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Democracy Behind Closed Doors is Dead
By Samuel Bergeron


March 30, 2004

It has been said by those wiser than me that democracy behind closed doors is dead. There is no better example of that than at KIC.

Ever since I've been paying attention to the goings on at KIC it has all happened behind closed doors. There never has been a meaningful way to keep our members informed of their government, what the issues facing them are and how their representatives (council members) go about making the policy that has a huge effect on their lives and the lives of all of us who live and work in Ketchikan. Most people don't know that KIC's budget exceeds the Ketchikan Gateway Borough's. What we do affects more that 125 full time employees and 4950 enrolled members. Yet nobody knows what we do and why. It all happens behind closed doors. Consequently, they, (the majority) feel empowered to do whatever they want, whether it is in your best interest or not. Tribal council travel is a good example. We spend lots of money on travel. Can anyone tell you or me how it has made your life better? I can't and I'm on the tribal council. Yet we continue to use telephone poll votes to travel or to try to fire individual members of staff who we have no direct control over. Personal vendettas at KIC are sometimes handled by telephone poll votes as well as non-essential travel. When decisions are made behind closed doors there is no accountability to the members. Having a constituency that is kept in the dark, allows this council to make the decisions they are making unfettered.

Telephone poll votes are an abuse of power and have been used mostly to squander money or to intimidate staff. Yet, when they have one, none of you know about it. I think that's wrong. I think all meetings, including telephone poll votes and agendas should be advertised in the newspaper and action agendas (what action we took) should be in the paper as well. Everything we do should pass the "red face" test. Doing our business in the open, in the light of day, allows all of our members the opportunity to be informed what we are doing on their behalf and comment if they choose to.

We've strived to keep our business in-house. What it has gotten us besides the most fractured council known to man is staff demoralization. Most of the staff lives in dread from the council because of the constant in-fighting and a fear of losing their jobs. We choose to involve staff to the point that business comes to a near standstill and no meaningful policy happens either. So what do we do? We start by having an open government, for better or worse we must do it. All of our foibles must be laid on the table for all to see. How can we fix a problem if we don't face it? The problems we have now can only continue behind closed doors. I've said this many times "If we operated like we were in front of all 4950 members, we would be doing a better job". The council has gone ballistic since I've started talking to all of you. They want nothing more than to go back to the days when nobody said anything about what we are doing at KIC. Those days are gone. The decision for freedom of speech was made for this council and all Americans when we adopted the Bill of Rights back in 1791. Watch this council try to abridge my 1st amendment rights with a censure. Get involved.

Samuel Bergeron
Ketchikan, AK - USA



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