As a fiscal conservative–and someone who believes in fiscal responsibility–I would normally applaud efforts by any elected official to demand an accounting for how taxpayer dollars are spent. I’ve seen way too many budget workshops, public hearings and final votes that saw nobody question four percent increases in spending in one department’s budget and two percent in another and a three-percent tax increase. But there is a fine line between proper oversight and governance and what is going on with the Omro School Board.
No doubt you heard the story that WOSH broke this week that board member Joanie Beem was hit with a restraining order by the district for her behavior toward employees and fellow board members. The harassment alleged in the petition for the order cites Beem’s more than five years worth of demands from district employees for a penny-by-penny accounting of all expenditures. This started before Beem was elected to the School Board and only escalated once she got on the Board. In one case, the police had to be called in to get her to leave.
Beem’s demand for a line by line accounting of spending creates lengthy School Board meetings–and most of her questions are not even answered–as the rest of the board has no interest in explanations of payroll deduction payments or purchases of janitorial supplies and does not require administrators to answer her queries. At their last meeting, the Board brought in a representative from the Wisconsin Association of School Boards to basically lecture Beem on proper governance. A few days after that, she was hit with the restraining order.
Here’s the bottom line, if Beem and the groups supporting her in Omro believe that the District is engaged in misappropriation of funds–or malfeasance–then they need to make those accusations public and take them to the proper authorities. It is not the role of an elected official with no such training to act as a forensic accountant hoping to find the “smoking gun” in the hundreds of checks and credit card charges accrued by the District every month.
If this is nothing more than “I’m not happy with the way the District is spending it’s money”, then Beem’s backers need to get more people who think their way on the Board and create the budget themselves. That is what democracy looks like–not harassing and threatening people trying to do their jobs.