Braxton Citizens' News, Opinion

How far can you bend the rules…

Friday’s County Commission meeting was filled with activity. The meeting lasted longer than most and was productive, I thought.

I want to discuss one activity here that has been a topic in this space numerous times over the years. Barbara Adams, who by the way is one of my favorite people since the time we were in the first grade together, made a presentation to the Commission for funding for the 9-1-1 Center. She is chairwoman for the EMS and 9-1-1 Advisory Boards and is extremely dedicated to making both agencies the best they can be. With that said, this column should not in any way be deemed as critical of her.

At the meeting she made a plea to have the Commission help replace some outdated equipment at Braxton Control. She proposed that the vendor invoice two items separately as they didn’t have time to go through the bidding process as a price hike was looming.

I pointed out that the auditor would surely catch such activity and it simply wasn’t the right thing to do. Barbara readily agreed and stated she had no ill intent.

My point here is that all too often elected officials come up with creative excuses and ways to avoid what the State Code requires of them. Don’t get me wrong, I have been on both sides of the table, and I understand how those circumstances arise. However, the Code is clear. Furthermore… if someone forgets or for whatever reason, doesn’t have time to follow the procedure, the right of the citizens still has priority.

Here is what the code says: Section 29B-1-1 – Declaration of policy: Pursuant to the fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of representative government which holds to the principle that government is the servant of the people, and not the master of them, it is hereby declared to be the public policy of the state of West Virginia that all persons are, unless otherwise expressly provided by law, entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those who represent them as public officials and employees. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments of government they have created. To that end, the provisions of this article shall be liberally construed with the view of carrying out the above declaration of public policy.

While the case Friday was an innocent mistake and quickly remedied, I have all too often seen elected officials literally turn a blind eye to the public’s right… most uttering some statement like: “it’s still the right thing to do.” 

I think that the above portion of State Code should be made into a poster and placed on the wall in the meeting room of all public bodies where the elected officials would be looking at it when they made their decisions. Just like Friday, I take defending the public’s right to know very seriously. As long as I am allowed to stay in this position, I will continue to protect that right as I think it is a core of our democracy.