Tyrone secrecy troubling

Regardless of how public reaction plays out regarding the departure of Tyrone Borough Manager Phyllis Garhart, the borough council erred in its handling of information related to the situation.

And, unfortunately, borough residents still remain in the dark about the circumstances leading to her exit. That’s despite the borough releasing Garhart’s letter of resignation Thursday in response to a Right to Know Law request filed by the Mirror.

The secrecy surrounding the resignation obviously has opened doors to rumors and possibly unjust speculation or suspicion.

Whether a loss of confidence in Garhart’s job performance might have been one basis for Garhart bowing out from her two borough responsibilities — finance director as well as borough manager — remains a matter of speculation. At a special meeting March 6, at which Garhart’s resignation was accepted, and in the days since, the council has remained tight-lipped.

There’s no indication that Garhart ever was asked to rethink her decision to resign. Likewise, there has been no indication that she had been asked to resign.

Until Thursday, borough residents remained limited to Councilwoman Michelle Miller’s comment on March 2 that “I think there were issues and concerns with the number of hours she was working.”

But also on March 2, Miller implied that she hadn’t been apprised of the full breadth of the Garhart situation, although, as a council member, she should have been.

To some residents, it might be puzzling that Miller was absent from the March 6 meeting, at which the vote was unanimous by those in attendance to accept Garhart’s resignation.

Prior to being hired as manager in May 2013, Garhart was serving as finance director and, after being named manager, she held those dual responsibilities.

It was indicated March 6 that the duties will again be split between two people, now that Garhart has resigned.

Until the council hires a permanent replacement for Garhart, the borough’s administrative assistant, Kimberly Gurekovich, is handling manager duties on an interim basis.

In an effort to free up information that people of the community have a right to know, the Mirror chose to file the Right to Know Law request to gain access both to the resignation letter and whatever separation agreement might have been reached between the borough and Garhart.

Gurekovich indicated Thursday that a separation agreement didn’t yet exist.

While the inner details of a personnel matter might be off-limits to the public, a resignation letter falls within the parameters of public accessibility. So does a separation agreement, which can be expected to involve taxpayers’ money.

Tyrone’s council has been doing a good job overseeing the town. Considering the contents of the resignation letter, which is in no way detrimental to the council or the town, it’s puzzling why the municipal leaders chose to “install” an information roadblock rather than opt for allowable transparency.

Council members need to assure residents that that won’t happen in the future, because residents now might be wondering what other information they might have been denied in the past.

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