Not long ago if you had asked me about commenting publicly on an elected leader’s flagrant violation of a law or legal directive, I probably would have laughed. Today Ken Lemon from WSOC contacted me to comment on Lincoln County Commission Chair Carroll Mitchem’s deliberate and public decision to violate the law, and I am not laughing. It is an embarrassing situation – not for Mr. Mitchem, but for Lincoln County. Only two sentences from my interview were aired in the middle of what was a fairly lengthy description of a local celebration of arrogance. Let’s consider just a few points:
- Didn’t Mr. Mitchem take an oath as a commissioner to uphold the constitutions of this country and our state? If he can choose one law to violate, which law will be his next choice? Are the other citizens of this county allowed to choose one law to break? If not, why not? What kind of social order will we have if all of us get to copy Mr. Mitchem’s behavior – even just one time?
- Aside from the clearly legal side of this argument, where are the ethics that normally characterize public office holders? What kind of example does this set for young people? Mr. Mitchem says he is a patriot. Under what standards? Isn’t there a political process in this country to change and reflect the will of the voters? Isn’t that what we ought to be teaching literally and by example?
Finally, is this really what Lincoln County has become? I stated in this interview that I did not believe that such behavior was a true reflection of this county. But what the rest of the world sees is a community with an out of control commission chair who wants the legal system to revolve around his own personal needs and wants. As a student and teacher of American history, I don’t think that’s what the founders had in mind.