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SCCC board neglected to serve the public

SCCC board neglected to serve the public

Lengthy delay in reporting president's DWI was clear attempt to hide bad news for sake of events

Don't spoil the party.

Don't let the bad news get out until the inauguration and the mega-expensive ball and the graduation were over with.

Don't ruin it all by letting the taxpayers who fund your college, the students who attend it, the parents and private donors who contribute to it, and the businesses that support it know that the college president has been arrested for DWI — at least until all the fun is over.

Only through Freedom of Information Law requests did The Gazette finally learn this week that the Schenectady County Community College Board of Trustees was told on May 5 by President Steady Moono that he and his chief of staff, Paula Ohlhous, had each been arrested on a drunken driving charge earlier that morning.

But only when the morning papers were blaring with headlines about his arrest on May 19 did the college finally issue a statement, forcing Moono to deliver a tepid apology for the "distraction" during his commencement speech.

You'd think the arrest of the college president would merit a prompt response from the Board of Trustees, that it would be treated like a DEFCON 1 emergency that board members would want to discuss immediately.

But not only did trustees keep the information away from the public for two weeks, they didn't even meet together to address the arrests and consider what action they might take against Moono and Ohlhous until their regular meeting on May 16 — a full 11 days after the arrests.

Calling a special meeting of the board, after all, would have tipped off the press that something was amiss and reporters would have started asking questions.

Even after they met, the trustees and the college all went about all the pomp and circumstance of their planned events — their dirty little secret intact — as if nothing that happened.

Looking back on it now — the whole inauguration ceremony, the speeches, the gushing praise, the lavish dinner party — it all feels kind of unseemly.

There are only a few legitimate reasons for keeping information from the public. Litigation strategy. Contract negotiations. Protecting the privacy of a police informant or a child.

Avoiding embarrassment is not one of them.

Exactly whose interests was the Board of Trustees serving by refusing to address the situation immediately or by refusing to let the public know what was going on? It certainly wasn't the public's. An incident of this magnitude should have been handled swiftly and openly, not slowly and secretly. The SCCC Board of Trustees serves many constituencies — the public, the students, the parents, private benefactors the business community. But by its handling of the president's DWI arrest, it's clear the board's only interest was in serving itself.

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