This edition of the Crossville Chronicle includes allegations of ethics violations against two members of the Cumberland County Commission, lodged by their counterparts on the Cumberland County Board of Education.
Tuesday night, the school board convened a special-called meeting to discuss the allegations. However, after a lengthy closed session with the board’s attorney, the board voted 7-2 not to identify the individuals by name nor divulge the specifics of the charges lodged against them.
Members of the public observing the meeting were left scratching their heads and wondering just what was going on.
The Chronicle was missing a few key pieces of information — primarily the who, the what and the why.
To help answer those questions, we made a request the following morning to access the written complaints, and that information has been published to provide transparency to all concerned.
We should note that publication of allegations is not a finding of guilt. The method for determining if an ethics violation was committed could include an investigation by the state’s comptroller or the county ethics committee or referral to the district attorney. The commission could vote to censure the members. The Chronicle will continue to follow the issue as it winds its way to a conclusion.
With the public records request successful and the documents in hand, the Chronicle had a decision to make. Would this newspaper reveal the identities of the commissioners?
In reaching its decision, the Chronicle considered the following points:
•The actions of publicly elected officials, especially concerning policy and daily operations of government, are not secret.
•When you stand for public office, you place yourself in the public eye. Your actions as they relate to your office are the public’s business.
•The two statements by board members both point to threats of retaliation against the school board in future votes. The public has a right to this information to judge, rightly or wrongly, the motives behind votes these individuals may take in the future.
•The board’s discussion identified the two commissioners as employees of the school system. However, three commissioners are employed by the school system. The third person was not deserving of the suspicion and rumors that likely began circulating as soon as the Tuesday meeting came to a close.
The decision to include the names of the two commissioners was not taken lightly. It was also important to the Chronicle to offer both individuals an opportunity to respond and make a statement before anything was published.
We could have made a splash on social media had we published the names immediately, but that would not have been fair to the individuals involved. And we care more about integrity and responsible news coverage than we do chasing website clicks.
The Chronicle strives to provide fact-based, responsible coverage of our community. We live here. We care about what happens. And we believe the people have a right to know.