Held to a higher standard

Public officials, whether they like it or not – and many don’t – are held to a higher ethical standard due to their position of trust than the general population.

This week I have had several telephone calls asking why the newspaper wrote an article about a Vienna councilman being charged by a Wood County sheriff’s deputy with aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol.

According to the affidavit filed in magistrate court, the long-serving councilman was seen, while driving, weaving on the road and had a strong odor of alcohol when the deputy made the traffic stop along West Virginia 14 near Boaz.

With a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.163, the councilman was far over the legal limit of 0.08, hence the aggravated DUI charge.

Most of the callers questioned why the councilman’s DUI was treated differently than the far too many other DUIs that appear in the arrest reports and magistrate court reports.

Interestingly, though, on a recent weekday there was a lengthy story with photographs of several people who had been arrested in one weekend for DUI, including one person who had been arrested twice in the same evening. It was termed by law enforcement as the most DUI arrests in one weekend. The incident was a story because of the oddity of that many DUI arrests in one weekend and the woman being arrested twice within one night.

The arrest of a city councilman for drunken driving is news above and beyond arrest or magistrate court listing because council members are public officials elected to represent their constituents and by common practice are held by the public to that higher ethical standard when they choose to run for office.

The same ethical standard applies to all elected officials and some appointed officials, such as police officers, school administrators and, yes, newspaper editors.

It goes without saying if the Vienna councilman had been a Williamstown, Belpre or Parkersburg councilman or the mayor of any of those towns, there would have been a like story written.

On a weekly basis I get telephone calls asking for the caller’s arrest to be kept out of the newspaper. A variety of reasons are given why the arrest should be omitted, ranging from public embarrassment, to loss of job, to it causing the death of an ill relative. My response always is the same: It isn’t fair or ethical to print some arrests and not all arrests and the caller should have thought about the consequences before committing the offense.

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Graffiti in downtown Parkersburg has gotten out of hand.

As one looks around the downtown area, countless buildings, street signs, postal boxes, utility boxes, signs, sidewalks, and walls are tagged with spray-painted symbols, words and images, many of which are vulgar and/or profane.

Many downtown businesses have been forced to clean up the graffiti on nearly a weekly basis, while public street signs, postal boxes, utility boxes, sidewalks, etc. are left with the graffiti.

Granted, such conduct is low-level criminal activity and police certainly have more to do that spend an exceeding amount of time attempting to catch graffiti painters. But, the fact remains the abundance of graffiti, broken windows and broken into boarded up buildings is beyond merely being a nuisance … it is an epidemic that makes the town appear like a slum.

It is time for the city and law enforcement to concentrate on catching some of the spray-paint bums and for the courts to sentence them to community service cleaning up their disgusting messes.