SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

October 22, 2013

Our view: Official silence does not serve the public good

A person who does not have the courage to speak his or her mind has no business holding public office.

There is a disturbing trend among elected officials across the region to adopt self-imposed gag orders, refusing to discuss or speak to the general public on matters of concern to the community. Instead, they defer to a board chairman or paid administrator to speak for them. More often than not, those designated speakers have nothing to say, as well.

These officials justify giving their constituents the silent treatment with the need for board unity or to guard against liability concerns. Nonsense. They are instead denying their constituents the full representation in local government that they were elected to provide.

If officials are unwilling to speak to those who elected them, voters should replace them with others who better understand the function of representative government.

Reporter John Toole of our sister paper The Eagle-Tribune found a number of examples of elected officials who have nothing to say. In Derry, N.H., the Town Council will not discuss details of a decision to terminate the town administrator without cause. In the Timberlane Regional School District in Plaistow, N.H., it is policy that only the chairman officially speaks for the School Board outside meetings. In that town, library trustees refer questions to their chairman.

“That’s not right,” Windham (N.H.) Taxpayers Coalition board member Ken Eyring told Toole. “They are working for the people. When people clam up and shield information from the public, they are not performing their duties with the public’s good in mind.”

“These are elected officials doing the people’s business,” Granite State Taxpayers chairman Jim Adams said.

In Derry, the behavior of the town administrator has been the talk of the town. John Anderson faces two misdemeanor charges over an incident at his home in which police say he exposed himself and masturbated in front of a satellite television salesman.

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