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A welcome step forward on transparency

By Scott Tibbs, March 17, 2016

The Monroe County Commissioners are terrible on transparency, and they could learn a lot from the Monroe County Republican Party. The MCGOP is actively working to improve transparency in county government though the limited positions Republicans hold. The commissioners (all three of whom are Democrats) stubbornly resist transparency.

On March 15, the Republican Party's appointee to the election board (and Monroe County Republican Party chairman) William Ellis moved that the county election board members have county government e-mail addresses to ensure that all e-mail correspondence on official business is stored on the county's e-mail server and subject to open records requests. That proposal was unanimously passed.

The reason this is significant, especially for the county commissioners, is that two of the three county commissioners openly use their private e-mail accounts for official business.

The other reason this is significant is that while Ellis earns a small stipend for his position, the county commissioners earn an annual salary of $32,921.00 for holding their position while the county commissioners' president earns an annual salary of $34,249.00. They are earning more than many full-time county employees make!

There are many workers in county government (and the private sector) who make significantly less money than Pat Stoffers and Julie Thomas, but have no issue with having separate work and personal e-mail addresses. For the many workers in county government who play by the rules and have their e-mail open to FOIA requests, what does it say to them that two of the three elected county administrators who make significantly more than they do are unwilling to play by the same rules? What do you think that does to employee morale?

When I ran for city council last year, I highlighted the need for more transparency in city government. And while the city has its problems, county government is much worse. Taxpayers deserve better than what we are getting from Pat Stoffers and Julie Thomas. Both of them should immediately stop using their personal email for official county government business and apologize for not following basic "best practices" in their employment with the county.