Did you ever start a project meaning to deal with one thing, then go from there to fix a related thing that, in hindsight, you didn't fully understand - something you really should have left alone? And then it broke?
Well, that's what we did in the "Valley" portion of Monday's editorial, titled "Mountains & Valley." We went too far and did some undeserved damage to some members of the Harrietstown Town Council. We regret it.
We still firmly stand behind part of that "Valley": The town council's post-executive-session vote, finalizing a settlement with former bookkeeper Brenda LaPierre for her claim that town Supervisor Larry Miller sexually harassed her, should have been included in the minutes of that December meeting. It wasn't logged initially, and it still was absent from the minutes the town board approved at its next meeting in January. A record of the vote finally surfaced in March, subsequent to an Enterprise reporter's inquiry.
The law properly requires that votes by public bodies be recorded and made available to the public, in whose name these decisions are made. It is the supervisor's job to relay minutes from post-executive-session votes to the town clerk, and for whatever reason, he didn't do it in this case. It also slipped by the other board members when they approved the minutes at the following meeting.
But we went too far in assigning blame for, as we put it, "effectively covering up what may of may not have been a minor scandal." It seemed right at the time that the board as a whole was responsible for a lack of transparency, but in hindsight, we were in no position to make such a judgment. We don't know all the dynamics that went on behind the scenes. Therefore, it was wrong to suggest that the board as a whole, or any of its members, was dishonest.
We apologize for the harm we did to town councilmen's reputations.
After this editorial went to press today, the Enterprise heard from Harrietstown Clerk Patricia Gillmett, who said that the Dec. 30 post-executive session vote was included in the minutes - although that part of the minutes had not been received by the Enterprise and she had previously said she had not received a record of that vote to include in the minutes. A story on this news can be read by following the link below.
Upon reflection, we understand what a tough situation the town board members were boxed into. We still find it distasteful that, in a clause in the settlement, they promised not to discuss Ms. LaPierre's claim, but that's common in legal settlements. If they had bucked their lawyer and insurance company's advice in favor of full transparency, that wouldn't have been so ideal - it might have put taxpayers on the hook for huge legal fees. We were out of line to say town board members "sign(ed) away (their) honesty" with this decision. They had no good option. Faced with such a painful choice, we might have, reluctantly, done the same thing.