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Franklin County – Does the law even matter here? I mean really does it?
By: Steve Trubilla
On March 3rd, in the mail I received an Elect Shelley Dickerson for County Commissioner campaign card ad that pictures among others, a Franklin County Deputy Sheriff. A similar ad recently appeared in local papers.
I was told there is a county policy against employees appearing in such ads. I did not know if such a policy existed. On February 29th at a candidate forum event I asked Sheriff Kent Winstead if such a policy existed. He told me there was no such policy.
Being told again by another person that such a policy did exist I probed the issue further. To learn the policy does exist. I have attached that policy for you to read for yourself. Not making this up as I go.
In fairness I offer the Sheriff may not have been aware of it.
This said, none of the politicians involved are new to campaigning. If they do not know the rules they should.
Think about this for a moment. If they do not know what they are doing, do you really want to put them in charge of the Franklin County cash box, and to set rules you must live by?
The Franklin County Administrative Manual is clear on the policy. The intent is the county and its employees in the scope of their work are to remain neutral with politics. The manual allows for off duty participation in political advocacy, as long as it is done in an appropriate manner, appropriate being the operative word.
Is it appropriate for someone to be in uniform with a weapon, and other equipment paid for with tax dollars to appear in a paid political ad? The uniform infers an on duty officer, if he is on duty or not. It also gives the impression of a Sheriff’s Office, and Franklin County endorsement.
The intent of the ad is to favor one citizen and tax payer candidate over another during an election. Is that appropriate?
Appropriate is not my word, it was written into the policy for a reason. Things done that are not appropriate are a violation of the policy.
My experience is policy usually flows from a statue. The reason being, if an employee challenges it, there must be a legal foundation. It then follows is policy is broken so is a law.
I contend the officer appearing in uniform in the ad is not appropriate, thus a violation of Franklin County policy.
Read the policy and you decide.
As it relates to the 2016 Primary Election, it is too late to do anything about the ad. It was mailed out all over the county, and voting is underway. By the time it is addressed, like the 2014 Clerk of Courts issue the election will be over.
I have other things I can sight with all of this, but I think I have made my point. I could literally fill pages.
Does the law really matter? A lot of people know about the purchase of the domains, the broadcasting on the radio station is common knowledge, and like I said the ad was sent out all over the county.
We have a lot of elected officials, and high paid help. If the rules and laws really mattered many would be all over this. But they are not.
There are not a lot of good jobs here in Franklin County, and those that have them want to keep them. I think that is part of the reason much of this is allowed to stand.
Having followed the elections and other issues, writing about them in Franklin County for a long time, I see the same things going on time and time again.
If you care to spend some time at the Polls, just watch what is done. Some people are spending a lot of money to get a job that pays very little. Some are paying people to work the Polls for them.
Watch close you will see food being brought to their workers. If you talk with some of them you will find they are not even from Franklin County.
Look a number of feet out from the entrance to the Polling place; you will see someone sitting in a chair. They will have with them a slack of pre-filled out “sample ballots”, all the circles of who to vote for marked off. People will stream up to them, get one, go inside and then copy the “sample ballot”. Many do not have a clue who most of the people they are voting for.
They just do what they are told. Pitiful, just pitiful. Could this be the reason the same people keep getting reelected?
Do the rules and laws even matter? To be honest with you I do not think they do. It is a sad state of affairs. One would have to be blind not to see the political manipulation, and corruption of the process for that is what it is.
In 2014 a judge concluded during the Clerk of Courts race, Patricia Chastain, a candidate was the victim of an act of identity theft. A felony; possible 16 counts, it was a deliberate and calculated act.
Shelley Dickerson and Patricia Chastain were the candidates in that race.
The purchase of the web domains significantly surfaced literally days before the election, too late for Chastain to act on it.
So who was prosecuted? So far no one, that’s who.
This is not a victimless crime, it almost cost the winning candidate the election. It did cost her thousands of dollars to fight the attack.
Add to this the scurrilous effort to attack her character. Absolutely vicious untrue things were said of the very nice and caring woman. Some of the things said many now believe to be true. Others repeat these things as if they are fact. She is now left to disprove them. How does one disprove rumor?
So as not to perpetuate this, I will not repeat those things. Be assured if challenged on this there are people that will attest to them.
The story I wrote on it appeared in the March 3rd Franklin Times. You can read it on this site.
What I am saying on this is not my opinion. Look at the documents attached to that story.
I have included documents to back up what I have said. Hope you find them useful.
I have been doing it because I am disgusted with what I have been seeing.
Just where are the leaders at?
For the most part right now going to county commissioner meetings is a waste of time. Questions are not answered.
I have met and worked with many county employees. They are good hardworking people. That deserve better leadership.
I will be leaving this fight for others to do soon. In fact this may be the last thing I write on it.
Thought I would take one last shot at it. Kind of feel I have done my part, time for someone else to pick up the ball and run with it, or just leave it laying on the field.
You vote for who you want to. Maybe what I have shared will help you decide.
Fade to Black, Paper Bullets out
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Steve Trubilla is a freelance writer living in Youngsville, NC. He contributes to a wide range of publications and writes a column titled, "Paper Bullets".