Where’s Gene?

Gene Pease’s chair sat empty at last week’s Town Council meeting. We don’t know why. Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt didn’t say. When Pease missed the council’s season opener, the business meeting on Sept. 15, Kleinschmidt announced that Pease was out sick. So why didn’t the mayor tell us why Pease was absent last week?

I’m not suggesting Pease blew off the meeting because he wasn’t in the mood. I’m sure he had a legitimate reason. But voters need to know what it is. Last year, when Jim Ward had to miss a series of meetings because a class he taught met on Monday nights, Kleinschmidt let us know why Ward would be away. When Sally Greene and Matt Czajkowski were away on family business, Kleinschmidt announced that, too. So it’s not that Kleinschmidt has a personal policy of not telling the public why a council member misses a meeting.

Voters have a right to know why council members aren’t at a meeting that voters elected them to participate in. Whether a council member’s absence is due to illness, family matters or responsibilities of their day job, voters should be told the reason. In an information vacuum, voters might conclude that the council member simply didn’t show up, and the mayor doesn’t know why. Or that the mayor doesn’t approve of the council member’s reason and by virtue of his silence, encourages voters to form a negative impression.

At the Sept. 15 business meeting, the council drafted a code of ethics. Transparency wasn’t specifically a part of the code, but maybe it should be. The mayor could begin to put transparency into practice by consistently letting the public know why council members aren’t at a meeting.
– Nancy Oates

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7 Comments

  1. gene pease

     /  October 5, 2010

    I was on the west coast speaking at a learning conference

  2. Fred Black

     /  October 5, 2010

    Is it a good idea to announce that a council member is out of town, especially since it might also mean that their home is unoccupied?

    Criminals also understand that information can provide a competitive advantage.

  3. Mark Marcoplos

     /  October 5, 2010

    I don’t think it’s the public’s business to know what a Council member is doing instead of attending the meeting. If a Council member does not show up regularly, then the other Council members will deal with it appropriately.

  4. Geoff Green

     /  October 5, 2010

    I love the conspiratorial tone of this post. Kleinschmidt announced why Jim Ward was absent; he told us why Sally Greene wasn’t there; he explained why Matt Czajkowski wasn’t there; last time he said why Gene Pease wasn’t there; but this time, silence. What could it possibly be? Where has he gone? What is Gene Pease doing? What is Gene Pease hiding? What is the Town Council hiding? HOW. FAR. UP. DOES. THE. CONSPIRACY. GO???

    If you want to make a point about the importance of clear announcements of elected officials ‘ reasons for being absent, then fine. But if the reason itself is important, it might be a good idea next time to contact Gene Pease to ask him why he wasn’t there. He’s not real hard to find. http://twitter.com/Genepease7 http://www.ci.chapel-hill.nc.us/index.aspx?page=1319

    This reminds me of your lengthy rant about Orange County trying to keep their citizens in the dark by making it difficult to view meeting video on the internet when, in fact, if you’d bothered to contact the appropriate county official, you’d have learned it was a technical issue that afflicted this one meeting.

  5. Nancy Oates

     /  October 6, 2010

    Geoff — That tone works to sell newspapers. And how many times have you heard a promo for the 11 o’clock TV news that is some version of “YOU could DIE TOMORROW!”? We figure we’ll throw in posts like that once in a while to reach a new market segment.

  6. Steve Brown

     /  October 6, 2010

    Yeah, Geoff if you don’t like it quit reading, sheesh!

  7. Mark Marcoplos

     /  October 7, 2010

    Big explosion and power outage in the Gimghoul Rd. neighborhood. You know Gene lives there. I wonder…

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