OPINION: County Catch 22

Have you tried e-mailing one of the Saline County Commissioners lately at their “@saline.org” address?  Did they get it?  Did they read it?

On October 25, I e-mailed Commissioners my concerns about proposed by-laws for a newly created committee tasked with reducing the jail population.  My e-mail to [email protected] “bounced back” but I had an alternate.  At the televised October 27 meeting, Smith said he’d read my e-mail.  John Price said he usually reads e-mails sent to his home address.  Monte Shadwick and Luci Larson both said they prefer e-mails be sent to their work e-mail addresses.  Jim Gile was absent.

Earlier that day, Commissioners also gave new preferences for phone contact information.

So how do citizens get ahold of Commissioners?  Haven’t they heard about the brouhaha surrounding Hillary Clinton and the inability to protect possibly confidential information on private e-mail accounts?

I’ve long been concerned about behaviors that could limit the public’s ability to have input.  Fortunately, ACCESS TV documents the October 27 conversation.  About an hour into the Open Forum, I passed out printed copies of my e-mail and verbally summarized my concerns.  Article V, section 5 of the proposed by-laws states that the committee meetings are open to the public but does not provide a mechanism for those in the audience to offer comments.

Monte Shadwick said he did not want to burden the committee’s chair with a procedure for allowing public comment.  Luci Larson said that the chair might want to forgo opening the meeting up to comment.  She said that attendees could always save their comments and send them to committee members or to the Commissioners.  But that only works if one has the correct contact information and if elected officials and staff are willing to take those calls and read those e-mails.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard Commissioners speak about not reading e-mails.

Such behaviors aren’t acceptable to me.  Are they acceptable to you?

Opinion piece written for KSAL by Karen Shade of Salina