Political Competition, the Spice of Good Government | Eastern North Carolina Now

    Political power tends to corrupt, absolute political power tends to corrupt absolutely. Whether it is individuals or political parties, nether should stay in power too long. The last 20, of the more than 100 years of almost continuous Democrat rule in North Carolina, were riddled with corruption. Several elected officials were sent to prison. The same is true in several other states. Corruption is not limited to the state level. It is also there in federal offices and county offices. Why? The inability of the opposing political party to capture either individual offices or take control of governing bodies such as county commissions and legislatures over long periods of time. The Democrats do not have a monopoly on corruption. If Republicans stay in power the same way as Democrats, they would be just as corrupt.

    Recent Republican victories in some North Carolina county commission races, the legislature and the governor's officeare beginning to be felt. However, there is much work remaining to be done. We still have grossly inefficient departments within state government. Among these are the Departments of Health, Justice, and Education. Moving the SBI from the Attorney General to the Department of Public Safety is a major improvement. Republicans on the state supreme court and court of appeals have made important differences.
Beaufort County Commissioner Hood Richardson making himself clear to his constituents: Above.     photo by Stan Deatherage

    There is a middle level of elected officials who have not been touched enough by the voters. These are the local judges, district attorneys, clerks of court and sheriffs. Within the Second Court District, Beaufort, Hyde, Martin, Washington and Tyrrell Counties, all of these offices are held by Democrats. This is not to single out Democrats. If they were all Republicans we would have the same problem.

    That problem comes form the coziness among these office holders because they subscribe to the same political beliefs and the political punishment that would come from not supporting someone within the Democrat party. Because they are all in the same party, ultimately, they all have to find a way to accommodate each other. It is worse having all Democrats because they do have a much stronger party loyalty ethic than Republicans.

    In an ideal world there should be a mix of both parties. What if half of these elected offices were held by Democrats and half by Republicans. We would then have one party keeping the other party "honest". By using the word "honest" I do not entirely mean corruption one could be sent to jail for. I am using corruption in the since of the spoiling or tainting of the system. There would be a great deal more debate about how the law is enforced and administered. There would be fewer friends of public officials who would be allowed to skirt the law. There would be fewer favors handed out. There would be more groups who would have free, open and fair access to the law and the courts. There would be fewer favored people.

    Sheriff's would have to make more arrests and open up their records to the public. The Beaufort County Sheriff is regularly accused of violating public records laws. I suspect the same is true in other counties. If either the public had open access or the District Attorney were of the opposite party, the public would have the information necessary to demand the fair and equal treatment of all parties.

    A mixture of Democrats and Republicans would expose District Attorneys who allow some to get off easy and others to be punished severely for the same crime. Judges would no longer be able to favor some lawyers over others, or allow crime to go unpunished if you get the right lawyer. Having a mixture of Republicans and Democrats among the judges and lawyers would stop cases from being tried before they get to court.

    The infrastructure is in place for fair and honest law enforcement, prosecution and trials. However, it is not functioning in Beaufort and other Counties because of the one party system.

    . The sheriff has been accused of using deputies to bully citizens, the district attorney does not try cases in a timely manner, judges put out the word that certain charges will not receive convictions in their court. So deputies do not bother to make arrests and District Attorneys do not bother to prosecute. Out of favor lawyers from outside the judicial district will not come into the district to try cases.

    Here is what our problem is in a nutshell. Unless you are a Democrat who is an insider stay out of Beaufort County. There is the argument that we have the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court to level the playing field and to correct erroneous judge and jury decisions. That is true. But, not all cases can be appealed for many reasons, a lot of research time goes into appeals, lawyers who load up the appeal process will probably be sanctioned. The lawyer risks his entire career if he tries to buck the system. Judge Belk, an independently wealthy lawyer lost his law license because he tried to reform the legal system.

    There is not an easy answer to this terrible problem. Outsiders must help us. People who are not now in the system should run. Those who crack this system will be unusual individuals who will be brave, hard working, competent and capable of dealing with the slings and arrows that will be cast upon them. They will need to step fore ward within the next few months when the books for filing for office are opened.

    Unaffiliated, Republicans or principled Democrats who have had careers in law in other districts and who have moved into the district should run for these offices. A North Carolina law license is required to run for Judge and District Attorney. Someone who is retired with a law license or someone who wants to move back home would make great candidates. There is no licensing requirement to run for sheriff or clerk of court.
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