Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Public officials held to higher standards

| February 12, 2021 1:00 AM

Allen Banks, Ph.D., has been convicted in the Court of Public Opinion of a mistake that probably measures up to a public relations misdemeanor.

But there’s a bigger case at stake here.

Banks, Press readers know, was splashed on the front page of this newspaper last Saturday. A member of the previously low-profile Panhandle Health District board — that was in the pre-pandemic era, of course — Banks had included in his short biography on PHD’s website that he teaches at University of Wisconsin.

Technically, that’s simply not true on any reasonable level. University of Wisconsin officials confirmed to the newspaper that Banks never taught there. Did he guest lecture? Did he share his knowledge in some fashion with some students? He says he did, more than a decade ago, but it’s a stretch to say he taught or is teaching there. But why does this matter anyway?

It matters because public officials, particularly those serving in elected or appointed positions, should be held to the highest standards of honesty and transparency. Nowhere is that more important than listing their credentials for public consumption and consideration.

When the newspaper received a tip that Banks had feathered his resume's nest, The Press investigated. His other credentials checked out, so this isn’t a case of someone manufacturing a persona for personal gain. PHD board members are volunteers, after all — but the need for complete honesty can brook no exceptions or excuses. In most cases, they are gatekeepers not just of important public policy, but of taxpayer funds, as well. You can't put a price tag on the level of trust needed.

One Press critic complained that the paper is out to get local high profile conservatives, naming Banks and North Idaho College Trustee Todd Banducci. What the critic didn’t mention is that in Kootenai County, almost every public official is conservative. And besides, the guy is missing the point.

Failure to be completely above board leads to constituents fairly questioning, “Well, if so-and-so fibbed about this, what else might she be fibbing about?”

Banks served as something of an unwilling example to others that accurate disclosure is imperative. It’s our hope that other officials will review how they’ve described themselves and ensure that the letter of the law, not their interpretation of its intent, is strictly followed.