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Public office is no place for private feuds

By Editorial Board


Navigating the world of local politics as an elected official is no doubt a trying task.

In addition to the usual challenges of partisan politics, clashing ideologies and ordinary human bickering, local officials are subject to the added murkiness brought on by check-out line encounters with constituents, family ties to other community players, friends employed by the police department or road crew...

Against this, public officials should learn how to separate the private from the public and put on whichever hat is called for at any given moment.

This issue, freelance writer Chadwick Dolgos reports on the antics of Stowe Township officials that suggest some of the town’s seasoned politicians still haven’t grasped these dividing lines.

The report outlines a puzzling sequence of events which began with Stowe Commissioner Cheryl McDermott receiving a call informing her she was being removed from the public works committee. During a public meeting the next day, she subsequently resigned herself from her other leadership roles and then refused to stay around for an executive session meeting. (Despite this, she remains on the board, and intends to continue serving.)

Public participants were left in the dark about what was happening, and even after Dolgos probed all involved to set the record straight in print, important questions stayed unanswered.

Petty feuds such as these are all too common in school board and municipal government settings, and they should not be settled for.

Stowe Commissioner's President Robin Parilla, who called McDermott to notify her of her removal from the public works committee, should have told her why. And he should have told the public why.

Is it true, as Parilla alleges, McDermott acted inappropriately and rightly should have been dropped from a leadership role? If so, the public deserves to know why.

Is it true, as McDermott alleges, Parilla was simply lashing out at McDermott for failing to endorse his re-election bid? The public deserves to know that, as well.

Had Parilla been forthright about his reasons for removing McDermott, the public could have judged the merits for themselves. But with the truth obscured from view, suspicion now hangs over both commissioners. Perhaps Parilla felt he was honoring McDermott by declining to expose her purported misdeeds, but his willingness to cast doubt on her without laying out the goods makes that seem unlikely.

Instead, the whole encounter has the feel of a schoolyard squabble acted out through adult power structures, where the only real loser is the public.

Elected officials are supposed to serve the public, not push through personal agendas (or vendettas). Stop worrying about yourselves and focus on the community you pledged to make a better place.

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