Capital News Article

Huang, Cindy, School board panel split over public discussion, Capital, March 27, 2016.

Snider Comment

By tradition, courts explain the reasoning behind their lawmaking; the law demands it of Federal administrative agencies under the Administrative Procedures Act; and the press demands it of U.S. Senators in making high level appointments (e.g., for U.S. Supreme Court). It hasn’t been the practice of the SBNC to do so. But it would be a good practice. If SBNC commissioners don’t explain their nominations, then the press should ask them to do so, even if the only response is “no comment.”

The first priority should be getting the SBNC to reveal its candidate roll call votes in not only a public but publicly accessible way. This hasn’t been its past practice, as illustrated by the fact that there are no posted minutes for roll call or any public decisions for its 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2nd 2015 nominating cycle (every year the SBNC must make at least one appointment). Similarly, the Capital has never published the roll call votes. Publishing only the names of candidates who have been approved is different and doesn’t put pressure on SBNC commissioners to explain their nominations.

As for deliberating in private, that’s not necessarily a problem, except that it shouldn’t be acceptable to either conduct straw polls in private or discuss strategic issues (e.g., the decision to nominate only two “qualified” individuals to the governor has huge implications for whether commissioner choose to vote sincerely). Usually, most commissioners will know how they are going to vote on most candidates before the first public hearing. The temptation, then, is to use the private deliberations for inappropriate purposes. Now that there are different and antagonistic SBNC factions, the risk of misusing private deliberations is reduced because of the greater incentive to expose such behavior.