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Editorial: Silent treatment

Was it something we said?

With Conway Selectman John O’Rourke, it’s actually something we wrote.

The board chairman has declared that he will no longer be talking to The Recorder. “Personally, I have had it with The Recorder. I will no longer offer any information or answer any questions of The Recorder staff,” he said in a prepared statement last week.

But that’s not all O’Rourke had to say on the matter.

“The concept of a free press is a double-edged sword. If the news is reported accurately, then it is good; if a story is filled with implications, innuendo and discrepancies in the facts, then it is bad and not real ‘news.’”

We certainly want to get the facts straight, but helping us do that necessitates talking with us, especially if we get something wrong. More communication, not less, is in the best interest of the public, it seems. It’s hard to tell from the selectmen’s lament, but it seems they are more upset that we have challenged the legality of their less-than-transparent hiring procedures.

Among the grievances levied at The Recorder is our insistence that Conway selectmen violated the state’s Open Meeting Law during the search for a new town administrator, one that includes O’Rourke’s decision to keep the names of the finalists, except for the one who got the job, a secret. The question of whether selectmen violated the Open Meeting Law is now in the hands of the state Attorney General’s Office.

For this challenge — and other stories that call into question the way the board sometimes handles the public’s business — O’Rourke has decided that the silent treatment is best. He’s so unhappy that the selectman is urging others connected with town government to zip their lips when it comes to The Recorder, too.

The great thing about our country and the right of free speech is that it also means you don’t have to say anything.

We don’t agree with O’Rourke that silence here is golden.

Instead, he’s cutting off communication that provides Conway residents with accurate and complete information about what is happening in town — information, that isn’t always pleasant or puts someone in the best light.

Even though O’Rourke may not like to hear it, the Conway Selectboard seems to have a little trouble when it comes to conducting the public’s business in public. We only have to go back to December and the way the board was moving ahead on the plans for town-owned property near Conway center, plans that left plenty of residents feeling they were kept in the dark. Then there’s the case of the former town administrator who has charged that the board violated the Open Meeting Law in removing him from the job.

This time, it’s about the hiring of a town employee and a process for such that should be transparent and open.

We’d be the first to agree that conducting town business within the law isn’t always easy. Hard or not, though, doing so is in Conway’s best interests.

That’s what elected officials in Conway are expected to do and that’s why The Recorder has filed a complaint over this particular issue.

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