Work for the people; ignore the people
Saturday, May 11, 2013 8:20 PM
Elected leaders gave us much to ponder this week.
In one case, officials listened to the community's cries, stepped back, re-evaluated and opted to reboot a search for a new education superintendent.
In the other case, officials heard the same questions about controversy and decided they didn't need to provide answers.
In one case, officials honored their commitment as stewards of public trust. In the other case, officials denigrated that trust.
Sagas come and sagas go in "Corruption Corner," the Lakelands new unfortunate moniker because of the tragic and seemingly never ending controversies and unethical behavior that comes far too frequently. How those elected officials respond, however, is proving to be enlightening.
ON TUESDAY, ABBEVILLE COUNTY'S school board elected to bypass three finalists for the district's new superintendent and restart the process.
Scores of Abbeville residents - parents, teachers and administrators - expressed disappointment in the three options, and they let the school board know their displeasure.
The school board listened to these complaints, and they took correct action. There's no sense in hiring a superintendent the people don't want.
Far too often through the years, a vocal minority (or majority, depending on who you ask) expressed concerns about the current superintendent. There's no sense in setting a negative tone with the schools' new leader, so hiring the correct person - a person focused on educating children despite financial hardships school districts face nowadays - is a vital concern.
"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen," Winston Churchill once said.
Abbeville County's school board exhibited that necessary courage, and residents should be pleased their voices were heard.
In the Town of Saluda, elected officials ignore you.
MIRED IN A MONTHSLONG SCANDAL, Saluda's Town Council continues to hear questions and concerns about mileage reimbursement credited to former mayor Frank Addy, who killed himself March 31.
From 2010-12, Addy collected $37,818.46 in mileage reimbursements after claiming 68,760 miles while traveling for economic development. Addy, of course, could not provide any documentation of the travels, and several places Addy claimed to have visited had no recollection or record of his visit.Last month, acting mayor Anissa Turner said she approached town administrator Randy Cole with her concerns, but she failed to elaborate about what, if any, action she took about those concerns.
A concerned resident, Toni Smith, is keeping those elected officials accountable for their slipshod stewardship of taxpayer money.
In Tuesday's meeting, Smith asked Turner, and fellow council members Robert Butler and Obie Combs, about their knowledge of the excessive mileage claims and any action they took.
The response? "No comment," "no comment" and "no comment."
"Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light," George Washington said. And Smith - the Saluda resident who asked the questions - deserves credit for continuing to shine the spotlight on these ineffective council members.
In fact, people in Saluda should attend every meeting, request to speak and ask the same questions. Repeatedly. Until you get answers.
Abraham Lincoln promised a "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." And it's up to the people to keep elected officials accountable for this government.
The Abbeville County school board did exactly what it should: It listened to the people and it acted, in correlation with the people's will, and took the necessary steps to ensure schools are led by a person not only the school board is comfortable with, but also the people the superintendent will serve.
In Saluda, however, the elected officials continue to ignore the people, shuffling their questions to the side in hopes the problem goes away.
The fine folks of Saluda can ensure it doesn't fade to the recesses of time. There will be light if you keep demanding it.
Bryan is associate editor of the Index-Journal. Contact him at 943-2513; email email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter at IJSCOTTJBRYAN. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.