Hodge at Red County – Terry Calaway offers four different reasons for illegal budget release; sticking now to two

Link: http://www.redcounty.com/calaway-offers-four-different-reasons-budget-release-sticking-now-two

Calaway offers four different reasons for budget release; sticking now to two

By Benjamin Hodge | 03/28/09

Terry Calaway knows better.

“Let me see this year’s final budget proposal (and whether there’s a tax increase), and then my rating will change.”

That — and only that — is what I wrote to Calaway in his evaluation, with regard to financial management.

To briefly review:  Calaway shared budget information during a closed session, when it would have been much more appropriate to have shared the information during an open meeting (according to a correct interpretation of the Kansas Open Meetings Act, KOMA).

In an attempt to throw the blame to me, the JCCC president continues to support a false theme that, unfortunately, some employees at JCCC probably believe: the idea that I requested for him to share budget information during the closed session. That’s not true. Calaway knows it’s not true. To continue to encourage that theme is to lie, and that is what Calaway is doing.

The purpose of the closed meeting was for an annual evaluation of Calaway. To be clear, it is OK to have a closed “executive” session to discuss individual employees. But it is not OK to talk about the budget in a closed meeting.

An important aside: Calaway claims to consider evaluations extremely private, and he claims to be offended that the public is now discussing his evaluation. Here’s the thing — it’s only because of Calaway that people are discussing the topic of his evaluation. Early on in this debate, Calaway openly informed the press that his evaluation was the main purpose of the closed meeting. And it was Calaway — not me — that released the rating that he received from me on one part of the evaluation (fiscal responsibility, where I ranked him as a 3 out of 5).

Calaway is really reaching. He says that he doesn’t want to talk about his evaluation in public, but he cannot stop talking about it.

On the “fiscal responsibility” part of his evaluation — I made a simple, short, and clear implication: I will rate you higher next year if you don’t raise taxes. The exact quote, again: “Let me see this year’s final budget proposal (and whether there’s a tax increase), and then my rating will change.”

We won’t know until mid-year (when JCCC will finalize the budget) whether Calaway will ask for a tax increase. While he has indicated multiple times that JCCC will likely not increase taxes, he will not make a firm commitment. The two elected leaders — Board Chair Shirley Brown-VanArsdale and Vice Chair Lynn Mitchelson — are also still considering “all options” (read “tax increase”). And so, I will not learn the answer to the question, “Will Calaway request a tax increase?” until mid-year. Therefore, no amount of information given to the board today could answer the question. Nothing short of a firm pledge of “yes” or “no” would answer the question.

Calaway claims that my theme for rating him on financial management (“I will rate you higher next year if you don’t raise taxes”) led him to then provide to the board a list of about 50 possible/considered budget cuts. And my reaction is — fine, glad to have the information. I don’t really care that Calaway claims to have interpreted my statement to mean, “I should give Ben detailed information today indicating what I’m willing to cut.” But the following point is critical: by no means did I state anything to suggest that I requiredfrom Calaway a detailed list of budgetary information, as a part of his evaluation. To suggest otherwise is flat-out incorrect. I clearly stated that my concerns would subside once I viewed a “final budget.” Not “brainstorming.” Not “ideas.” Not “considerations.”  Rather, I wrote “final budget.”

To run with the incorrect theme of “Hey, Hodge asked for the information,” and to not correct others on that point, is to lie.

In an effort to gain pity from employees, Calaway stated that, in the future, he will need to do his performance evaluations in public. No, that is just another over-reaction from Dr. Calaway: what he needs to do is NOT give detailed budget information out during a closed meeting, even when that meeting also includes a private evaluation.

I’ll never know for certain whether Calaway’s stated reason (the lie that I requested the information) is really THE reason that he decided to provide budget information during executive session. Why? Because, in our one on one conversations, he’s suggested to me two additional reasons; in public, he’s stated yet a FOURTH reason:

  1. That it’s OK to discuss budget information in a closed meeting, because the budget pays the salaries of individual employees.
  2. That I requested the information from him not in my evaluation, but during the previous public board meeting — he’s suggested two different timelines.
  3. This is the most entertaining, I think — that the open meetings laws only apply to verbal statements. Meaning, topics that are inappropriate to talk about are OK to type out and then distribute.

Lately, Calaway has narrowed the four different explanations to only two:

  1. That, in my written evaluation, I asked for this information (untrue).
  2. I’m quite surprised, actually, on this one: Calaway stands by his remark toThe Gardner News that it was OK to distribute budgetary information, just as long as it wasn’t talked about. Chair Brown-VanArsdale stated the identical idea in the same news article.

The behavior the last few weeks by Calaway, Brown-VanArsdale, and Mitchelson are a continuation of the predominant behavior of the JCCC board during the past 20 years: don’t question the administration, and attack anybody who does. This behavior is unacceptable for a taxpayer-supported institution.

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