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Someone should confiscate Mayor Finizio's "confidential" stamp

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published July 15. 2012 4:00AM

Among the many campaign promises that Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio has broken since taking office was his pledge to run an open and transparent administration.

The latest example of the mayor's disregard of Freedom of Information laws is his administration's change-of-contract deal with union firefighters, which the City Council has twice refused to ratify.

The mayor, hiding behind city lawyers, has claimed the document is not public, falling under FOI exemptions for negotiations.

But of course it is the product of negotiations with the union, which, for this phase anyway, are over. That's why there is a report, signed by the union and a delegate of the mayor. It was sent to the council, like legislation, for ratification.

It is clearly a public document. All the mayor has to do is pick up the phone and ask someone from the state Freedom of Information Commission, and they would advise him to release it.

But that's what you would do if you were trying to run a transparent administration.

Instead, the mayor, using the same law firm that has helped keep the public in the dark over the years, is delivering more of the same closed-door, back-room politics.

What happened to all that promised change?

Of course details of the proposed firefighter deal have leaked out.

Other documents that the mayor has tried to hide, like a judge's report on the police chief's baseless allegations against a former city councilor - the mayor's opponent in the last election - also leaked out.

That document was such an obvious public document that the president of the City Council went ahead and released it, in defiance of the mayor's order to keep it under wraps.

That's what happens when you try to keep secrets in a little city. Better to be open and transparent from the outset.

In a recent news story on the leaks from the firefighters deal, the mayor's chief administrative officer, Jane Glover, accused someone on the City Council of leaking the document but didn't name anyone in particular.

It's doubtful she could know who leaked the document or whether it was in fact a city councilor. Lots of people could have had access and leaked it.

Glover complained that "someone on the council" ignored the word "confidential" stamped all over the agreement and the envelope it was in.

Evidently, they think in the mayor's office that stamping something "confidential" means it is no longer a public document.

Put lipstick on a pig and it's still a pig. A contract amendment going to the City Council for ratification is a public document, no matter how many times you stamp it confidential.

It is ludicrous to think the mayor would expect the council to publicly vote on this important measure but not publicly disclose or discuss it. What kind of democracy would that be?

Of course, what started the negotiations that led to this agreement was an apparent stunt by the mayor, to lay off 25 firefighters even though city councilors said there was enough money in the budget to pay them.

The same stunt, to lay off 10 city police officers, backfired when the police chief shockingly disclosed that there was enough money in the budget to keep them after all. The mayor and chief couldn't even get their stories straight.

The eventual police union negotiations that "averted" the layoffs led to an agreement, one finally released by the mayor, that resulted in no apparent cost savings. It reads more like a peace pact, with the police union promising to support the mayor in the event of a budget referendum.

Now that a budget referendum is indeed unfolding, the mayor is going to have to work to restore some confidence among voters.

I might suggest truth, openness and transparency would go a long way.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

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