Thursday, December 15, 2016

Scott Clark tried, but in the Strange Case of the Withheld Hospital Sale Bucks, the fix was very firmly "IN," and the Community Foundation had no intention of relinquishing the commissioner's proffered reins.

Thursday morning newspaper update here.  

Previously ...

In the matter of hospital sale proceeds, Floyd County's auditor and treasurer are fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities. We should be thanking, not berating them.

The staff of NA Confidential took Bill Hanson's News and Tribune op-ed piece and ran it through our handy Kenmore fact-checker. When it came out the other side, it read quite differently than before.

In fact, it's been rendered factual. We challenge Hanson to publish our version in his newspaper, and provide the other side to this story. Hanson's original text is in black, and our fact-checked update in red.

Tuesday night's Floyd County government meeting under the Pine View Big Top was described by an acquaintance as the single most dysfunctional such gathering he'd ever witnessed, hands down.

Sadly, various signs since then point to the resolution of the GOP's internecine struggle over the disposition of hospital sale proceeds.

Gazing into the fog of battle, it seems that besieged auditor Scott Clark will be capitulating and authorizing the release of funds to the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana. Come what may, I'm grateful for this example of a public official standing on principle for the greater good.

And for those readers (and even Hanson, who probably doesn't read at all) unable to fathom a public official taking a stand based on a matter of principle, it might help them to consult the discipline we know as "history," and specifically (among others), the Saturday Night Massacre.

Chris Morris covered the Tuesday meeting. Look it up if you will, but to me, Hanson's unseemly intervention has poisoned the well insofar as the News and Tribune's coverage is concerned. We don't need stenographers to faithfully record the wisdom of Papa Doc Seabrook. Rather, there should be real questions and answers, and not rote deference to father figures. Maybe I'm old-fashioned that way.

In the end, my take hasn't changed. Good, bad or indifferent, the hospital sale was handed to citizens of Floyd County as a fait ac·com·pli (ˈfet əkämˈplē,ˈfāt/):

A thing that has already happened or been decided before those affected hear about it, leaving them with no option but to accept.

"the results were presented to shareholders as a fait accompli"

So too was the disposition of the funds. I'd prefer to see them invested in some sort of "Community Foundation of Floyd County," controlled by us, for us. There are existing templates for such entities, and there also are other ways this investment decision might have been made. Unfortunately, the same old back alley boilerplate, dispensed by the usual self-interested suspects, yet again has been the order of the day.

Why do we normalize this?

It has been the pinnacle of disingenuousness for the big wheels to suggest that one or two comment sessions at sparsely attended public meetings, pertaining to a huge investment decision safely settled behind the scenes before the merely symbolic votes were tabulated, somehow constitute consensus.

These may satisfy bare minimum standards of public "discussion," but the reality is far different, and we all know it. It would be refreshing it we could admit as much on widely scattered occasions, rather than hiding behind patriarchal veils of mock propriety.

As Hanson illustrated in his bizarre ad rag op-ed, openly conceding a personal conflict of interest, but refusing to let it stand in the way of petulantly directing his omnibus advertising vehicle (i.e., "newspaper") to openly advocate for a position not connected to embarrassing cooking schools or reality jail-bait television programs, the Community Foundation was not about to let Seabrook's gift horse gallop from the paddock.

Without further comment, here is the transcript of a public Fb conversation between NAC's roving contributor and a member of the Community Foundation board. I find it instructive, and hope that you do, too.


Kyle Ridout‎ (to NA Confidential; December 13 at 11:54 p.m.)
If Floyd County had transferred the fund to the Community Foundation at the beginning of November, their fund would have grown now by $2.49 million.

Jeff Gillenwater
Where would that money have been invested? Who would be using it and to what ends?

Good questions. Call Kenton Wooden at the Community Foundation. I think he would be happy to answer those questions. I do know as far as the income is concerned, decisions regarding that would fall to the city and county councils.

I read through the Foundation's published investment policies and couldn't find any ethical guidelines pertaining to the sorts of investments that are acceptable. That would seem like a major step toward ensuring a community wasn't shooting itself in the foot with its investments, particularly when public money is involved. In that regard, there's no such thing as an apolitical board or foundation, only whether we as shareholders get to vote them in or out. That's a lot of power that would be transferred to a private entity and, honestly, asking that everyone in the county call an individual to learn what a board member doesn't know or can't share isn't a very satisfying answer. It's the sort of thing that should be settled well before a transfer of funds. I think there are a lot of people who might need to reexamine this situation. I don't know if the public officials holding up the transfer have a legal leg to stand on, but I'm starting to appreciate their efforts much more.

If you called and found out the facts, you could report back what you hear first hand rather than interpreting. Your choice.

But you're the board member advocating for this massive transfer of public funds. Doesn't responsibility for those facts fall on you? If you don't know how and where the money would be invested and/or how much we'll be charged in administrative fees, how can you say if it's a good idea or not? The only thing I'm "interpreting" is that there isn't much public information to be interpreted.

And, also, where did you get the $2.49 million number?

I am not going to endlessly argue with you. If you want answers, you have a completely open path to get them. Yet, your desire to have an argument for the sake of arguing is similar to what internet trolls do and I will not take part. Attend the meetings, make the phone calls, but do not pretend that you can't find the factual answers. Stating suppositions, superstitions, and conspiracy theories does not help anyone.

Argue endlessly? You've yet to posit any sort of argument at all beyond a specious return on investment claim. Not being knowledgeable about the potential investment is OK. Publishing exact dollar amounts as a board member in order to persuade the public sans that knowledge is not OK.

I did not say I was ignorant of investment strategies. Indeed, I serve on that committee. However, I will not participate in a conversation which is just a vehicle for you to show an augmentative bravado. Jeff, you need to learn that not everyone is your adversary and you can learn more through kindness and care rather than getting the better of someone. Sorry, but I do not take the bait of someone who just wants to argue and tear down.

I simply asked a couple of very straightforward questions pertaining directly to the potential investment that any responsible investor would ask. My investment decision making is always impacted by those questions. You could have answered them just as simply. Instead, you chose to make assumptions and impugn motives. If you do become a steward of such a large amount of public money, you won't have the option of not participating in such conversations. Perhaps that's something for you to think about in terms of your advocacy and involvement. Such insularity is certainly a concern in dealing with a private entity.

Understood, yet I will not engage with someone I know who would not speak to me that way in person. In order to gain any understanding, you must do it in a peaceful fashion. You lost me when you celebrated your own ego in finding a platform to exploit. So much could have been achieved otherwise. I am a volunteer pure and simple. Roasting me on the internet does no one any good.

I would ask the exact same questions/speak to you in the exact same way in person-- again, more assumptions. There's nothing not peaceful about asking them. Making public assertions and attempting to sway public opinion about such a high dollar/high impact public issue - particularly as a board member of an organization that has a direct fiduciary interest in that issue - while being unwilling to answer even very basic questions is not peaceful. It's disrespectful to the public at large as potential investors. You swung in here after arguing with people yesterday to try to prove a big point. I asked questions. You got irked. So be it. If you do the same thing again, you can expect more questions.

I did not get irked Jeff. And I did answer questions until the meanness began. You can veil it any way you like. In the end, no one would respond in a favorable fashion to what you posted. I gave you an avenue to get your questions answered through a simple phone call. You just chose to keep attacking.

I'm not veiling anything. If you're going to participate in these public discussions as a foundation official, try to make swaying points, question others and their motives, etc., my expectation is that you'll answer questions yourself. Throughout this exchange and your exchanges with others on this topic, though, you've continually suggested/harangued people about attending meetings, phone calling others, etc.. If you're interested in engagement and actual discourse, why not just share what you know? As I mentioned earlier, if a person is going to try to make a proactive argument in favor of something, doesn't it behoove that person to provide evidence, facts, figures, lines of reasoning in support? By not doing that, you set this up as a "find out for yourself" or "prove me wrong" scenario. As I also mentioned earlier, the idea that everyone in Floyd County with any questions should all call a particular individual at the foundation is untenable. It doesn't constitute a reasonable, good faith attempt at information sharing. Given that this conversation and many others concerning this potential investment are occurring in digital space via one of many platforms specifically designed to share digital content, it would be extraordinarily easy to share information related to potential investment strategies, any ethical guidelines about which types of investments are acceptable, expected rates of return, exit strategies, etc.. Where is any of that? "Call Kenton" and "Did you attend previous meetings?" function here as obfuscation, not education. By suggesting that you might not know, I was being far friendlier than suggesting that you just wouldn't answer. As it turns out, though, you just won't answer. We already have plenty of people in decision making positions who take that approach. It's difficult to think that adding more would be beneficial in the long term, especially if what's occurred here is reflective of how the foundation board might handle questions in future.

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