Friday, September 14, 2012

Whodunit or who didnít?

The public deserves to see the findings of the forensic audit of operations in the city of Sun Valley and to find out once and for all whodunit or who didn’t.
    The only blank that should remain to be filled in is “when,” not “if.”
    The audit is now in the hands of the Blaine County prosecutor who is reviewing it as to see whether it uncovered any potential criminal wrongdoing that could necessitate action by his office.
    The city denied this newspaper’s request to release the audit this week.
    The city has indicated it may have difficulty releasing portions of the audit that refer to individual city employees because of state laws that protect the privacy of some personnel records.
    The secrecy is frustrating to the public, city leaders and city employees, some of whom have left their jobs and others who remain on paid administrative leave awaiting the outcome of the audit and the prosecutor’s review. The situation has left everyone suspended in limbo.
    Some city leaders say they are anxious to explain the findings of the audit to the public, but say they can’t do so because of the need to allow city employees named in the audit to respond to investigators’ findings. But where is their regard for the public’s interest?
    The public’s interest in the audit’s findings is high and will remain so until they are made public. And no wonder. The audit is a window into the inner workings of a tiny city that’s generated more than its share of controversy in recent years.
    The city of 1,406 permanent residents and the rest of Blaine County are awash in speculation about what practices or events could possibly have triggered a months-long investigation for which the city has racked up $273,000 in bills for work that has yet to see the light of day.
    The audit process has put on the line reputations of both the investigated and the investigators: city employees, former and present mayors and members of the City Council.
    The audit’s findings may reflect on the judgment of elected officials who ordered the investigation and incurred costs to taxpayers. They may unmask city policies and management practices that could be problematic. They may help citizens understand whether any problems discovered were long in the making or were more recent and who may be responsible.
    Or they could conclude that no problems existed at all and the whole exercise was a wild goose chase. That would heap dismay upon distress.
    The city must find a way to write the audit’s final chapter, bring results into the light of day and let the chips fall where they may.

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