Faulty footwork

The report issued July 8 by the 2004-05 Butte County Grand Jury is a tremendous contribution. The jury members obviously worked extraordinarily hard and put in long hours to try to understand some of the problems facing various local agencies. We’ve never seen a report this extensive in its investigations and commend the jurors.

Having said that, we fault them in one regard. In their investigation of the controversy surrounding former Marsh Junior High School Principal Jeff Sloan, they failed to talk with the four school board trustees who actually made the decision to demote him. Instead they talked with the single trustee, Scott Huber, who voted to retain Sloan and another trustee, Jann Reed, who at the time of the controversy had not yet been elected to the board and, in fact, was part of the pro-Sloan faction. This faulty footwork gives the impression that the jurors were looking for proof of a preconceived notion, a suspicion Huber told the CN&R even he shares.

Their findings seem to validate Sloan’s insistence that he was disciplined largely for having the same lackadaisical approach to handling student body funds that was found district wide and countenanced by the superintendent. But they don’t take into consideration other possible reasons the trustees had for disciplining Sloan, reasons that were not made public because they were confidential in nature.

The jurors, in other words, perhaps didn’t get the full story for the simple reason that they didn’t talk with the people who really counted—the four trustees who made the final decision on the matter. That’s unfortunate for all involved, including Jeff Sloan. Had they done so and then issued their report in its current form, Sloan’s vindication would have been complete. As it stands, however, the public does not have sufficient information to be confident that Sloan’s demotion was unjustified.