This is what you get when you put marxist/socialist democrats in charge….you would think espouse Truth – voted to withhold the Truth from taxpayers until they can manipulate or, in their own words, “more carefully consider the repercussions of making the documents public.” So much for Truth …the school board spends $700,000 per year to produce audits that nobody can see and noone will ever know if any problems exist or are acted upon. So much for transparency…Willa Powell. Meliza Campos, and Malik Evans are up for election this year….time to fire them…they constantly call for parent involvement but make it very difficult to get information….I would highly suggest that you immediately release the reports, along with a statement that you will use the information contained to improve the Rochester City School District. Then, do it….If others stonewall your improvements, then THEY will be seen as having something to hide or protect. You will be seen as an open, transparent, taxpayer friendly innovator. Do you have the courage to do so? Do you have the skill to pull it off?
The city school board has rejected a proposal to release reports produced by its Office of Auditor General, saying that it needs to more carefully consider the repercussions of making the documents public.
The 5-2 vote came against the recommendation of a committee that earlier this month called for the board to release the records, which were requested by the Democrat and Chronicle in January. Board members Allen Williams and Cynthia Elliott — who both sit on the audit committee that supported the resolution — were the only two who voted to release the audits.
The vote came after midnight, roughly six hours into a marathon school board meeting that began Thursday evening.
The resolution put before the board called not only for making the reports public in their entirety, but to post the information on the district web site.
Instead, board members asked their policy committee to review the issue and come back with a new recommendation.
Some board members who voted against the plan expressed concerns that releasing the reports could open the district to liability.
“It’s a good idea generally, but there could be some ramifications,” said Van White, a member of the audit committee who initially supported the resolution but then changed his mind. “In thinking about it some more I have some additional concerns.”
Other school officials, including Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard, said that while they wanted to be transparent with information about district operations, they worried that making the reports public in their entirety would discourage people from cooperating fully with investigations.
“My biggest concern is that if everything that is published internally is published on the web, you begin to sanitize the reports,” Brizard said in an interview Friday. “I do support the transparency that we have to give, but at the same time I want to be responsible in how we do that.”
Still, several board members and public records advocates disagreed, saying the board’s rejection of the proposal gives the impression that they are stonewalling.
“Do we hide the truth because of the possibility of criticism?” said Robert Freeman, executive director of the state’s Committee on Open Government. “That’s one of the purposes of the Freedom of Information law: To help expose malfeasance and misspending.”
The school board created the Office of Auditor General under former Superintendent Manuel Rivera after facing repeated criticism from state offices for failing to monitor its finances. As recently as last year, an audit released publicly by the state comptroller’s office criticized the school board for failing to monitor school district money between 2002 and 2008.
The board spends $700,000 a year on the seven-person staff, which is responsible for monitoring how the district spends its $700 million budget. It has produced 23 audits, and there are several more coming in the next few weeks. Smaller districts — and even some larger ones, including Buffalo — do not have comparable offices.
The Democrat and Chronicle filed a public records request under the state’s Freedom of Information Law in January requesting all of the reports produced by the office. The district provided copies of only three of the audits, and nearly all of their contents were redacted.
At the time, a school district spokesman said the information redacted was exempt from the state’s open government laws. But open government advocates said it is unlikely the reports did not contain factual information, details about school policies and district actions, things that should be made public. Headings on certain sections of the audits — some of the few words left visible — indicate they include exactly that type of material.
“Here it is March,” Freeman said. “This is taking much too long. The guidance is clear. There is no reason to delay the disclosure.”
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