Is secrecy still repugnant in a free society? (December 15, 2015)

Well, another month has gone by with no transparency report from the Town of Apple Valley to inform citizens of the costs associated with the hostile takeover of Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company, despite the fact that the Town council voted on November 17th to seize Ranchos via eminent domain.

If you remember, at the September 23rd Town council meeting, Assistant Town Manager of Finance Administration Marc Puckett announced this report would henceforth be issued monthly, a point echoed by Mayor Pro Tem Barb Stanton and council member Curt Emick. Previously, Town representatives had issued only sporadic and misleading statements about the amounts spent on this effort.

The September transparency report was defective in several ways, but it was better than nothing, which is what we have gotten since then. Now we’re being told that the monthly transparency report will come out quarterly.

Current Mayor Barb Stanton campaigned using slogans such as, I will represent you with transparent, ethical and accountable government leadership, and I PROMISE to conduct town business in a fair, open-minded and ethical manner and continue to be transparent (emphasis in the original).

Between the missing transparency reports and newly-available details of high-handed back-room deals at Town hall, I think it appropriate that we ponder the words of our 35th president:

The very word secrecy is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it.

John F. Kennedy, Address before the American Newspaper Publishers Association, April 27, 1961

Given this, and the secrecy surrounding Apple Valley Town Hall, the obvious question is do we in Apple Valley still live in a free and open society?

Greg Raven is Co-Chair of Apple Valley Citizens for Government Accountability, and is concerned about quality of life issues.