Oftentimes, when someone goes on and on about how they are not trying to do something wrong, that’s because the person knows he’s trying to convince himself rather than those he is speaking with.
That’s what the Surry County Board of Commissioners sounds like, when board member Paul Johnson stated over and over they weren’t doing anything underhanded in the way they have gone about replacing the late Garry Scearce, who died July 22.
We hope Johnson and the rest of the board have been able to convince themselves, because their arguments sure have not convinced us, and we suspect most of the general public is feeling their county government is being a little less-than-open in this whole process as well.
The board announced Monday night it would be announcing Scearce’s replacement on Thursday, at 4 p.m. at the Surry County Republican Headquarters in Mount Airy.
“We’re Republicans and we’re appointing a Republican to take a Republican’s place.”
He might just as well have been saying “We’re a good ol’ boys club, and we’ve decided on another good ol’ boy to join our club.”
That’s not to cast criticism on the Republican Party, but on the board of commissioners, because this whole move smacks of back-door, closed-government shenanigans this board is becoming known for.
Scearce was a member of the Republican party, thus state law requires a member of the GOP to be appointed. While partisan politics really has no place in local elections, Surry County has chosen — long ago — to make it a part of choosing the county commissioners, thus the state law applies here. We get that.
And we understand that under state law, the board of commissioners is compelled to consult with the local GOP head, if that person chooses to exercise that right. The head of the local party even has the right to make a recommendation on filling the seat.
And for all we know the board could be selecting a woman, rather than another man, but that means little when you look at the way this is being done.
In filling this vacancy, any and all deliberations should have been open to the public, perhaps in concert with the local GOP. First, for those who might want to apply for the position, and second, for public comment on what those in Scearce’s district were hoping to see in an appointee. And most certainly any and all discussion among board members on this most important decision should have been conducted in open session.
As it is, we don’t know when these commissioners decided on a replacement, or how. Did such discussions take place in an unannounced meeting? In closed session? In some telephone conference, or a clandestine meeting in a back room or public park somewhere? Did the board get together with the local GOP leadership and hammer out some deal, away from public scrutiny?
Is this person someone who will encounter extreme resistance from those in the district? Overwhelming support?
As for the location of the announcement — we think the commissioners would do well to remember this is not a Republican seat, it is a county government seat which should be representative of all voters in the district, a seat which just happens to be held at present by the Republican Party. The announcement should be made in the county administration building in Dobson — the county seat — rather than in a political headquarters in Mount Airy.
We seem to find ourselves saying this often when discussing actions by this board, but we will say it once again — the residents of Surry County, and particularly those in the Mount Airy District, deserve better.