Burns: Vision 2025 should open board meetings to public

Policymaking nonprofit urged to embrace full transparency

EBENSBURG, March 29 – Saying a recent Tribune-Democrat editorial supports his calls for greater transparency by the nonprofit, state Rep Frank Burns is urging Vision Together 2025 Inc. to prove it is community-driven by opening its board meetings to the public.

Burns, D-Cambria, said Vision should not remain tone-deaf as the Johnstown newspaper joins the growing chorus of those opposed to the organization’s secretive, top-heavy way of devising and implementing policy involving tax dollars.

“If the Trib-Dem admits to being ‘most troubled by the back-room nature of the discussions’ and is urging Vision to ‘Communicate – honestly, early, thoroughly and with full disclosure of any public impact,’ Vision should heed that advice,” Burns said. “The best way for Vision to do that is to put it to a board vote whether to open their meetings to the public or not. Have a roll call vote and make the results of that vote public – “Who’s for openness and transparency, and who isn’t?”

Burns added, “Vision President/CEO Mike Tedesco keeps saying, ‘All are welcome at Vision Together.’ I’m calling on Mike Tedesco to prove it by welcoming the public to Vision’s board meetings.”

Although the controversy over Vision’s operation began in January as the public gradually became aware of the scope and detail of its “Human Capital Project” to recruit Afghan refugees to Cambria County, Burns said for him the issue has always been centered on transparency and openness.

Burns said that’s even more important now – particularly since recently surfaced, Vision-related documents include someone’s handwritten notes on how to divvy up $50 million worth of federal grants awarded to help Johnstown.

“Those notes include having ‘Someone in charge of reputation management’ and a notation for ‘Community wide positivity and therapy training’ followed by a smiley face drawing,” Burns said. “Of all the possible uses for valuable grant money, who came up with those two?”

Burns said the newspaper editorial also sided with his oft-stated position regarding Vision board members signing confidentiality agreements, noting “confidentiality agreements for public officials – elected or appointed – compromise the relationship those individuals must have with the people they are paid to represent.”

Burns added that the newspaper’s recommendation that Vision become more open “before the Right-To-Know requests and Freedom Of Information Act petitions start falling around you” is a piece of advice that should be taken seriously.

“It’s clear that the public is aware of all avenues to ferret out information, so for Vision it’s a matter of, ‘You can tell the public up front, or it will find out later and you’ll look even worse,’” Burns said. “To me, it’s all about how you do the public’s business. The LCB made me fight to obtain transparency, but it eventually lost that battle.

“All the public wants is the truth; I sincerely hope Vision’s leadership realizes that now.”