Transparent government trumps employee morale

By Mike Anthony

At one time, the city of Crestwood was known statewide for its transparency.

Crestwood is one of the few — if not the only city in the state — to record closed sessions of its Board of Aldermen regarding legal and real estate matters.

But in recent years, the city’s reputation for openness has been tarnished — one of the legacies of an overbearing mayor with a penchant for secrecy.

With the election of Jeff Schlink as mayor last year, we believed the city was back on track in terms of transparency as the mayor is a staunch supporter of the Missouri Open Meetings and Records Law, also known as the Sunshine Law.

We had high hopes when Petree Eastman was named city administrator last fall that she would uphold the mayor’s vision of transparent and open government.

But our hopes for transparency on Eastman’s part were severely dashed last week when a nine-page memo she wrote to the city’s Ways and Means Committee was stamped “CONFIDENTIAL.”

Thanks to the efforts of Ward 3 Alderman Paul Duchild, a redacted version — roughly five lines have been removed — of the memo now is available on the city’s website. When Duchild queried Eastman about why the memo was confidential, she cited concerns about employee morale and the fact that staff reductions were mentioned.

Sorry, but the Sunshine Law contains no exemption for employee morale. A reasonable expectation is that Eastman, an attorney, would be cognizant of that fact. As for staff reductions, no specific employees are mentioned, just positions. Again, that’s not an exemption included in the Sunshine Law.

Furthermore, in reading the redacted memo, the irony is not lost on us that Eastman is not recommending a single cut of any type.

Even more disturbing is Eastman’s memo discusses the possibility of obtaining additional revenue for the city by asking voters to approve an extension of the city’s Proposition S tax. That’s not something the public would need to know about, right?

It’s incomprehensible to us that Eastman could consider this memo, which discusses the city’s funding outlook through 2016, confidential. We believe Eastman’s effort to shield the contents of her memo from the public and press is a great disservice to open and transparent government.