, Derry, New Hampshire


October 24, 2013

Editorial: Official silence does not serve the public good

A person who does not have the courage to speak his or her mind has no business holding public office.

There’s a disturbing trend among elected officials to adopt self-imposed gag orders, refusing to discuss or speak to the general public on matters of concern to the community. Instead, they defer to a board chairman or paid administrator to speak for them. More often than not, those designated speakers have nothing to say as well.

These officials justify giving their constituents the silent treatment with the need for board unity or to guard against liability concerns. Nonsense. They are instead denying their constituents the full representation in local government that they were elected to provide.

There’s no better example of this than in Derry, where the Town Council will not discuss details of a decision to terminate the town administrator without cause.

If officials are unwilling to speak to those who elected them, voters should replace them with others who better understand the function of representative government.

In Derry, the behavior of the town administrator has been the talk of the town. John Anderson faces two misdemeanor charges over an incident at his home in which police say he exposed himself and masturbated in front of a satellite television salesman.

Anderson, 50, was initially placed on paid leave following the July 12 incident. After state police issued an arrest warrant, the council voted on Aug. 20 to place him on unpaid leave.

Last week, the Town Council voted not to renew Anderson’s contract and to pay him severance. They also returned him to paid leave until Oct. 25 — the day his three-year contract with the town ends.

The council had imposed a gag order on itself and will not reveal any details of the severance package or discuss their decision.

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