Integrity in our elected officials and paid administrative personnel is paramount in preserving the publicís trust. When that integrity is compromised the public trust is lost and a community becomes dysfunctional resulting in wasted time, money and resources, and damaging the very fabric that binds a community together.
We, the people, trust our elected officials and paid professionals to act honestly, openly, and in the best interests of the general public. Unfortunately that is not always the case.†
Recently I had occasion to speak with the engineer who prepared the site plans for constructing the kindergarten on the Glen Lake property. Now please donít tune me out here, this is not about kindergarten. Itís about integrity. Integrity of our school administration, school board, and all those who represent us in such significant and important issues as locating a school facility.†
The engineer shared with me the fact that before work had begun on the Glen Lake site, he had been asked by school representatives to prepare a conceptual plan for siting the kindergarten on the town owned gravel pit property. He told me that he prepared a plan and presented it to the kindergarten building committee, along with his opinion that the gravel pit property was a superior site for many reasons. I was astounded to hear this since the public had been told by the school administration and school board, on more than one occasion, that they could not and would not investigate the gravel pit property!
I recently filed a right-to-know request with the SAU (click here to view letter) regarding this newly discovered information, and Superintendent Lockwood responded to that request (click here to view Lockwood's response). Among other things my request was to view any "plans" and "minutes of school board or kindergarten building project committee meetings".†
To summarize Mr. Lockwood's response to me he states; "Members of the Kindergarten Committee did informally discuss the feasibility of constructing a school on that property (the gravel pit property) with employees of True Engineering after you raised this question in public meetings." He goes on to state, "I do believe that they did an overlay of the footprint for the kindergarten project on a GIS drawing of this lot that they obtained from the DPW." Mr. Lockwood closes by stating, "nothing was ever filed in our SAU office."†
WOW! The public was told that there would be no investigation of the gravel pit property but that is exactly what happened. I would submit that any reasonable person would consider depicting the kindergarten project on a GIS map of the gravel pit property as a "plan". The kindergarten committee then "informally" discusses that plan and yet we, the taxpayers, were never afforded an opportunity to consider that plan. In addition, state law requires that all town committees and sub-committees discuss matters before them during public meetings and that the essence of those discussions are to be captured in minutes that are to be made available for public examination. I can find no minutes of a kindergarten committee meeting where that "plan" was discussed.
How does this relate to integrity and the public trust?††
One of the prime movers behind the push to get the kindergarten built as soon as possible, and apparently at any cost to the taxpayers, was Scott Gross.††
Mr. Gross claims that he acted in good faith and in the best interests of the people of Goffstown during the whole kindergarten location debate. He has claimed that there was no opportunity or time to investigate an alternative location for the kindergarten for two primary reasons. One, there were no available alternative locations to consider and two, the opportunity for state aid funding was due to expire on June 30, 2005.†
We all learned well before ground had been broken at the Glen Lake site that state funding had been extended beyond the June 30, 2005 date and therefore the funding was secure for Goffstown. All that we needed to do was identify an opening date for the school. That's it! The school board also knew well before ground breaking that the gravel pit property was a legitimate, and perhaps even a superior, site for the kindergarten. Yet no one from the school board or kindergarten committee, including Mr. Gross, came forward with that information so that the public could take a step back and evaluate all options thus ensuring that our tax dollars would be spent wisely.†
Perhaps we would have eventually come back to the Glen Lake property and built there anyway. And yes, maybe, it would have meant that kindergarten would have been opened one year later. However, it is clear that there was no threat of losing state funding and in the end, because of a rush to judgment and the zeal to get kindergarten open as soon as possible and at any cost, the public was denied the opportunity to decide how to best spend our tax dollars. What a shame!
And now Scott Gross wishes to become selectman, trusted to oversee all of our town affairs. He claims to be a man of integrity, a communicator, and a protector of the public trust. I think that he was determined to bring public kindergarten to Goffstown no matter what the cost and without disclosing important and valuable information for public consideration prior to the expenditure of our tax dollars.†
Is this the kind of person that you want controlling the day-to-day decisions affecting our community?†
I, for one, am not and I will not be supporting Scott Gross on March 13th.