Gila Community College’s governing board has won the Arizona Press Club’s Brick Wall Award for the board’s “egregious disregard for transparency.”
The award calls attention to public agencies that thwart the public’s right to know, whether by ignoring public records requests or violating open meeting laws.
In this case, the Roundup nominated Gila Community College board for not answering phone calls, randomly changing public records request policies, and for the chairman’s refusal to place topics on public meeting agendas.
The college has also not publicly discussed a county attorney’s decision on the legality of budget discrepancies — including a $2 million surplus listed on this year’s budget that didn’t exist.
“Out of several worthy nominations, the one citing the Gila Community College governing board’s egregious disregard for transparency and in (not) releasing what are obviously public documents stood out,” said Laura Clymer, Arizona Press Club vice president and chair of the Brick Wall Award committee.
“It is incumbent that all public officials, whose salaries are paid for by and large by taxpayers, respond to public information requests in a timely manner from not only the media, but also citizens and even members of its own governing board,” she added.
GCC has changed its records request policy several times during the past year.
At one point, the college accepted electronic requests and also supplied the documents electronically.
Eventually, the college decided it needed records requests in writing.
However, when the GCC board approved asking the public to finance a secondary tax levy, chairman Bob Ashford announced that he would supply the media with information, including spreadsheets.
“Of course, they can paint whatever picture they want to,” he said at the time.
Trena Grantham, GCC public relations coordinator, previously worried that people would change figures in an electronic document and present them as fact.
Grantham did not respond to a request for comment.