City should give account details

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 1, 2003

City government nemesis Leroy Schmidt performed a good service for the community at a recent Suffolk City Council meeting when he raised questions regarding a trip last summer by Councilman Charles Brown to Harvard to ostensibly learn how to be a better public servant.

While the choice of Brown for this duty is an interesting one – as opposed to say a member of the management team who could likely gain and apply more of the knowledge to the betterment of Suffolk – as are questions raised by Schmidt about the expense of the trip, what’s troubling is the veil of secrecy that surrounds the matter.

It wasn’t until Schmidt brought it to light that anybody outside of city hall knew anything about it. That wasn’t the case last year when then-City Manager Myles Standish attended the class. In addition, even after Schmidt made it public, city officials last week refused to provide Suffolk News-Herald reporter Allison Williams with Brown’s documented expenses associated with the trip, stating that the records would have to be sought under Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act.


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Why the secrecy? If the trip was indeed legitimate city business, then why are the people who paid for it not entitled to an accounting of what was spent? For that matter, they are also entitled to find out just what Brown learned at Harvard and how he plans to apply it to improve the running of the city.

The concept of credible, open government demands that city officials move swiftly to give a full, public accounting.