Citizens in Lafayette, Oregon, experienced quite a shock when they received their water bills in September.

Social media exploded with questions and comments about their water and sewage bills, which jumped from an average of $130 to over $600 for some people. At a time when people are struggling to put food on their tables, the city of Lafayette has some explaining to do.

Lafayette’s mayor, Hilary Malcomson, called a ‘town hall’ meeting where residents had the opportunity to express their concerns.

Earlier in the year, the city council approved a rate increase. People who know math much better than I were able to do their own calculations. Something is not adding up correctly.

Early in the meeting, Mayor Malcomson admitted there was an error in calculations, but failed to assure the community of her ability to manage the problem. That fact became more evident as the mayor attempted to make excuses for a situation she had little knowledge about.

At the conclusion of the hour-long discussion, Mayor Malcomson asked those in attendance what they wanted her to bring to the council in the coming days at a special meeting she planned to convene.

Solutions ranged from putting a hold on payments, rolling back to the old system, and freezing shut-off actions for those unable to pay their entire bill.

By the end of the meeting, the waters were still muddy as to what action might be taken to resolve this conflict. What was evident was that the mayor refused to accept responsibility for the issue and lacked the ability to convey transparency about what had caused a mistake in calculations for the water and sewage bills. There lies the problem. We need leaders who are willing to be honest, transparent, and humble when something goes wrong on their watch. It’s okay to make mistakes. Covering up the mistakes or throwing someone else under the “bus” is not what our communities need or deserve.