04/10/05 — Meg Scott Phipps: Perhaps it’s time to send her home

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Meg Scott Phipps: Perhaps it’s time to send her home

Many of North Carolina’s citizens were surprised — but not at all outraged — when former commissioner of agriculture Meg Scott Phipps was sentenced to four years in a federal prison.

She had been convicted of accepting illegal campaign contributions, extortion and conspiracy. All were serious crimes deserving of serious consequences.

Adding to the seriousness not only was Mrs. Scott’s insisting on her personal innocence but her contentions that all the blame rested on the shoulders of her top assistants — and close friends. She stood ready to let them all hang for a conspiracy of which she had to have been the key orchestrator.

While a first termer in the office of commissioner of agriculture, Mrs. Phipps was not a babe in the woods. She was a licensed attorney and a veteran administrative judge. She was the daughter of a former governor and lieutenant governor and the granddaughter of a former commissioner of agriculture, governor and U.S. senator.

If she didn’t know what she was doing at the time the mischief was happening, she very well should have known. And surely she knew it was wrong.

The suggestion that “this stuff had been going on for years” undoubtedly has some credence. But things have changed. Laws have been tightened. Surveillance has become more intense. The public is far less tolerant.

But Meg Scott Phipps’ actions were not crimes of violence. All the people involved were willing participants. They were wrong. They were caught and they have paid dearly.

None has paid more dearly than Meg Scott Phipps. She has lost her license to practice law, her job and her dreams of one day being governor. She will go down in history as one who tarnished the name of a great family and embarrassed her state. She has been taken from her two children, her husband and her aging parents.

Her punishment already has been sufficient.

Published in Editorials on April 10, 2005 12:09 AM