passed a clarifying resolution, correcting an error included in the previous ordinance.
The raises were intended to be merit-incentive raises to retain water and waste water employees who were considering leaving the local department for substantially better pay at nearby cities.
While covering the meeting, a Journal Record reporter was left perplexed as the raises were motioned for, seconded and unanimously passed without any discussion at all (something which is nearly unheard of this council). The proposed pay scale was never presented publicly before councilors voted for it either.
For whatever reason, the public was left in the dark on the details of the raises (our reporters knew a recommendation was forthcoming, but numbers were never brought up in a public meeting). As a result, in some strange irony, the council unintentionally passed raises including non-certified employees, something which very well may have been caught had the pay scale been read aloud. Fortunately for the council, it was an easy fix and it appears there was little harm done.
While this charge is definitely meant to protect the people, we also believe that it can protect our local elected leaders as well. The sad reality is that with leadership, people are prone to either assume the best or, more commonly, the worst, when there is room to question intent. Few will give leaders the benefit of the doubt.
We believe that we have a good and honest group of municipal and county leaders. We encourage them make sure that there are careful, intentional steps are in place to keep the public in the light with matters that they not only should be informed about, but are required to be.
Don’t give us the chance to fill in the blanks, especially when it could be easily avoided.