In my recent column titled, "Official 'not at liberty' to tell the public, questions remain," the purchase of Bull Creek Golf Course by Franklin County was explored. Many questions do still remain about that purchase.
For those of you that may not have read that column, I invite you to the online edition of the Franklin Times at, https://www.thefranklintimes.com/news.php?viewStory=40816 and to my website, www.paperbullets.us, to read it. This column is a continuation of this storyline.
Not at liberty to tell the public was Attorney Pete Tomlinson's reply to Louisburg resident Pat Walker's question as to why an appraisal was not done before Franklin County commissioners approved the purchase of the property.
Tomlinson is the county attorney. This reference carries with it the connotation that he is "your" employee. As such it would be reasonable to expect him to answer questions you ask him.
At the May 21, 2018 county commissioners meeting, Franklin County resident Bruce Allen addressed the commissioners concerning comments made by Tomlinson about possible major wrong doing at the Franklin County Triangle North Executive Airport. This wrong doing purports to be potentially explosive. Of such a nature it may have resulted in the Airport Commission losing oversight and management authority over the airport. The Airport Commission is no more. It was replaced with an Advisory Board, greatly reduced in scope of authority. The Airport Commission had been in place for over 10 years. Just like that, it is gone with no public explanation?
The questions Allen addressed to commissioners were not answered. He presented a formal letter requesting the release of all information relating to any wrong doing at the airport. To my knowledge, that information has not been released.
On May 21, I, too, attended the subject meeting. Just prior to the board going into closed session, I approached Tomlinson to ask if it would be okay with him if I used his picture in an article I was writing. Not that I needed his permission to use the picture, it was just a courtesy I was extending to him.
My question to him was framed, "Can I ask you a question," his reply was a very rude, "No, I do not answer questions." He said, "ask them," as he ranted with his arms pointing to where the commissioners were standing. Trying to take the edge off, I said to him, the question was more of a personal nature. He then mumbled something, turned and walked away. There any many things I could say in response to this. Nothing says it clearer than this man's deportment. Tomlinson does not attend these meetings as the people's attorney. He is contracted as a shield for the county commissioners, and serves at their pleasure.
The March 13, 2018 Airport Advisory Council minutes contain these statements:
"Commissioner Bregger said we were advised by the attorney that we could have personal liability if we remained as a commission. Commissioner Bunn said the attorney advised the county commissioners that it was the proper thing to do, because some possible wrongdoings had been brought to light during a closed session at a county commissioners' meeting. Airport Commissioner Dickens said he got the same information, that there would be personal liability issues "if we remained as a commission, and we could possibly be sued individually."
Not at liberty is a very powerful and counter intuitive reply by a government official. Your liberty is the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions being imposed by authority. A government official invoking "at liberty" as a reason for not replying to citizens' thoughtful and legitimate questions operates to deny that citizen their liberty.
The context of Tomlinson's use of the phrase "at liberty" could be semantic. I do not believe his intent was to deny anyone their liberty. Intended or not when "We the people" are denied our voice we are being restricted in life, behavior and political views.
Over the years I have been witness many times at county commissioner meetings to citizens being denied answers to questions. I myself have been told we do not have to answer your questions. A common reply is, we will not engage in a back-and-forth.
If you have not attended one of these meetings, I encourage you to do so. You will witness many commissioners having conversations, texting, and/or expressing disinterest in the questions being posed.
Not only do they have no intention of answering, they are not even listening to the questions.
I believe citizen and Franklin County resident Walker deserves an answer to her question.
I believe citizen and Franklin County resident Allen also deserves answers to his questions.
I believe you deserve an answer to these questions.
Please light up their phones, demand the answers.