An Opinion from a Contributor
By Dave Thomas
Dear City Manager:
Rendon’s Law states, “He who has nothing to hide, hides nothing.” Dave’s Corollary states, “When someone obstructs the path to the truth, they are probably guilty of something.”
The Citizens of Modesto support our City quite well. We pay City employees four times the value of a civilian job. We are respectful of our City’s servants, and generally trust them to do the right thing. Thus, when the City acts in a way that generates questions of unethical behavior, we do more than crease our foreheads and assume the best. In fact, we are pretty good at smelling the foul odor of misdeeds. In the case of the Copy Cost Conundrum, it is readily apparent that the City is trying to deter the Modesto BEE reporters from finding the facts of a case of probable misuse of our Tax dollars. This is not good for the image of our City leaders.
One should recognize that the BEE is generally quite friendly to governments of all kinds. It is especially friendly with our City’s government, with whom it has enjoyed the fruits of conviviality. Today, the BEE is reporting on, and rightfully investigating, a major scandal involving federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds. The best place to find out what the City did, or failed to do, is from the City’s documents involved in the money trail. The City can have only one of two possible reactions to being investigated by the BEE. Either it proudly produces the german documents, proving beyond all possible doubt that it acted in the best interests of the Citizens. The other choice would be to hide behind naive outsiders called “consultants”, refuse to deal openly with BEE reporters, and make the acquisition of documents very difficult, time consuming and expensive. The first choice would generally be embraced by those who have nothing to hide. The second choice would generally be embraced by those who not only are guilty of malfeasance, but who know they are guilty of very bad behavior, perhaps even misfeasance. It is tragic to see that my City is not willing to cooperate with a friendly newspaper who has both the absolute right and the duty to report the truth about our City.
I have to tell you that I believe that the City should never, ever, ever, require a Citizen to pay for the documents which constitute the history and behavior of our City. After all, Citizens own everything in City Hall, having paid a heavy price for them in the first place. Our government exists to serve its Citizens, not bamboozle them; not to waste Citizens’ tax money; not to obfuscate when Citizens ask questions; not to refuse to provide answers to legitimate questions; and certainly, not to hide mistakes or possible crimes committed against these same Citizens.
This charade has gone on long enough. As a private citizen and the representative of the Taxpayers Association, I respectfully request that the City simply come clean about where NSP funds have been spent, who got what and when, and provide a full disclosure as to the behavior of those associated with its activities. Open your records to the BEE, get out of their way, and instead of using economic retaliation to impair their investigation, provide a comfortable desk, coffee and doughnuts for them. Let our government act like a responsible Citizen and let the chips fall where they may.
Thank you very much, Dave Thomas