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10 SECTION 3 DECISIONS NECESSARY TO IMPLEMENT BOARD SELF-ASSESSMENT TO WHOM SHOULD THE ASSESSMENT cussion by the public may persuade the board to take con- BE DISCLOSED? structive action. A critical concern of many boards is the confidentiality of Openness will enhance public trust in the board. An open the self-assessment. Many boards do not have wide discre- self-assessment process, particularly as part of a general prac- tion under their state's sunshine laws, and this may affect their tice of openness on issues of public interest, will earn public predisposition for information sharing. Other boards may have confidence in the board and trust that issues of interest and legal discretion and a mutual commitment to maintain confi- concern are being candidly disclosed. This trust may generate dentiality. The Handbook does not mandate either openness understanding and support, as well as carry over to more con- or confidentiality, and the self-assessment process can be con- troversial issues such as service reductions, fare increases, or ducted under either approach. exercise of eminent domain, where public trust is crucial. Disclosure Limited Disclosure Boards that see merit in public disclosure of the assessment For boards that are permitted to meet in closed session for process act for several reasons, including the ones listed below. certain classes of sessions (e.g., those that do not include public business actions, debate, or "deliberations"), a middle Board effectiveness is a topic that interests and concerns road between complete disclosure and complete confiden- the public. A theme that underlies sunshine laws and public tiality may be to receive an advance briefing on the process involvement is that the transit operation is ultimately owned in closed session, to be briefed on the compiled results in and funded by, and operated for, the benefit of the public; the closed session, and then to hold an open session to consider agency (including its board) is responsible to the public. An the results and adopt a plan of action regarding the opportu- assessment of its effectiveness is arguably the highest-level nities for improvement. and most far-reaching topic considered by the board and should therefore be a topic of most immediate relevance and interest to the public and to the board's appointing entities. Confidentiality Public disclosure of the process will improve the respon- A board's concern about the confidentiality of the assess- siveness of the process. Interaction with the public in prepa- ment may arise from a number of causes, including the ones ration for board meetings, and even during the public comment listed below. portions of board meetings, can improve the objectivity and perceptiveness of the board's assessment of itself. Further, the The media and the public are hungry for sound-bite public's understanding of the board's strengths, efforts, and judgments. The public and the media want to know whether opportunities for improvement will enhance public under- public agencies and officials are doing well or not; however, standing and action on many other issues. information on their performance is usually communicated within the tight confines of a news broadcast or a few column- Public disclosure will reinforce constructive action. One of inches of newsprint. A self-assessment is just the sort of the most useful results of the self-assessment process is the col- information that can be easily (if not always accurately) con- lective recognition by the board of concerns that individuals veyed in such a format. There is a risk that a fairly sensitive might have only articulated privately if there were no appro- and balanced assessment will be translated into "Trouble at priate public forum for bringing such issues to the board's the Beleaguered Transit Authority Board." attention. Such concerns may be sensitive enough to be skirted by the board or suppressed if discussed only in a closed ses- Disclosure of negative assessments may put the board on sion; an open-session board discussion and subsequent dis- the defensive. If the members of the community or media do