Will We Hear the Other Side of the Kanter Story?

Will We Hear the Other Side of the Kanter Story?
By Susan M. Halpern
Former Addison Councilmember (1992-1999)

It will be interesting to see whether Addison will truly allow us to see the other side of the Kanter story. Addison has now agreed to release unspecified documents, although when is unknown.  More about that in a minute.  In the meantime, I found some information on Addison’s website.

One of the things I found was Kanter’s almost-two-year-old July 11, 2014 letter. It contained observations, recommendations and staff’s responses.  The information in this letter was almost identical to what you heard in Kanter’s inflammatory presentation on February 23, 2016.  We’ve said it before: Kanter’s presentation was OLD NEWS.  It’s very obvious: Kanter was trotted back out to be the springboard for the reelection campaign Meier is orchestrating, trying desperately to make his cadre look good by attacking Addison’s past and its former staff and management.  So Kanter added lots of inflammatory innuendos and recycled the same things he talked about almost two years ago, confirming his willingness to put Meier’s ambitions above Addison’s best interests.  No one watching this debacle can believe for one minute that Kanter is objective, impartial or intellectually honest, all standards required by the AICPA.

Now, don’t get me wrong, almost two years ago, Kanter identified systems that needed tightening. But what we didn’t hear on February 23, 2014 is that Addison’s staff has been working on improving things for almost two years, including by coordinating with the consultants at Gradient Solutions.  And we sure didn’t hear that more than two years ago, before Kanter ever showed up, Addison was already in the process of replacing its court system.  These efforts were spearheaded by Addison’s former management, the very people Kanter shamefully attacked in in his presentation.  And, amidst all the irresponsible and inflammatory innuendo, let’s be very clear: Kanter hasn’t found one dollar missing.

So why dredge up two-year-old issues, without even acknowledging the work done by Addison’s employees and Gradient to improve Addison’s controls? The election, of course. Meier later confirmed it in Addison’s newsletter, where he unveiled his clever “past/present” campaign strategy. It was all a political hit.  And that makes clear that with this group, personal ambition is paramount, even if it results in harm to Addison.

The theater of it all was remarkable. All but two of the seven councilmembers had heard Kanter’s pitch a long time ago, but they acted surprised and we heard lots of “tut tuts.”  Mary Carpenter was even quoted in the Dallas Morning News as being “speechless.” Why, because Kanter rehashed old news in an inflammatory way for no valid or constructive reason?  I’m with you on that one.  I’m speechless too at the thought that Addison’s mayor orchestrated bad publicity for Addison.  Whatever happened to the fiduciary obligations all these people have to our town?

And that brings us to my Open Records Act request. After watching Kanter’s inflammatory presentation, I requested records that would reveal the views of prior management that have been so conspicuously omitted from this “new” dialog. I asked for their communications with Kanter and Kanter’s billing statements, which should contain narratives of his work. I also asked for emails exchanged between Kanter and any member of the council.  Given my suspicions about the orchestrated nature of Kanter’s reprocessed presentation, I want to find out which councilmembers have been communicating with Kanter directly, out of the public’s view.  You know, transparency.

Addison again refused to produce a single document. In its lengthy submission to the AG, Addison cited the “audit” exception, the attorney-client privilege, and the “agency memoranda” exception.  Well, we know Kanter’s not a lawyer, and his agreement expressly says his work isn’t an audit:

This engagement does not involve an audit, review, compilation or attest service as that term is defined by the AICPA.

I responded with my own letter to the AG. Among other things, I pointed out that if Addison believed that communications between Kanter and prior management and staff (or the council) enjoyed some type of privilege, then the Town should have preserved that privilege.  But they didn’t.  The entire matter has been openly discussed, including with the press. If Addison ever had a privilege, these politically motivated people waived it.   I also expressed my concern that without these documents, Meier and Kanter could create whatever “reality” they wanted to create, without fear of being called on the carpet because Addison is hiding the rest of the story.

I sent my letter off to the AG, faxed it to the lawyer, and went back to work. Later in the day, as I was preparing the original version of this post, I received a call from Addison’s management indicating that they would be producing documents.  Today, I received a voicemail from the City Secretary stating that Addison would be withdrawing its AG submission and would be producing the documents.  But, I was told it would take time…

I’m skeptical, but hopeful that I will get full disclosure. Citizens must be permitted to examine the underlying information – the facts – that either confirm or disprove the public statements of government and politicians.  That is what “transparency” is all about.

But to work – to have true transparency – the process has to be a whole lot more accessible than what we’ve experienced in trying to get to the bottom of the Kanter fiasco. A process that is this laborious and expensive is not “transparent.” It discourages citizens from trying in the first place.  And that opens the door for politicians to feed their conclusions to the public, knowing that most citizens will be unlikely – or unable – to obtain information necessary to expose distortions or outright fabrications.

That’s not “transparency” folks, and we’ve lived under these rules for long enough. It’s time for a change, and we’re hoping it starts with FULL disclosure regarding the Kanter documents.