Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas once said of transparency, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” He failed to mention that to shine a light on the affairs of those who hold power is but the first step in an arduous and entirely messy process; a reality to which several good government advocates from Orange County can surely attest.
Brandman University is a non-profit private institution located in Irvine, CA with the stated purpose of providing opportunities for working adults to further their education. It is renowned for its Masters’ in Public Administration program, which is innovative for its emphasis on careers in local government rather than at the state and federal level.
Professor Fred Smoller created the flagship program in 2010, citing a need for a public administration graduate program that specifically instructed individuals in good governance and effective policy implementation from a local government perspective.
Cindy Smith and Janet Voshall, two graduate students enrolled in Smoller’s program, began the arduous task of unearthing the salaries of Orange County city administrators as part of their studies. After they collected the data, they published the report.
The work of the two interns was met with substantial praise from good government advocates across the nation.
In 2011, PublicCEO recognized the two interns in question with a Service to the State award for their work in furthering government transparency. At the time, the Chancellor of Brandman University even wrote in to PublicCEO to commend our publication for recognizing the students’ work.
However, the commendation quickly turned into condemnation. After their report was released, Laguna Hills City Council candidate Barbara Kogerman publicized the report while running for office, crediting the two interns and using Brandman’s official logo. While Smoller quickly asked Kogerman to remove the university’s name from her report, it was too late as the damage had already been done. Smith and Voshall quickly discovered that they had made enemies behind the Orange Curtain and could not secure gainful employment within the county.
According to the Times, Smoller resigned from his post at Brandman in an act of protest. And according to Smoller, advocates of good governance should take heed of his story.
Read the full article about Professor Smoller’s departure from Brandman at the OC Register.
For an in-depth overview of the entire situation from start to finish, check out the article from The Los Angeles Times.