Editorial: ‘Climate survey’ summary leaves questions unanswered | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Editorial: ‘Climate survey’ summary leaves questions unanswered

The summary of a consultant’s report assessing the working climate at the South Lake Tahoe Police Department and subsequent information obtained by the Tahoe Daily Tribune leaves some important questions unanswered.

The summary, written by Taylor-Nelson LLC of Riverside and dated Oct. 8, 2007, is an overview of a 44-page “climate survey” completed by 37 members of the South Lake Tahoe Police Department. Several stories detailing the report were published in the Tribune on Thursday.

With some exceptions, the report paints a negative picture of the police department’s internal working atmosphere. The survey concludes overall that the department’s rank-and-file do not trust and have little confidence in the department’s upper managers.

On April 25, the Tribune hand-delivered a written public-records request to the city requesting a copy of the full, 44-page climate survey. We were denied. City Manager David Jinkens cited the California Public Records Act, which he says exempts draft reports from public disclosure.

Evidently, seven months from the date of the summary, the full report still is in “draft” form. What that means, we haven’t a clue, though we’ve asked Jinkens via e-mail to define “draft.” So far, he’s declined, saying he wanted to speak first to the city attorney, who has been out of town.

In a letter to the Tribune dated May 1, Jinkens states: “The originator of the report has previously refused to send a report which is incomplete and has not been validated. The city has been advised that the climate survey contains raw data which has yet to be validated.

“The originator of the climate survey has also advised the city that their company feels the information they have collected is confidential and that to release it without first releasing it to the police management and employees is to breach their ethical obligation.”

So it’s Taylor-Nelson’s fault that the full report hasn’t been released? Seven months seems like a long time to “validate” a survey.

The issue is further confused by information in the summary itself: The first item under the summary’s “next steps” category says: “Once negotiations have been completed and ratified, the full 44-page survey results and notes from the consultants should be disclosed to parties. Employee feedback sessions should be conducted so all members have a chance to review and validate the data.”

According to the city, negotiations are complete, and contracts with all sworn police department positions have been ratified.

Thus, based on our reading of the Taylor-Nelson recommendation, the full report should have been released by now. But to our knowledge, nobody in the department has obtained it.

In addition, we’re troubled by the city’s response to portions of the summary being made public.

In a May 5 e-mail to the Tribune, Police Chief Terry Daniels wrote: “Now that contract negotiations are complete, it is my intent to schedule the consultants to return to begin the training. Publicly discussing this topic will be detrimental to the organization and serve no public interest.”

We applaud Daniels for using the survey to get employees more involved in making department decisions, but his contention that the report serves no public interest seems disingenuous at best.

The public has a right to know the unvarnished truth about its police force ” the public organization entrusted to protect and serve South Lake Tahoe’s citizens.

Here are some other questions we would like answered, and the public deserves to know:

— Daniels indicated the Taylor-Nelson report was paid for through a “donation.” Who donated the money, why and when was it donated, and how much did the report cost?

— Why didn’t the department use public funds to pay for the report? On the surface, the information in it could greatly benefit the department, thus justifying the use of public money.

— When will the full report be released, and who will get it?

The public shouldn’t be satisfied until the full climate survey report is released ” the sooner, the better.

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