Coming clean goes a long way
Over the past year or so, we’ve had a sideline seat to episodes that have made us question seriously just how transparent our government is.Aspen’s school district, police department and city government have made decisions cloaked in secrecy. While the decisions have been questionable, the apparent cover-ups have been the most troubling.The school district did the public no favors by taking a united front in the decision to have Mike Sirko, the husband of Superintendent Diana Sirko, replace Travis Benson as coach of the varsity high school football team. Decisions were made behind closed doors, and when the public caught wind of it, school officials said the matter was being blown out of proportion. As for the Aspen Police Department, it was when officer Melinda Calvano was placed on leave – and ultimately fired – for using a stun gun on an elderly homeless woman. Initially, the Aspen Police Department did not want to come forward with the information, but ultimately did after public pressure. And, most recently, City Hall met behind closed doors to make an exception to its housing policy, allowing a utilities manager to live in city housing for the rest of his life.The common thread among these incidents was that the school district, police department and City Hall never released this information to the public; instead these episodes were unearthed in news reports, to the chagrin of officials who wanted them private.But last week, one of our elected officials came clean from the start. Sheriff Bob Braudis made no secret that he placed a deputy on administrative leave – and subsequently six months’ probation – for breaking department policy by using an assault rifle to blow out the tire of a vehicle driven by a man allegedly fleeing from law-enforcement. At the same time, the sheriff stood by his deputy, giving him a vote of confidence on the heels of a mistake in judgment. Braudis did not exhibit the bunker mentality we’ve grown to expect from other government agencies. He did not hide behind the guise of a “personnel issue,” a strategy that some of our government officials have exploited to a fault. Instead, the sheriff came and out and said what happened. By doing so, Braudis showed that straightforward answers go a long way in gaining public trust, compared to the cover-ups to which we’ve grown accustomed.