Since the writer's strike has been going on, I've been looking for good shows to stream. My last find was the show "Suits" that was about a major law firm in New York City who seems better at hiding facts than finding facts. The show was fun to watch, but several scenes that stuck in my memory were the scenes in the archives of the featured law office. There were boxes and boxes of documents.
In one episode. a paralegal found a document that would have implicated one of the main partners of the firm in illegal activity. So, she detached it from the other document it was paired with and promptly shredded it. Since there was nothing other than a hard copy of the document, it would be gone forever.
It worked for a while until authorities found out what had happened. If you want to know what happened after that, you'll have to watch the show.
Last week, when it was revealed that, in the middle of a discussion to create a committee to advise the town commissioners and the town office on financial matters; a discussion that has lasted for over three months, the town manager suddenly found a document from approximately thirty years ago that is a financial policy for the town. Here's how we reported on this last week:
This miraculous find leads us to wonder how come the Town Manager in her tenure never found it. Shouldn't she have known about this document which could be the bases for every financial move made by the town?
Are there other documents hidden away, suddenly misplaced when convenient? For example, when it was brought up in a town meeting in March that the Town Manager hired her daughter to take a position without having clear qualifications for that job, people questioned how she could do that. Wasn't there a policy against nepotism? After the sudden retirement of our Police Chief and the immediate hiring of replacement without an advertisement of that job, people asked, "What is our hiring policy?"
Quickly, the town created an adhoc committee to create a hiring policy.
Thing is, did we really need a new hiring policy? Or did we have one that was hidden in the same place the financial policy was? Was it kept hidden by someone who didn't want citizens to know about it? Did someone want "plausible deniability?" Which other policies are hidden in a box of documents in the Oxford Town Office?
Some might say that it is unfair to air questions and assumptions like this. But is it? Have those running our town given us ANY reason to trust them and believe that they want transparency and want to follow the rules? The answer is no.
The only reason they are answering any questions at all is that we are going to meetings and we have ONE Commissioner, Katrina Greer, who asks questions and digs deep for information. If that wasn't the case, we would STILL be in the dark.
As Commissioner Greer stated about the lost financial document, “Knowing the town laws and comporting with them is the primary function of an administrator,” she said. “This is deeply concerning that a highly compensated long-term employee did not know about a town investment policy.”
Perhaps it's time for someone to take an in-depth look through the Town's files, if for no other reason than to make sure that all the policies in place are not forgotten, misplaced or ignored. It's also a way to assure the people of our town that the business of the town is being done correctly and without rewriting the rules to favor some and not others.
The citizens of Oxford deserve that.