Our Opinion: Mistake should be admitted, not compounded

Admitting a mistake or changing a viewpoint are two things people in public life are reluctant to do.

A mistake is criticized as an imperfection; changing one’s mind is castigated as flip-flopping.

In reality, errors show people in public life — like people everywhere — are human. Changing our minds shows we can listen and learn, and remain open-minded enough to consider or embrace a different point of view.

We believe Jefferson City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus made a mistake. And we encourage him to acknowledge the error.

In advance of a fire department sales tax issue on Tuesday’s ballot, Nickolaus sent an e-mail on the topic to city employees.

State law permits governments and public officials to provide information on ballot issues, but prohibits campaigning for or against an issue or candidate.

Although the e-mail might be construed as favoring the sales tax, the language did not advocate and, consequently, is not likely to be found in violation of the law.

The offense was a statement that undermined the credibility of both the sales tax campaign and city government.

A prevailing sentiment during the campaign was a dedicated sales tax for the fire department would free other city revenues to be spent as determined by the City Council.

Campaign organizers, who worked diligently to refute that notion, were both flabbergasted and undercut by a contradictory statement in the e-mail. It read: “The money which is presently spent on these items (for firefighters) will be available for increased funding for all general fund purposes.”

As a result of the e-mail, at least one council member has called for the dismissal of Nickolaus. A special City Council meeting is scheduled today to consider the matter.

We believe the e-mail was a mistake, but not grounds for dismissal.

We also believe the mistake will be compounded by City Council members if they believe firing Nickolaus will absolve them of responsibility for city government’s lack of credibility.

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