Elias Atienza is a history sophomore and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.
Trust is important, especially when you’re a public servant or an elected official. The masses depend on their representatives to provide them with services not usually offered by the private sector, whether it is protection, emergency services, first response or others. We depend on elected officials to guide and lead us whether it is a mayor who won by a few hundred votes or a president who lost the popular vote.
The rhetoric I’m espousing is inspired by a local issue: a possible violation of the Brown Act. The Brown Act prevents a majority of members of a public body from communicating about government business in private. At the center of this controversy are our own County Board of Supervisors, water policy in North County and a letter. I’ll spare you the details, but in essence, a majority of members of the County Board of Supervisors were accused of violating the Brown Act.
After a few details of the incident came to light, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted not to investigate themselves in a 3-2 vote in early April. This was a betrayal of the public trust. It was a betrayal of the transparency we rely on in order to function. It reeks similar to how former president Barack Obama promised before becoming one of the most secretive administrations in recent American history, as I discussed in “Constitutional overreach.”
The supervisors’ defenders asserted that it would be imprudent to investigate. Some of these defenders, such as Supervisor John Peschong,
pointed to the financial costs associated with an investigation of this scale. Others questioned the impartiality of District Attorney Dan Dow, considering he endorsed Supervisor Debbie Arnold and Peschong, although this seems like a moot point as the Board of Supervisors can hire an outside investigator. And still others believe this is a leftist witch-hunt against the conservative majority led by Adam Hill.
Now there is little doubt in my mind that if it was Adam Hill in the middle of this accusation, the left would be defending him while the right would be clamoring for blood. While it is entirely possible that Hill and Gibson are calling for an investigation for political reasons, they’re fortunate enough to be on the right side of this issue. However, despite the partisan stench that follows this issue every time it enters conversation, I implore the residents of the county to stop looking at this like a left-
The need for governments to be transparent is not so they can win political points, but because they must be held accountable by the people.
It is nearly impossible for people to hold elected officials accountable for their actions if the officials are the ones voting on whether or not they are accountable. We cannot continue to allow elected officials to vote on whether or not they should investigate themselves. Separation of powers is why federal governments have Inspector Generals or the Government Accountability Office in order to keep these bodies in check and to root out fraud, theft and abuse. It’s like I said in “Demand Police Accountability”
back in October, “When a civilian shoots someone, they do not get to investigate themselves.” but instead are investigated by the police department. When the County Board of Supervisors allegedly violates a law, they shouldn’t be able to just sweep it under the rug. They should be investigated.
Let me be frank. By refusing to investigate themselves, the County Board of Supervisors has called their own credibility and principles into question. Peschong, Arnold and Compton should all be ashamed of themselves.
The contact information for the supervisors can be found on website. If you aren’t sure of what you might want to say to them, I suggest you emulate what Septa Unella said from Cersei Lannister’s walk of atonement in Season 5 of Game of Thrones: “Shame. Shame. Shame.”