Henderson City Council candidates vow openness with public
Ahead of the Henderson’s Ward 1 special election, city council candidates talked about transparency with records and the media, an issue the city struggled with in the past.
Ahead of the Henderson’s Ward 1 special election, City Council candidates talked about transparency with records and the media, an issue the city struggled with in the past.
Henderson has had a spotty record with media transparency, even in recent years. The city circulated a policy threatening to fire employees if they talked to the press before revoking it in 2015, circulated an email to city employees with a photo of then-Review-Journal reporter Eric Hartley with a reminder to direct all of his inquiries to the office of public information in 2014, demanded more than $6,000 to review emails about the relationship between Trosper Public Relations and council members in 2016, among other examples.
All seven candidates running for the open Ward 1 seat on the Henderson City Council said they would be open to speaking to reporters about issues, although candidates Melissa Woodbury, a former state assemblywoman, and Jim Seebock, an assistant sheriff with the Metropolitan Police Department, said they’d make sure to research necessary information before speaking.
When asked what they’d do to ensure the public and media have access to public records without delays or undue fees, the candidates vowed government transparency.
“I will support any policy, any guideline, any directive that comes back to transparency, because I believe that transparency brings trust, it brings cooperation, it brings teamwork,” candidate ” Tim Cox said.
Woodbury said that if elected, she would use her position to make sure Henderson follows public records laws and keeps from “stalling” in delivering records. She said some records shouldn’t be accessible, however, because of privacy concerns regarding personal information.
Johnson also touched on timeliness, saying he wanted to ensure there are no delays in getting information out to the public. He said the city should be sure to release public information within 72 hours of requests.
In talking about fees, Ali Nilson said public records should be accessible and completely free of charge.
Hamilton was in support of “reasonable cost” coming with public records requests, but only for materials to produce the records, such as paper.
Alex Kleytman said the city’s public records should be “completely transparent, digitized and available” for people to openly access online.
Employees and reporters
When asked whether public employees should be able to speak to the press without risking their jobs, Hamilton and Kleytman said the employees should have whistleblower protections to safely call out wrongdoing in the government.
The rest of the candidates supported city workers talking to reporters as citizens of Henderson or representatives of a labor group, but not as employees and representatives of the city unless approved by and coordinated with the office of public information.
“I would not have any concerns with an employee being able to have commentary or be interviewed by a reporter,” Seebock said. “But I think it needs to be coordinated through the city and the public information office, so there’s awareness of what’s going on and what’s being said.”
Early voting for the special election will open Tuesday and last until Thursday. Election day will be held on April 3. In-person voting and ballot drop offs will be available at Henderson City Hall.
Only residents of Henderson’s Ward 1 will be able to vote in the special election, due to a charter amendment approved last year.
Contact Mark Credico at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MarkCredicoII.