IN OUR VIEW for Tuesday — November 01, 2005

• Time to move forward


Time to move forward

The ongoing coverage of expenses at the Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative has presented some troubling issues in the newsroom and publisher’s office of The Garden Island, as we’re sure it has at the KIUC executive offices as well as within our community.

To some extent, both the leaders of KIUC and The Garden Island are in the same business, that is, keeping members and readers informed about important issues that relate to our cooperative.

On the one hand, some of the KIUC leaders’ responses or lack of timely responses left room for interpretation that may have been able to have been clarified prior to publication through follow-up questions had open lines of communication still existed.

Right now, those lines are anything but open. And that hurts the common constituents we both strive to serve.

That lack of open communication hasn’t allowed us to get for our readers timely, complete responses to the questions we have asked, nor has it allowed for the clarification of questions.

On our part, we didn’t always ask the right questions, such as:

. What did directors learn when they traveled to attend training sessions?

. Is member money spent for travel for training money well-spent, and why?

. Is buying a home for the KIUC chief executive officer a smart move on the part of our board members, and were they being creative in their recruitment efforts, or was this a bad thing?

Other questions that we probably lost sight of through the development of this series of stories are equally as important:

. What prompted us to ask these questions to begin with?

. Why did we start running this series of stories on KIUC?

The answers to the above is that we believe we have an obligation to fulfill a watchdog role and bring members and readers relevant information about our coop.

In the process, though, we may have lost sight of our goal to get KIUC leaders to operate fully in the sunshine, in the open, to let members know about the home purchase, the travel budget, and other items.

Had we attended the public board meetings regularly, we would have known, and reported on, 98 percent or more of the issues that have been raised on the front pages of recent papers.

The fact that we didn’t report the why of where the travel funds were spent, for example, is another shortcoming on our part.

The current adversarial relationship between key figures at KIUC and The Garden Island hurts both organizations and, ultimately, the members and readers we serve.

This newspaper hopes that both organizations want the same thing — an efficiently-run utility co-op that has the highest standards of integrity.

We got caught up a bit in the line-item matters, the “how much,” instead of the all-important “why.”

There are still some unanswered questions we will continue to strive to get the answers to:

. Are they as cost-conscience as they could be in spending member money?

. Could they give even more money back to members in rebates if they are more responsible with expenses?

The questions we ask are in search of the truth.

Responses the newspaper has received from readers about the ongoing KIUC series of stories have been over-whelming in their support of our inquiries. That’s not to say we haven’t received complaints. We’ve had those as well, including those questioning our motivations, our ethics, and concerns that our reporting has been unfair to those involved.

The issue as we see it isn’t about what our money is being spent on, but rather the lack of communication with the membership about that spending. Perhaps as members we have to own our lack of proactive involvement with our co-op. That’s got to change. We’ve elected the majority of the board at KIUC, so each one of us as members has to take the responsibility of holding these elected officials accountable.

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