Concerns over a Letter to the Editor signed by five GVR directors drew lots of comments at a meeting Wednesday, but a deadlocked vote meant it wouldn’t be deemed a violation of the board’s Code of Conduct.
The letter, published as an In My View on the opinion pages of the Green Valley News on Nov. 22, was submitted in response to newspaper editorials critical of GVR’s CEO hiring process. It was signed by Don Weaver, Mike Zelenak, Donna Coon, Randy Howard and Beverly Tobiason.
GVR Director Mark Kelley said the letter violated the GVR Code of Conduct, which says director interactions with the press “must recognize the lack of authority vested in individual Directors except when explicitly Board authorized.”
Director Mark McIntosh agreed with Kelley and voiced concerns about directors submitting letters to the Green Valley News.
"I've seen letters in the past from board directors that have said, 'This is my opinion, it's not that of the board,' but yet they're talking about board things," he said. "Maybe we need to clean that up to where they can't do that."
Weaver told the board that he raised the matter with GVR's attorney Wendy Ehrlich, who told him there was no violation since the text never stated the letter was from the Board of Directors.
"Now, maybe what we should have done, quite frankly, is say we don't speak for the board," he said. "But (Ehrlich's) opinion is that we did not in the article say that this was a board opinion."
However, the headline on the piece sent to the newspaper read, “GVR Board Response to Recent Editorials." The email from a GVR staff member who sent the letter to the newspaper also said, “Attached is the GVR Board's response to recent Green Valley News editorials.” The document file name was, “GVR BOD Response to Editorials.”
Weaver told the Green Valley News on Friday that he didn’t remember that headline being on the piece and said it shouldn’t have been there. He said the letter was the opinion of individuals, not the board.
The newspaper used a different headline — "'The rest of the story' on Somers' hiring" — which isn’t unusual. The Green Valley News printed the text of the letter in full with no editing.
The board voted, 6-6, that submitting the letter was not a violation of the Code of Conduct. A tie vote means a motion fails.
Director Charlie Sieck said the issue had come up "numerous" times in the past but taking action wasn’t feasible because of constitutional freedom of speech.
Seeking the leak
During the hiring process, the identities of three CEO finalists were leaked to the newspaper and published. The leak resulted in GVR launching an ad-hoc committee headed by Zelenak to figure out who shared the information.
During Wednesday's meeting, the board considered a change to the Corporate Policy Manual to exclude directors from special and ad-hoc committee meetings if the board determined the committee's discussions would include sensitive information.
Sieck objected to the board excluding directors from any meetings.
Zelenak said the move was necessary to protect anyone the committee investigated from having personal information exposed. He also cited information leaked to the Green Valley News as a concern for the move.
"Investigations have certain aspects to them that you would not necessarily want the investigatee, if that's a word, to have foreknowledge of aspects of how they're going to be investigated," he said. "Also, I'm not really interested in the committee members that I choose possibly having their names splashed on the front of the Green Valley News."
The motion to change the CPM failed in a 6-6 tie.