Friday, March 30, 2012

Inevitable scapegoating?

The Sun Valley mayor and council are engaged in a delicate high-wire act that could end with applause or with an embarrassing crash.

They are considering hiring an out-of-state firm to conduct something called a "forensic audit" while some city employees remain on paid administrative leave for reasons unknown to the public.

A forensic audit sounds like something in one of the currently popular television crime shows in which investigators use whiz-bang technology to find needle-in-a-haystack clues to nab criminals.

In the city of Sun Valley version, instead of looking for clues inside a dead body, investigators would look for clues inside the city's ledgers.

The behind-closed-doors nature of most city discussions on the issue is causing a good deal of head scratching by a confused public that's legally barred from getting information on city business when matters may involve city employees.

The city has been trying to solve a "mystery" since whatever it is emerged in December. Since then, a city administrator left the job and the city installed a new mayor and two council members who are entirely new to the job.

The mayor and council risk looking petty and foolish if an expensive or prolonged investigation turns up only piddling transgressions. On the other hand, if it turns up major misdeeds, the inevitable question will be how the oversight by elected officials could have failed.

This double-edged sword could put city officials in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't position that could make pinning misdeeds—petty or otherwise—on someone seem like a necessity.

They should make sure that finding a scapegoat doesn't become inevitable and that fact-finding is the only goal.

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