Over the past 243 years, Americans have had a love/hate relationship with their elected officials. Whether electing officials to a national office, a statewide concern or a local seat, the one thing all of the people could count on is that some constituents have had high expectations of their leaders, while others have not.
The public’s expectations are fickle ones and usually fluctuate with each position the elected take on issues. Gauging leaders by their results is normal public behavior and generally of no fault of the officials. Like ‘em or not, they are just doing their jobs. But what happens when their conduct in office runs afoul of the norm? That appears to have occurred Monday night.
About 12 minutes into a closed session of the Goldsboro City Council, Councilman Antonio Williams was heard from outside the meeting room shouting about the censure procedure he faces. Other raised voices were heard, as well. All of which caused police Chief Mike West to go inside the meeting room.
Within minutes, the council adjourned the closed meeting and the public entered the room for the council’s open session.
When council members react so vehemently yet unprofessionally to one another that the police chief must investigate the brouhaha, it is an embarrassment to their constituents. Only those in the room during the closed session know what was said and why — and when — council members raised their voices. But no one cares. The important thing is making sure it doesn’t happen again. Ensuring that council members act with decorum at all times and not humiliate the public with such childish antics must be paramount.
Speaking of humiliation, the whole issue concerning the censure of Antonio Williams has become demeaning. It has dragged on with many people wondering what is taking so long and what can happen in the end. Of course, it is for the council to decide whether to censure Williams. Censure simply is a rebuke of him as an elected official. What has happened so far is that the circus that has surrounded this effort — with the responsibility lying with the elected council members — is leading to the public chiding the entire body.
According to the censure procedure made public at the Monday council meeting, the council sits as Williams’ prosecutor and jury, with the mayor leading the proceeding.
“All members of the Council may participate in the proceedings in that they may examine witnesses, introduce documents or other evidence and may vote on any issue,” Item 1D reads in the city council’s “Censure Hearing Rules of Procedure.” At the end of the hearing, the council deliberates and decides the outcome of the censure hearing, the rules continue.
We are uncomfortable with the council sitting as both prosecutor and jury. We will not comment on what we expect the outcome to be in this procedure. But we do expect that going forward the process will be handled with solemnity and aplomb. At this point, the only things missing have been the ringmaster, the lion tamer and the trapeze acts.