November 13, 2013
One of the first axioms most folks learn in life involves trust. Parents, teachers and other adults often lecture children about how easy it is to lose someone’s trust and how difficult it is to earn and maintain it.
Believe me, in personal life, I have found that to be abundantly true. Work for years to gain and maintain trust; make one slip and lose it all. Begging forgiveness does not always work, although in one case I will continue trying.
A Sunday Associated Press article told of how two “new” Mingo County officials plan to earn the public’s trust for Mingo officials. It will be a long journey, indeed.
Prosecutor Teresa Maynard and County Commissioner Mike Carter are not, after all, “new” at all. Both have served in Mingo County government. It would be a safe statement, based on recent activities in federal court, to say that both have served in “corrupt” Mingo County government, as the AP story indicates.
But I realize that is painting with a broad stroke and there is nothing to indicate either of these two, or many others in government, are guilty of less than superior service. Still, the perception the public now has, right or wrong, is that all Mingo County government is crooked. Let me say again, that isn’t true. There are many fine, honest people serving the citizens of Mingo. They, however, are being painted with the same brush that paints the Michael Thornsburys, David Baisdens, Michael Sparks, et al.
That is not, for a moment, to argue that the public’s judgment on this matter is fair. It is no fairer than the way government has been run in Mingo for years. But it is a fact.
Although the AP story concedes that Maynard and Carter know people are cynical that “only people who are connected to the problems could get appointed to powerful positions in a government now best known for misconduct and corruption,” they told the reporter they are determined to prove the cynics wrong.
“I think the naysayers, when they actually see what I can do over the next year, will be more than satisfied,” said Maynard, who replaced her former boss, Sparks. “I got where I am today because I worked hard and I am an honest person,” Maynard said. “But what I do is worth more than what I say. They need to see what I can do. And I can do this.”
…. During my time covering what I often refer to as the Mingo County fiasco, dozens of readers have called and written with serious stories about child custody cases in Mingo. Most allege that former disgraced Circuit Judge Mike Thornsbury managed the system so that political friends and supporters could get young children placed in their homes at will.
While I have no reason to believe Maynard was a part of any such operation, if it existed at all, she was the assistant prosecutor assigned to those types of cases.
If she would ever decide to return my calls, I would simply ask her about it and clear the air. That might go a long way toward calming the “cynics.”
Rather than being forced to return my call, perhaps she could simply tell another reporter of her innocence or write a letter to the editor. I am not making an accusation; I am asking a straight-forward question that is alive and well in the public sector.
…. Carter, as a school board member, does not necessarily get painted with the same layer of paint as Maynard. But I will point out how important transparency is for people to believe in their government’s honesty.
I told readers a few weeks ago of the problems with contacting a Mingo County School Board member, who is, when last I checked, an elected official. Employees at the central office insisted they could neither give a phone number or email for a board member to a columnist nor could they tell the board member that the reporter wanted to talk with them. Talk about a moated castle. That’s apparently what those who rule this school kingdom think they’re in.
Perhaps Carter could begin Day One by making himself available to the press and public. List a number in the phone directory; appear regularly at the courthouse offices; be visible on Second Avenue.
Secrecy and hiding from the public are the key ingredients in sowing seeds of mistrust. Openness, honesty and transparency will save the day any time.
Thus, if these two want the public to really believe in them, they must open their doors, open their minds and open their hearts to let the people in.
Let the people in. A strange concept for running Mingo County government.
… Has anybody noticed that the feds clearly said that David Baisden was implicated in a scheme to protect the late Sheriff Eugene Crum from being named in drug-related crimes? Those Mingo officials who run around town proclaiming their own innocence and insisting that the federal grand jury is done in Charleston must be hallucinating.
It is not this column stirring the pot that creates doubts and fears. It is the actions of the elected and appointed officials who have violated the public trust. I mentioned earlier that I could not indict someone if I wanted. I can only discuss what the people already know, and they know some things are still amiss around the courthouse.
…. Another interesting bit of the AP story is similar to those in other papers around the state: “the sheriff (Crum) at the center of several scandals is dead after an unrelated April shooting.” Folks, we still have a trial to do in that murder case and I don’t know about you, but I surely don’t know it is “unrelated” to the other shenanigans going on in Mingo.
Meanwhile, while we have a new prosecutor and county commissioner, there is still no movement from the state agency charged with recommending a new Circuit Judge to replace Thornsbury. Typically, as I noted earlier, it takes only a matter of days for this process to begin, but Thornsbury has now been gone months and nothing has happened. I wonder why there is a delay in Mingo?
Perhaps waiting for an honest lawyer to move into town?
…. On the subject of it ain’t over ‘til it’s over, let me reiterate a point I’ve made before: grand juries and prosecutors target who they choose. A prosecutor can determine that he or she is going to indict one person and not another for various reasons, all legitimate. Still, when one considers the indictments already issued in Mingo, it is clear that other violators of the law are known to the federal grand jury. It is just a question as to whether their misconduct rises to the level required for an indictment.
Prosecutors also work with witnesses to get the biggest violators. Sometimes that means working a deal with a minor offender in order to capture the “big fish.” For example, the current charges pending against Thornsbury cannot possibly be viewed as being as serious as the original ones filed by the feds.
Time will tell if allegations of misconduct against Assistant Highway Commissioner Howard Mullens have any validity. Mullens was transferred from DOH to Tax and Revenue after Denise Gould accused him of sexual assault. She said he had done the same with other female employees over the years and supervisors at DOH did nothing about it. Gould, widow of former Attorney General candidate Robert Gould, has now filed a lawsuit against the Division of Transportation (Highways’ cabinet supervisors) in Kanawha County.
Females I have spoken with have described Mullens as “a kind, old man” but they acknowledge he had a tendency to “touch” anyone he was talking with, male or female. “Howard always patted me on the shoulder and called me baby,” said one statehouse secretary. “I didn’t take offense to it.”
Undercurrents in the move say there was already considerable friction between Mullens and Highway Commissioner Paul Maddox, which may have added fuel to Gould’s claim.
…. An internal memo circulated in DOH, meanwhile, appears to indicate State Route 10 corridor work between Man and Logan will be completed in 2015, with most of the work done by early 2014.
… Rumors, story ideas, comments, disagreements? Call my cellphone, 304-533-5185, or email me. By the way, lunch and dinner invitations are often accepted.