Thursday, September 13, 2007

Changing the rules is part of the game

I suppose the rules don’t matter when you’re trying to cover a mess that you created. Gov. Mike Easley has appointed David Saacks District Attorney in Durham, NC. The move seems to be a stroke of genius. Saacks lives in Wake County, meaning he can’t run for the office when it comes time for voters to decide on who will hold the office. There’s one major hurdle. A new law signed by Gov. Easley on August 19 states, “a person appointed to fill a vacancy in an elective office must be eligible to vote for that office if an election was held on the date of appointment.”

The law makes it clear that Saacks can’t serve; however, the Governor is arguing that he has the authority to over rule the very law he signed. This most recent addition to the Duke Lacrosse debacle proves again that regulations are made to be broken when those with power opt to change their mind.

On paper, the selection of Saacks seems to be the best thing for Durham. That is if you live outside of Durham, and care less about maintaining credibility of the merits of the office. The Governor, in selecting Saacks and snubbing the law he signed, is making a critical statement regarding the worth of estimable prosecutors who have residence in Durham County.

The maneuver appears as a decision intended to assure this appointee doesn’t run for the office. That’s the mistake Gov. Easley made in choosing Mike Nifong to replace Jim Hardin when he was appointed to serve as Superior Court Judge. We’re told the unwritten agreement was that Nifong wouldn’t run for the office. It’s hard to believe that Nifong is stupid enough to renege on a deal with the Governor.

If appointing a person who refuses to run for the office is priority number one, and doing so is important enough to overlook the laws that you deem important, than the voters of Durham have some important questions that need to be answered.

For one, why is it so important to leave it up to the voters to decide on who should serve as District Attorney. Shouldn’t the Governor help identify a person who can serve not only on an interim basis, but has the credentials to hold the office for the long haul? What’s wrong with exerting strong leadership and helping Mr. and Ms. Average Joe and Jane Citizen think through who is out their worthy of holding the office?

By selecting an outsider, Easley gets off the hot seat by cleaning his hands of a mess he helped to create by first, appointing Hardin to a judgeship and then making a deal, supposedly, with Mike Nifong. He has paved the way for Freda Black to walk into the office by failing to identify one of the strong candidates within the district attorney’s office.

I was hoping voters would get a chance to see that person serve on a trail basis. Give us the opportunity to get to know the person the Governor believes has the leadership qualities needed to function in the office. I was hoping Tracy Kline would get her chance to shine. Durham deserves more than a band-aid to cover the damage caused by a series of bad decisions coming from Gov. Mike Easley.

We want a person who lives in Durham to serve as district attorney. Why should we embrace a person to serve the people of Durham who isn’t committed enough live in the county that pays his bills? Saacks residency in Wake County speaks to his thoughts regarding Durham. He doesn’t want his children going to school there. He doesn’t feel good about the quality of life in Durham, so he opts to live in Cary, NC instead.

From all accounts he’s a great guy. He has a sound reputation as a prosecutor. All of that may be true, but if he wants to lead the people of Durham, he needs to live in Durham. Voters need to see an investment in the community where you work. He needs to show a high level of familiarity to the community that enables him to serve. If the county believes in you enough to hire you, then you should believe in that same county enough to find a home there.

Gov. Mike Easley has wiped his hands clean of the problems within the district attorney office. The voters of Durham should scrutinize this appointment for the underlying assumptions made. One, there’s no one in Durham good enough to serve. Two, when it comes to Durham, NC. residency rules don’t apply because no one, some think, in their right mind would live there. And, three, laws are signed with the understanding they can be changed at any time-especially when it comes to the folks over in Durham, NC.

We deserve much more than that!

1 comment:

  1. preoccupied