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Government transparency — nearly every candidate running for office claims this as one of their platforms.

The funny thing is, once a candidate is elected they often quickly change their tune.

The Sedona Fire District Governing Board, apparently led by Clerk Charles Christensen, wants to now censor information released by the district. Christensen asked for a “courtesy” call whenever anyone from the district would be dealing with the media, or in other words, us.

The district, as one resident’s comment pointed out on our website, has had a media policy in place for quite some time, which calls for the chief to approve information releases. Since SFD Fire Chief Nazih Hazime started his job, every effort to uphold this policy has been made, and for the most part, policy has been followed.

If Christensen wants to be made aware of contact with the media, I’m sure Hazime has no problem filling him in on the details. However, much of SFD’s business happens outside normal office hours.

When I worked as a reporter I covered an early morning blaze in Back o’ Beyond, a hiker rescue on Castle Rock well into the night and various other emergency events at odd hours.

Does Christensen want SFD staff to call him at 3 a.m. to ask if they can comment to the media?

He said he wanted to be contacted regarding “policy” issues or items not discussed by the board in the past. That’s a pretty wide net to cast.

Clearing release of certain information with the board is actually appropriate in some instances.

However, Christensen’s move appears to be motivated by his attempt to control SFD and possibly a vendetta against the district staff and now the media.

Why is Christensen all of a sudden the point-man on all business with the board? Isn’t Dave Blauert the chairman?

If Christensen wants to be the controller of the district, he should have applied for the chief’s job.

Since he didn’t, and he wouldn’t be qualified to run a fire district anyway, he needs to realize his role in the organization.

The board’s job is to set guidelines, regarding both policy and budget, and let SFD staff figure out how to live within those boundaries. Staff’s job is to use its expertise in the field, which makes them qualified for their jobs, to make recommendations to the board and carry out day-to-day operations.

Christensen cited comments made by staff regarding their recommendations for adjustments to the tax rate as a reason for his new policy. He said, “It appeared this person was recommending the board do this.” That is the staff person’s job — to recommend, based on his or her expertise, options for the board. It’s the board’s decision in the end, but it needs staff’s help to make an informed choice. So, no, it wasn’t outside the scope of what that employee should be doing.

Shouldn’t taxpayers know their options? Shouldn’t all district business be available to the media and public? That’s what transparency means.

SFD has a very capable chief and its very own public information officer. Christensen and the rest of the board need to let them do their jobs.


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