The chief executive of a government entity, such as a school district’s superintendent, answers to elected directors who sit on a school board. And the school board members answer to the public — the voters.
That’s the way it works pretty much everywhere in America.
Yet, when Walla Walla School Board member Max Carrera submitted his resignation, which is expected to be presented at tonight’s School Board meeting, school district officials would not release his name to the public.
Officials said the resignation was being treated as a personnel matter and therefore the district would not release the identity of the resigning School Board member until tonight’s meeting.
School officials are wrong. When a publicly elected Board member sends in a letter of resignation it is a public matter. We checked with Washington state Assistant Attorney General for Government Accountability Timothy D. Ford and he concurred.
But even if it were a personnel matter — it would then be between the employee (Board member) and the boss (voters). It is still a public matter.
Thankfully, the dispute over the release of the name quickly became moot when Carrera returned the Sunday phone call of U-B reporter Maria P. Gonzalez on Monday and told her he was resigning. This matter did not need to become an open-records issue.
Carrera told Gonzalez he was stepping down and why. (This occurred after Monday’s edition was printed.)
On Monday, just after noon, Carrera said he was leaving the School Board to focus his time and attention on raising his teenage son and young daughter as a single dad. Carrera said he is also helping care for his mother, whose health is declining.
It’s a very understandable reason.
Why the secrecy?
It’s still unclear who made the decision to treat this as a personnel matter and why.
We hope it was a mistake made in understanding the law regarding when information can be withheld from the public.
The next time a similar situation involving elected School Board members arises, we would hope the people would be properly informed in a timely manner as to the intent of their elected School Board members.