Excuses coming up short

Published 5:14 pm Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Whatever reasons Beaufort County commissioners Hood Richardson and Stan Deatherage have for not attending both sessions of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners’ two-day retreat last week, they did a disservice to Beaufort County residents and their fellow commissioners.

Their absence smacks of a little boy taking his football with him as he leaves a football game because he doesn’t like the way the game is being played. In other words: if they can’t get their way, they just won’t play.

Richardson and Deatherage need to remember they are elected officials who represent all residents of Beaufort County. They should have been at the retreat, taking part in taking care of the county’s business. Their decisions not to attend because they don’t agree with some, if not most, of the board’s recent actions and decisions place their public service under a dark cloud.

Richardson’s absence can be traced to last year’s board retreat, when he walked out after the board voted to locate a new jail in the Beaufort County Industrial Park. Since that vote, the site for the proposed jail has been changed to the Chocowinity Industrial Park.

“Last year was the first year I had been in several years. The reason is they pull up things — this is supposed to be a casual affair that people can speak truly about so that the business of the county can be ironed out. But last year the Gang of Four — it was not an agenda item — suddenly decided they wanted to build (a new) jail. So, I’m not going to participate where people act in dishonorable ways,” Richardson said Friday.

Deatherage acknowledges the board’s decision not to videotape the meeting and air it on the local cable TV network was a factor in his decision not to attend the retreat. The retreat was a public meeting. Anyone could attend to observe what the board was doing. Deatherage, in a post on his website, notes he expected this retreat to be a “steamrolling event” like last year’s retreat.

No matter how they try to color it, Richardson and Deatherage did not do right by their constituents by boycotting this year’s retreat. They were elected to represent their county in the process of government, not to refuse to participate when things don’t go their way.

Deatherage and Richardson should have been at the retreat to look after county residents’ best interest.

Public service is about putting the public first and self last.