09/07/13 — Simply, respect: County commissioner's bite is not appropriate

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Simply, respect: County commissioner's bite is not appropriate

There is an understanding when a community elects a representative to a board.

He is expected to make decisions -- sometimes tough ones.

And it is a given that he will never make all of the people happy all of the time.

That goes with the territory.

He is expected to serve the public with integrity and dignity -- and to know when to set aside personal benefit for the common good, which includes bowing out of votes that present a conflict of interest.

He is expected not to prejudge, to play favorites, to play politics or to use his office as a rock to hold over anyone's head. He is supposed to be fair, to think or research before he speaks and to know where his authority begins and ends.

And above all, he is expected to remember that an election is not a coronation and that public service is a public trust -- and that he serves at the will of the people.

But there are other expectations, too.

No public official, no matter how smart he thinks he is, should ever speak to an employee, a volunteer, a board member or even a member of the public with anything less than respect.

No snide comments.

No chiding rhetoric.

No sneering attitudes that suggest that the person in front of him is less than honest or less than intelligent -- or that he or she is blatantly wasting taxpayer money.

And before he speaks, he should know what he is talking about and not lie in wait, ready to pounce on a perceived slip or a less than elegant presentation.

And when he does make a mistake, he should be man enough to admit it -- not to start a vendetta against those who had the gall to point it out.

And those last few charges are not just the rules of public service.

They are simply the basic manners your mother taught you.

County Commissioner Joe Daughtery has a problem -- and it is getting worse and worse.

And because he does, so, too, does every member of the county board of commissioners -- and the county's Republican Party.

He calls it bluntness -- and assumes that the rest of the world simply does not understand.

During the recent meeting concerning Literacy Connections, a local organization promoting literacy and helping adult learners become literate, Daughtery drilled executive director Pat Yates about not only the organization's request for $27,000, but about the fact that she had allegedly dared to defy his order -- that she not repeat that he and fellow commissioner Bill Pate had come to see her to offer her the chance to re-present her funding request after Daughtery led the charge to chop the organization's budget a month ago.

Let's set aside for the moment that a member of the county commission has no business speaking to even a quasi-county employee and asking him or her not to tell anyone.

Daughtery treated her rudely -- and disrespectfully -- just as he has done to many people who have come before him during commission meetings and work sessions.

Just ask any of the members of the audience -- and the other community member who spoke. They were seething -- and rightly so.

(Or, if you prefer, watch it yourself -- on the county-sponsored television juggernaut, which has just acquired an $18,000 truck, by the way, and which has already cost the county many, many thousands of dollars.)

And it is not the first time.

County employees really do not answer to Daughtery -- and they should not be made to cower in fear at the prospect of losing their jobs whenever he decides to critique the job they are doing -- sometimes with very little knowledge of what he speaks.

And no volunteer board of directors should be subjected to that sort of questioning either.

It is rude. It is disrespectful, and it is wrong.

At the end of Tuesday's meeting, county commission chairman Steve Keen admonished the media not to spin the presentation -- saying it was not confrontational -- when clearly, those who stood before the commission felt it was.

So it is time, once again, to remind this board that not every group that appears before it is a waste of taxpayer dollars that accomplishes nothing except to look for more ways to get more county dollars to waste, that not every employee is a non-contributing blood sucker and that not every aspect of county government is malfunctioning.

And they should also remember there are legions of dedicated county employees -- and members of local volunteer organizations -- who work hard, long hours and dedicate themselves to making this community a better place.

They do not waste time, throw around tax dollars frivolously or buy $700 gold-plated dictionaries.

They care about the organizations they serve and they hope to get the public to understand what they do as well.

They do not deserve the treatment they are getting.

And it is time it stopped.

Perception is 9/10ths of reality and Daughtery should know that he has made quite an impression already on many in this community.

And it is not favorable.

That sir, is respectful -- and blunt.

Published in Editorials on September 7, 2013 11:18 PM