ShareThis Page

The housing authority settlement: A victory for openness

| Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2003

The state's highest court has affirmed that the people's right to know trumps officials' desire to keep things quiet -- in this case, a sexual harassment settlement involving the Westmoreland County Housing Authority and its former executive director.

In its 5-2 ruling, the state Supreme Court came down strongly on the side of sunshine: "The people of this state, through their elected representatives, have stated in the clearest of terms that it is more important that they have access to this type of information than that it remain confidential."

It's been 21/2 years since the Trib first pursued the rightful disclosure of the settlement. While the public's right to know has been deferred, it's not been thwarted.

The federal lawsuit charged former Executive Director Leonard "Skeets" Paletta and the housing authority with sexual harassment and discrimination. A settlement involving an undisclosed sum was reached between the plaintiff and the authority's insurance company -- even though the authority's insurance policy specifically excluded claims for age, race and sexual discrimination. Moreover, the insurer (on whose board Paletta formerly served as president) waived the authority's $1,000 deductible.

Considerable effort went into keeping the settlement secret. Nevertheless, three courts found that argument groundless, and for good reason.

Equally important, the courts found that the public's right to know is vital, powerful and not easily turned aside by the whims of government or its agents.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me