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GLOVER COLUMN: Keep checks on corruption

Corruption on any level is at best a sorry sight that makes us question the moral fiber of society, and at its worst it is detrimental to the health and welfare of society as a whole.

Take corporate fraud in companies like Enron for example &045; companies whose top brass decided to line their own pockets and look for personal gain instead of dong their jobs and watching out for their employees’ well being. These people illustrate a complete lack of morals and concern for their fellow human beings, a trend that seems to be building momentum in today’s &8220;me&8221;-centric society.

If these corporate thieves have any excuse for their actions, and this is a reach, it is that they at least are in the business of making profits through creative means. I guess they enjoy their work so much that it has bled over into their personal lives.

But there is absolutely no excuse for morally corrupt actions in politics, especially when these actions hurt the constituents that you are sworn to protect. Unfortunately, there have been numerous illustrations of political corruption in the national arena with the Jack Abramoff scandal involving lobbying, Mark Foley’s inappropriate conduct with young Congress pages and Dennis Libby’s information leaking to further his political ends, to name a few.

Alabama’s state political scene has seen its share of corruption, too. There has been more than one former governor in the past several decades who has been questioned about their conduct while they were in office.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that political corruption exists on a local level. I am sure there are various levels of political corruption in city halls across the state. But what shocks and frankly appalls me is the level of corruption and lack of, well, class that civic leaders in Greensboro have exhibited.

In the past week the situation has built to a crescendo that leaves me wondering what more can the leaders of the area can pull out of their hat, and do I even want to know?

For those not abreast of the situation let me give you a brief rundown. The first, and depending on how you look at it, the worst blow to the credibility of the Greensboro government was the voter fraud in the mayoral election two years ago. The fraudulent reelection of Johnnie Washington was challenged by incumbent Mayor Vanessa Hill and the case was strung out in court, while Washington continued as acting mayor, until the Alabama Supreme Court declared Hill the lawful mayor last Friday.

Washington maintained in court that he wasn’t privy to the voter fraud, a claim I find hard to believe, and even had the audacity in the close of his argument to the court to say &8220;the voters and (himself) should not have to suffer due to the misconduct, omission by election officials.&8221;

What then does Washington propose? That even though there was voter fraud to initially win him the election that he should just be allowed to retain the office so he and the voters of the city don’t have to &8220;suffer&8221;?

What kind of asinine logic is that? By that argument I can go out, commit a crime and decide I want to forgo a trial so the victim and I don’t have to suffer anymore.

Directly after the court cleared up the fraud case &045; literally the same day &045; the Alabama Attorney General’s office issued a press release that the Mayor Pro Tem Valada Paige of the Greensboro City Council had been convicted of felony welfare fraud. The decision found that she had illegally received $8,758 in food stamps.

That begs the question: How do you swindle $8,758 worth of food stamps in the first place? You think the person in charge of a public office such as welfare would know their own councilwoman.

To further complicate matters another councilwoman was arrested by the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Department for fraudulent use of a credit card and possession of a forged instrument. Janice Jameson at least bowed out gracefully and resigned her position on the council, but that is two out of five members gone from the council and a new mayor put in place in the span of one week.

How did a small town where one would assume that one if not several others would have an idea that something was amiss have issues of this magnitude?

I feel sorry for the residents, the ones who are being shafted by this outrageous behavior. With this amount of corruption, it makes me wonder what else has been going on without the public’s knowledge. I also am interested in how much of the public good has been neglected by the corrupt in positions of power in the town.

All I can say to the pubic in Greensboro is that these people are your representative, not that you are to blame for their actions, but you are the ones who can change things. You are the people who have to scrutinize their actions and hold them accountable in elections if they are not making the grade.

For our part, we at The Demopolis Times will continue to help keep you abreast of situations such as these in hopes that by both our efforts officials will be less apt to try and circumvent the laws and will be more focused on what they are elected for &045; helping their constituents.

I sympathize and hope that the new mayor and the remaining council members can choose honest people to fill the vacated positions with solid morals, morals that those in this exodus of corrupt officials do not seem to have.

Brandon Glover is a staff writer for The Times. He can be reached at (334) 289-4017 or by e-mail to brandon.glover@demopolistimes.com.