08/04/05 — Watchdog group criticizes county commissioners

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Watchdog group criticizes county commissioners

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on August 4, 2005 1:46 PM

Members of a new government watchdog organization accused county commissioners of using their position to benefit themselves.

Willie Ray Starling said citizens are often misled by elected leaders who make "rules and laws that benefit their own agenda without as much as a care to the people whom they represent."

Starling spoke during the public comment period of the commissioners' meeting Tuesday. He said he represented Watch Dogs of Public Funds of Wayne County.

"We go to the polls thinking that we can make a change that will give us control over our future, but only to be sold out to pirates that pad their own pockets with expensive monuments and external growth that does little for the people," Starling said.

Commissioner Jack Best told Starling that he "wasn't a pirate."

"I object 100 percent to what you said," Best said. "I am not a pirate, and I'm not benefiting my own agenda."

Best is the only commissioner on the board who has refused to accept compensation for serving in the capacity, which he said he considers a public service.

Starling replied he wasn't referring specifically to Best, or any member of the board of commissioners.

"Just sit down," Best told him.

Lonnie Casey, another member of the watchdog group, told commissioners that the local organization is part of a state and national organization designed to keep an eye on wasteful government spending. Casey delivered the same message to the Goldsboro City Council on Monday night.

Commissioner Efton Sager told the audience at the meeting that he and the other commissioners work constantly to make sure taxpayers' money isn't wasted.

Sager said he voted for tax increase this year because it was needed to support the county's long-range financial plans.

"For many years the county was dipping into the fund balance to meet their budget, and weaning ourselves from that practice has had a dramatic impact on our financial situation," he said.

Sager said that county residents were welcome to question his judgment, but not his honesty.

"Perceived waste such as retreats at the beach and other areas that could be cut without loss in efficiency of government should be trimmed," he said.

Sager said that any perception that commissioners consider themselves as arrogant or more important than any other taxpayer in the county is wrong.

"I feel more like I am being persecuted most of the time," he said.

The other commissioners said they agreed with his comments.