Friday, April 28, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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The public's need to oversee Chief Sealth

"The very word 'secrecy' is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings ... We seek a free flow of information."

— John F. Kennedy

The disciplinary phase of Chief Sealth High School's girls basketball recruiting scandal should be conducted in a public setting — no ifs, ands or buts.

Members of the Metropolitan Activities Executive Committee, a little-known group of principals from each of the 13 schools in the Metro 3A League — to which Chief Sealth belongs — are pondering whether to hold the deliberations in public. How disappointing. Of course they should be in public. The principals group acts on behalf of a public agency by ruling on student-athlete eligibility. State law forbids, with strict exceptions, public agencies to conduct business in private. Secret proceedings flout the notion of open and transparent government.

Committee members have to be accountable for the actions they take on the public's behalf. The only way to hold them accountable is when the public can monitor their activities.

After Seattle Schools Superintendent Raj Manhas fumbled in his handling of the matter, it is left up to the Metro League to hold Chief Sealth accountable. The league's committee has the authority to fine the school, expel or suspend it from the league, ban it from future postseason play or force the team to forfeit past league games.

Forfeiture could result in the West Seattle school surrendering the two Class 3A state championships it won this year and last.

The principals committee has never faced a scandal of the magnitude of Chief Sealth's. Moreover, the committee has rarely met in the last decade. Nonetheless, members must find the courage to move forward with the proceedings in an open and public manner.

Time spent hiding from the public is better spent crafting a fair decision that holds Chief Sealth accountable and upholds the ethics of fair play.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company


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