Publisher's Note: Open up
By Jody Reese
The group that helps local town and school governments handle insurance, risk, legal issues and lobbying wants the state government to butt out of its finances.
The Local Government Center is a nonprofit coop of sorts that municipalities and school districts join to share the cost of insurance, training and legal fees. In a state with lots of little governments, this kind of entity is extremely important and likely saves towns and schools millions each year.
Prompted by a complaint about how the government center spends its money, the Secretary of State (which oversees nonprofits) asked the Center for its financial records and organizational structure. The Center refused and now the matter is headed to court.
Though the Center has been tight-lipped about all this, it’s easy to understand its reluctance to cooperate. The center’s work sometimes brings it into conflict with state government and there’s a natural conflict between this group and what the legislature does regulating town and school governments.
However, that can not exempt the Center from its responsibility to disclose how it operates. Like every other nonprofit in the state, the Center should be accountable for how it spends it money. That’s the trade-off for getting the benefits of being a nonprofit, such as not paying taxes.
Revealing how much money staffers earn or what each of your affiliates does (such as pool risk) doesn’t harm the group’s mission of helping town and school government operate more efficiently. The state isn’t asking to see private legal opinions the Center provides its members.
Why the Center has decided to take a stand here is hard to understand. This group is a necessary tool in keeping costs down for small New Hampshire governments. What’s the big secret?
The Center’s refusal to turn over salary and other financial information is counter to what this organization should stand for — good government. Good government is based on openness.
In fact, the Center should be far more open than most nonprofits because it’s a quasi-governmental agency. It not only operates from public money, but in the public interest.
Claims that the group has an independent board don’t absolve it of its responsibility to be open. We have a right to know how and what this group is spending its money on. And if it doesn’t like being open about how it uses its money, then it should become a private, for-profit organization and forgo the benefits nonprofits receive.
Murderers may listen to bad music
In last week’s Sunday Union Leader, the lead story was about how the accused Mont Vernon murderers listened to the horror metal band Insane Clown Posse — some of the worst commercial music out there. However, it’s just bad music and millions — sadly — listen to it without killing anything but their eardrums and good sense. To pick this idiotic band out of the many that these teens listened to is akin to saying that the teens exhibited signs that they might be killers by drinking tap water each day. Of course, we want answers. We want to believe that we could have seen this savagery coming. We want to know how our neighbors did something so evil. Singling out this band doesn’t accomplish that — maybe nothing can.