So, Scottsdale is being sued once again by your friendly hometown newspaper, which would like to know on behalf of its readers exactly what kind of job the people who run Scottsdale are doing.
“Once again,” meaning the Tribune sued and won in a similar effort in 2004 to learn what was in an employee evaluation — a police officer that time.
But memories are apparently short at City Hall. Neither the city attorney nor the City Council will let us see what the city’s highest-ranking employee, City Manager Jan Dolan, wrote in her self-evaluation, which so far has only been seen by council members in secret session. We’re asking for her self-evaluation because it’s the only thing we know of regarding her performance review that was written down.
The actual review was done orally behind those closed doors. By law, that can be discussed in secret, but the law says nothing about putting that review in writing so it would thus be subject to public examination under the Arizona Public Records Law. Scottsdale, like some other cities, doesn’t want to do that with its top officials, although written evaluations are common if not universal among virtually everyone else who draws a city paycheck.
I’m sure if a Scottsdale resident asked Dolan in person what kind of job she’s doing, she’d be glad to say. It would be unlikely to expect her to describe herself in mostly critical terms — who among us would? But that resident would get a sense of her priorities and those of her superiors, the elected council, and how well they were met.
Sprinkle in some ideas for improvement and there you’d have it. In all likelihood, there wouldn’t be any shocking stuff in Dolan’s evaluation. There wasn’t in that police officer’s evaluation, either.
But the public records statute doesn’t require a person to state why he or she wants to view a public document, just that such a document must be made available.
Some have applied private sector-standards to the Dolan case, variations on the theme of, “My evaluation is private and I like it that way, so why shouldn’t Jan Dolan?”
It has to do with who is the ultimate employer here. Look in the mirror. You’re not just Time magazine’s Person of the Year, but in our form of government you’re Dolan’s boss.
You’re the council’s boss, actually. You’re not the boss of the local department store, insurance agency, construction firm. That’s why their evaluations aren’t your business.
But evaluations of people like Dolan are.
Sure, in a republic the citizens elect representatives to conduct their business on their behalf, but citizens don’t give up their sovereignty to those representatives. The public may vote to remove them from office or change the system.
If the people have the right to do something that powerful, then they certainly have the right to read Jan Dolan’s self-evaluation.