Let’s talk about ethics

By definition, ethics is ‘moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity.’
Ethics refers to moral responsibilities and may go beyond legal considerations.
Several examples of ethical standards for board of trustees suggest trustees and governing boards have the responsibility to be both ethical and legal. Being ethical and legal involves more than understanding what the right thing is to do, it means that one must perform in ethical and legal ways. In essence, one must walk-the-walk.
Trusteeship brings with it certain responsibilities and expectations. Some of these are related to what is ethical and appropriate behavior for public officials. The public expects its leaders and representatives to uphold high standards in the performance of their duties. Trusteeship is also an expression of civic leadership and citizenship. Governing boards derive their authority from and are accountable to the community as a whole.
One of the most basic beliefs or principals of effective trusteeship is the recognition that governing authority rests with the entire board, not with any individual trustee. As individuals, trustees have no authority to direct staff, determine programs and procedures, or represent the college, and ethical trustees do not try to do so.
‘Ethics’ was brought up on several occasions in last Thursday’s town hall by Eastern Wyoming College Board of Trustee members at the Fine Arts Auditorium. It seems ethics is far from anyone’s mind when it comes to the trustees.
Is it ethical to not allow a candidate for employment an opportunity to defend him or herself of accusations brought forth by an outside agency? Is it ethical to throw a search firm under the bus, state you will no longer use said search firm, only to come back less than seven days later and say you are using the search firm again? And those are only a couple of the many questions the trustees continue to leave unanswered.
A few ethical values some members need to evaluate are trustworthiness, respect and responsibility. Let’s be honest, the board hasn’t shown the community enough to be trusted; respect went out the door a long time ago, and responsibility is being willing to make decisions and choices and to be accountable for those decisions. I don’t expect board members to take responsibility for the current state of Eastern Wyoming College. Afterall, they are the reason the college is where it is.
It seems a few EWC Board of Trustees have zero interest in being transparent. I can’t say all, based on the fact three are either fairly new or brand new to the board and have demonstrated a want to be transparent.
The board continues to abuse the use of executive session to hide items that should be done in open meeting. The personnel exemption has gone too far. Personnel is used to discuss individuals in particular, not a classification or group, and it is certainly not an open invitation to speak ill of current or former employees.
The Telegram did send the board of trustees a Freedom of Information (FOI) request pertaining to all communications and records on the search for Eastern Wyoming College’s next president, as well as the resignation letter for former EWC President Lesley Travers. The Supreme Court allows governing bodies to charge a ‘reasonable fee’ for search and retrieval of documents, and it has become the largest impediment to public access.
Eastern Wyoming College’s board of trustees responded to the Telegram’s FOI request, with fees in excess of $3,000 to retrieve the requested information and files. If transparency was on the forefront of the minds of the trustees, they would have nothing to hide and the requested information would be accessible to the public. Afterall, ethics is the word of the day, isn’t it?