Just where is county board headed?

Published 6:41 am Saturday, March 22, 2003

By Staff
Drug investigators accompanying Department of Social Services workers into clients' homes to check for illegal substances?
Impounding the next round of drug seizure funds so the sheriff of Beaufort County can't buy any more "shiny cars"?
Taking aim on the County Home and its "millionaires"?
Those of us who read the account of the latest Beaufort County Republican Men's Club meeting last week had to wonder whether we were seeing a pre-April Fool's spoof instead of a serious account of a session presided over by one of the members of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners.
Hood Richardson told the folks present last Thursday night at Hog Heaven that the Republicans had "chased a lot of rabbits in a lot of directions" since the GOP had taken over control of the county board. What he has been doing more than anything is chasing away respect for the board on which he sits.
During the 2002 campaign for the three seats on the Board of County Commissioners, we sensed that two primary issues were riveting a significant, p ositive focus on the Republican candidates -- a desire to change the method of electing county commissioners and a desire to instill greater fiscal restraint in county operations. However, "extremism" quickly is becoming the word that springs to mind to describe the attitude emanating from actual and implied board activity.
Mr. Richardson, who conducted himself with decorum as well as candor during campaign season, has been the focal point for much of that concern over the past couple of months. His inflammatory statements at the Republican Men's Club meeting were just the latest example.
The subdivision ordinance discussion perhaps was the first salvo Mr. Richardson fired after the Republicans gained the majority on the county board. Many who witnessed his tirade at that meeting -- especially his remarks to a retired admiral speaking as a resident of Cypress Landing -- felt more embarrassed on behalf of the general county population than they had after many a childish exchange between Mr. Richardson and Democrats on the county board prior to the election.
The subsequent episode with Sheriff Alan Jordan over the purchase of a new four-wheel-drive vehicle that the Sheriff's Office needed -- and money from drug seizures was there for him rightly to spend -- raised more alarm bells.
The comments Thursday night made those previous spells fade from the spotlight.
We shudder to think what officials in Raleigh and Washington, D.C., would have to say about law enforcement officers trailing into homes behind social service workers, then sifting through drawers in dressers and sniffing foodstuffs in cabinets, sans search warrants or any feasible facsimile of probable cause.
Certainly, the County Home is not a money-making proposition, but, we understand the "millionaires" in residence and their compassionate caregivers had quite a few nervous chuckles over that crack from Mr. Richardson, knowing how far from the truth it is but bracing for a full assault on the existence of the place they truly know as home.
Moderate Republicans stood shoulder to shoulder with the conservative faction in the fall to win their party more leadership. However, we have heard plenty of talk lately about how the mended seams have been splitting. With the Republican county convention coming up Monday, we must hope that the more moderate wing will be able to reassert itself. That might be too late to save the county board majority from itself, but it will rescue the face of the Beaufort County Republican Party.
50 Fantastic Years
Basketball fans relished the opportunity last week to relive many a glorious day and many a near-impossible accomplishment, as they cheered their teams through the 50th anniversary games of the ACC Basketball Tournament.
Early player leaps to the NBA and the broadened NCAA field have changed the nature of the game considerably over the past several years. But upsets and last-second comebacks remind us fans that the tournament's level of excitement has in no way dimmed.