"Meeting adjourned." Langley complains of his own creation. | Eastern North Carolina Now

    Publisher's Note: This article originally appeared in the Beaufort Observer.

The jail rancor is his fault. "Sit down and shut up" is no way to govern

    Stan Deatherage, county commissioner and publisher of Beaufort County Now has a report on a meeting Friday (3-28-14) of the County Commission and the county's legislative delegation (Sen. Bill Cook, Reps Michael Speciale and Paul Tine). The meeting was intended to allow the elected representatives at the county and state levels to engage in dialogue. As reported by Stan, the meeting was useful, but regrettably was sabotaged by Commission Jerry Langley, who adjourned the meeting without a vote to do so (as required by Robert's Rules of Order) when it did not go the way Chairman Langley wanted it to go.

    The contentious issue, as Stan reports, is the Gang of Four's repeated refusal to allow the people to vote on borrowing millions of dollars as is required by the N. C. Constitution. Implicit in the discussion is the fact the Legislature could stop this jail project.

    But that horse has already been beat to death. The Gang of Four (three Democrats and RINO Al Klemm) refuse to allow the people to vote. They base their position on distorting the technical wording in statutes which were originally intended to allow the borrowing of money on projects that would pay for themselves. But a jail will never meet that criterion.

    But the more interesting thing to come out of Friday's meeting was the exhibition of an attitude that goes to the heart of the discord so often seen in Commissioner meetings.

    The board is split 4-3 on most of the major issues. The minority is composed of Deatherage, Hood Richardson and Gary Brinn. Those three have consistently called for allowing the people to vote on borrowing millions of dollars. The Gang of Four adamantly refuse.

    But in the meeting Jerry Langley argued that the Republican Minority should just along with the majority. He is reported to have even said: "once the vote is taken and you lose you should stop opposition." That's not an exact quote but, essentially what he is reported to have argued.

    We find that most interesting. We wonder if he will feel the same way after this November (when it is likely he will find himself in the minority on the board) if a conservative Republican replaces Al Klemm, who is not running for re-election.

    Perhaps Chairman Langley is taking his cue from President Obama who has made similar arguments that the minority in Congress, particularly the Senate, should stop obstructing what he wants to do.

    Clearly Mr. Langley does not understand how American government works. He obviously has no clue about the concept of the "loyal opposition." Political minorities not only have inherent rights, such as Freedom of Speech, but they have an obligation to challenge the majority. It's called checks and balances.

    What Jerry Langley is exhibiting, in his exhortation that those opposed to a jail should just fall in line and go along, is simply more of the arrogance that has become his trademark as a chairman.

    No, Mr. Langley, the minority should not "sit down and shut up." Just the opposite is true. In a representative republic the elected representatives have a solemn duty to represent their constituents, even if their position is in the minority. And uniquely, in Beaufort County, this is especially true with the electoral system we have for our County Commission. One of the inherent characteristics of the "Limited Voting" system is that each representative is there because a significant minority elected them. None has a majority vote of all the voters in the county. The Limited Voting System is indeed a minority representation system. Each vote on the board represents a minority of like minded voters.

    Beyond that, the specific point that is involved in this jail debate, is important to understand in assessing Langley's "go along to get along" mantra. The issue here is a constitutional one. Article V, Section IV of the N. C. Constitution has for many years guaranteed the people the right to vote on issuing more local government debt. The statutes the Gang of Four purport to have on their side were not intended to provide for what they are twisting them to do. The "alternative financing methods" (without a vote) were intended for projects that essentially paid for themselves that would not cause a tax increase. For example, a sports stadium that would have the lease service the debt or a project that would increase the tax base enough to pay the debt off (a.k.a. tax-increment financing). Those are not applicable to a jail. It cannot pay for itself like an industrial park would do, which is what the alternative financing was originally intended to do. If Langley studied the case law, as he claims he has in his possession, he would understand that. Any constitutional law scholar worth his/her salt would tell him what the intent of Article V, Section IV is.

    In that the jail financing project is a constitutional issue, it is ironic that Mr. Langley would take a position to suggest minority representatives should "go along to get along" on a constitutional issue. An honorable representative seeks to uphold the oath he/she took to support the Constitution. Even the courts allow for "dissenting opinions" on such matters.

    The ultimate irony in Mr. Langley's position is that one has to wonder if he realizes what would have happened had Rosa Parks "gone along to get along." Or if Lyndon Johnson had just accepted the fact that the Senate had, just before he became president, voted overwhelmingly against the Civil Rights Bill. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 would have never been passed had Mr. Langley's approach to governing been followed by the people who believed that the Fourteenth Amendment meant what it said, but which the courts and prior congresses had twisted as he purports to twist Article V, Section IV. Ditto the Voting Rights Act. And there would have been no Brown vs. the Board of Education had Thurgood Marshall lived by Mr. Langley's "I'm right because I've got the votes" idea.

    We actually think Mr. Langley is frustrated because he realizes he is losing on the jail issue. The public does not support borrowing millions of dollars at this time to build a new jail. That's precisely why the Gang of Four will not allow the people to vote on it. Many of those voters who would support spending the money think it should be built near the courthouse. But more than anything, the jail issue is probably going to be the deciding issue in the upcoming commissioner election and it is entirely possible that Mr. Langley will find himself not only out of the chairman's seat, but in the political minority on the board. Shall we then expect him to "sit down and shut up"?

    The really sad part about this jail rancor is that it is mostly the fault of Langley's weak leadership. He has provided no leadership to try to build a consensus on the board, much less among the public. He has simply used an arrogant steamroller approach. And then to whine about pushback is silly.

    Beaufort County deserves better than what Jerry Langley has provided. He has been a totally ineffective chairman and his most recent demand that everyone should "agree with him or shut up" is a pitiful example of dereliction of duty.

Considering that Beaufort County may build a new jail /sheriff's office: What should be the best course?
7.51%   Build a modern jail/S.O. in the southwest corner of the county
43.3%   Build a modern jail/S.O. behind the courthouse in the county seat
49.2%   Do not build a jail/S.O. anywhere
746 total vote(s)     Voting has Ended!

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