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Editorial: Little of substance to take from investigation

The Dakota County Attorney's office said last week it will not file criminal charges in response to the actions of Farmington School Board member Tim Burke. The city of Farmington still might, but there seemed to be little enthusiasm among city council members Monday for a process that is likely to take a lot of time and money and result only in low-level charges. And whatever happens, there is not likely to be a decision for at least two or three weeks, after the city recruits an outside attorney to look over the details of the investigation.

That investigation, meanwhile, appears to have rung up a bill of at least $10,000, though the district's finance department had not received an invoice as of Tuesday afternoon. If nothing more comes of this process than the official board censure approved Dec. 16, this investigation will amount to little more than a very expensive, "Told you so."

The board opted against a removal process that probably would have been expensive and messy, but had they proceeded at least something more tangible than a scolding might have come from this.

Maybe the results of this investigation will cause Burke to modulate behavior that has been described as improper in some cases, disruptive or bullying in others. But Burke has not made many comments that suggest he feels the need to change. Consider that after being taken to task for sharing information that was not supposed to be public, it was Burke who forwarded to media members a board e-mail with preliminary information about the cost of the investigation. Though, to be fair, he did not forward more detailed billing information that came with it.

Burke was also criticized for creating an unpleasant working environment for some district employees. Given some of his comments, it seems he's more likely to take that as a compliment. Burke has said himself that he can be difficult to deal with.

It's still possible, of course, that Burke will come through this process a changed man. It seems more likely, though, that any change in the atmosphere of the school board going forward it seems more likely to be the result of next week's swearing in of three new members than an expensive investigation.