Confehr: Interest conflict cured by disclosure

Friday, April 30, 2010

Several separate matters crossed the news desk this week, somewhat scatologically on the Southside of Lewisburg's public square.

Today's story on statements to be read by county commissioners with conflicts of interest comes with this insight: It's happening elsewhere and has for years.

In the 1980s, another county commission's education committee included two junior high school principals, an elementary school principal, a college English professor and another commissioner, one without such a conflict. They recommended pay raises for principals. As I remember it, some were on the budget committee and recommended it to the commission where the pay raise received a favorable vote with all affected members declaring their conflicts of interest.

There's another aspect of this situation. We see it in churches, service clubs, social groups and political parties. It's more pronounced at church. There's usually a core group of people who do most of the work and are leaders. That's their way of participating. Others are pleased to attend, hear a good sermon, have their children educated about religion and tithe like they should, or could. Some like to complain. Others decide to remain quiet. It's the way we are.

Here's another situation.

Commissioner Seth Warf was called for insight on one vote and he volunteered reasons for why he voted against asking election commissioners to hold a public vote on the plan to increase the sales tax rate.

Marshall County has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state, Warf said. One of every five people in the county workforce is without a job.

"With those kind of figures, we can't stand no more," he said. "They're struggling the way it is."

Here's something remarkable about the Duck River Electric Membership Corp. employee.
"I work for the power company and I burn wood to heat the house," Warf said Wednesday after chopping wood.

He then commented on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. More than $3 million of it is being spent on jobs in this county because of its unemployment rate.

"I hate to see people get false hope from stimulus money," he said. "It may last six months. Some might get lucky and stay on, but the biggest part of them will be out of work again. That's why I voted against the tax hike."

And finally, we take this moment to acknowledge that May 3rd through May 7th is designated as National School Nutrition Employee Week. My wife's a teacher and I used to eat lunch with her at her school's cafeteria. I usually eat at the cafeteria when there's a story at a school, as there was a week ago today.

It could happen again, but today I hope to meet people who, like me, lost a friend this week. Lynda Sherrell was like the folks who are active participants at church, in their community and at the State Fair. I regret we'll be in a chapel.