Give public the details

Government at every level is funded by taxpayers, and some officials are elected by the people. Those officials, in turn, often hire people to carry out the day-to-day tasks of government, but the line of authority ends with the public.

The public’s right to know is key to good, responsible government.

In recent years, we’ve seen some local public officials – such as police chiefs and school administrators – placed on leave and then forced to quit their jobs. The taxpayers, who provide the money for the salaries, never were told why.

Recently, we found out about another case of public officials being placed on paid leave.

Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School District Superintendent Dan Russom and St. Johnsville’s D.H. Robbins Elementary School Principal Christopher Fatta have been placed on paid leave after school officials received complaints about the two. The superintendent of the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego Board of Cooperative Educational Services is filling in for Russom in his absence.

So far, BOCES and school district officials are giving no reason publicly for the educators’ paid leave. We can understand some secrecy during the investigation of this matter, but in the near future, school officials should inform the public about the accusations and details.

As the secrecy continues, rumor and speculation will grow. The public will become suspicious and uneasy, and false information may circulate. In some cases, members of the community cast the innocent in an unfair light because no one knows the facts.

When the public knows the truth about these cases, people can call for measures to prevent similar problems from happening.

Unlike private people working for private companies, those working in the public sector are responsible to the people. We urge transparency in these matters.