12/03/09 — A grain of salt: Just because someone throws out an accusation doesn't make it solid gold

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A grain of salt: Just because someone throws out an accusation doesn't make it solid gold

The members of the Wayne County Citizens for Property Rights had every right to say what they thought to Wayne County Commissioner Jack Best and City Councilman Chuck Allen in a public meeting.

Just like every other citizen in this city or county, they are allowed to question the decisions and actions of the men and women who represent them.

Best and Allen are both public officials with years of experience in public life -- so they know how this game goes.

They are subject to the criticism of anyone whom they represent -- rightly or wrongly.

Both these men are too smart not to get that this kind of stuff goes along with the job.

But for those who might not be public officials, and who might not really understand that sometimes accusations are not without the hint of politics or personal interest, there is reason to talk a bit about the group's assertion that Best and Allen have benefitted from their time on their respective boards -- and in some cases have made decisions that personally created monetary gain for themselves.

Just because someone stands up in a meeting and claims he or she has evidence of wrongdoing -- or even files a formal complaint -- does not mean that his or her intentions are unfettered by personal perspective or that his or her interpretation of the facts is correct.

There are many factors to consider when determining whether a claim against a public official has merit. And in addition to the evidence presented, the law, common sense and reasonable judgment, those who are evaluating have to look at whatever other factors might have influenced the decision to file the concern in the first place.

There is no secret that there has been an undercurrent campaign -- almost a bit of a boxing match -- between one county commissioner and the planning board director and the rest of the county commission, not to mention another scuffle involving the Municipal Planning Organization.

There have been a lot of words thrown around publicly, and a lot more maneuvering behind the scenes -- even as some participants in the bickering say that the matter has been resolved.

And it is time for it to stop.

The truth is that successful businessmen have business dealings in the county -- and there is no one, including some of those slinging around accusations, who is without interest in the decisions made by all public bodies in the area.

And, sometimes, when decisions do not go the way that some people might want, they start to look for reasons to explain why the decision did not go in their favor.

Maybe there will be evidence that there have been some decisions that tied property Best or Allen owned to MPO decisions. But that in itself does not mean that the decisions that were made were determined by either member of those boards setting a course for personal fortune.

Being a public official opens your life up to scrutiny -- it always has.

But that does not mean that every punch or jab has the crystal clear ring of truth simply because it is spoken out loud.

We will see if this one can stand the scrutiny that should come along with such a claim of impropriety.

Published in Editorials on December 3, 2009 1:43 PM