Last night I sat through 65 minutes of one of the most embarrassing and disgusting displays of stonewalling I have ever seen. First let me say – for those who don’t know – I am Maria Parra’s campaign manager.
When Maria contacted me a few months ago and asked me to take the role, she said “don’t worry, you won’t have to do much. I replied that if I decided to do it, I would give my best and did not want to be just a fill-in name for a form. I called her back a couple of days later and said I would take the position.
I realize that Maria’s campaign is for a county election which does not draw the same attention and create the same excitement as the state and federal elections. But Maria also serves on the Wayne Township Advisory Board as an elected official. Those who have read the daily papers know that what ensued last night was not pleasant.
Last night’s meeting was to resolve Maria’s request for a number of documents that she had been requesting for quite some time. I have to admit, I would rather have skipped the meeting because last night was my late night at work, and I was tired. But I had told Maria I would be there, so I took a break and went.
I am glad now that I did. I thought it would be fairly short and the documents would be provided. Pretty simple – right? Maria prepared and sent in a request. The documents were at the Trustee’s Office. They would be copied and given to Maria. 1 + 1 + 1 = 3.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Once the meeting started, it turned into nothing more than a trashing of Maria for requesting the information. Mark GiaQuinta sarcastically argued that the entire office and its work had to come to a halt to respond to Maria’s request. I guess his goal was to impose a guilt trip. I have to tell you if that is all it takes to stop the office, then we are in trouble.
GiaQuinta also made a condescending suggestion that the office should start an expanding folder so that if Maria needs documents in the future, one copy can be made for her and one copy could put in the folder in case she lost or misplaced them again.
In between his condescending comments, he challenged her knowledge of the process and her motive for requesting the documents. Maria asked several times during the session if Tony could just give her the documents. After over an hour, he finally capitulated and handed over what documents he did have – a task that could have been done in the first five minutes of the meeting.
I left feeling like the AFLAC duck shaking its head after talking to Yogi Berra in one of the older commercials. I was not only stunned at the actions of the other advisory board members and Mr. GiaQuinta but also shocked that someone would have to go through this just to obtain information that is to be available to the public and must be provided if requested.
And, honestly, I am still shaking my head tonight over something so simple as providing documents upon request. They should have been provided months ago and last night’s debacle would never have been necessary. Am I glad I went? You betcha because this was a real eye opener.
Open government? Maybe it should be called “forced open government.”