Without making any excuses for his apparent stupidity behind the wheel of a vehicle, the question still remains, was former finance director Doug Life the victim of what is headed for a vicious political election season in Parkersburg?
Should an arrest on a charge of aggravated drunken driving result in not only criminal penalties but also loss of employment?
Is the public trust and public image of the city so damaged by such an arrest in an off-duty incident, which did not result beyond minor injury to Life, that it rises to the old "conduct unbecoming" terminology and therefore must result in separation from employment?
If Life had not been the finance director immediately after his predecessor Randy Craig was charged and convicted of embezzling thousands of dollars from the city coffers, would Life's arrest not been played out to the point of his resignation or expected termination by Mayor Bob Newell?
There is absolutely no justification for anyone - private citizen or public official - to get behind the wheel of a vehicle after drinking, let alone drinking so much that one tests two times the legal limit for being under the influence. Those who drink and drive need to be so severely punished so they remember the experience and it serves as a vivid reminder to them and others.
Life served at the "will and pleasure" of the mayor and confirmation of city council, which makes those in that position subject to a different set of standards. Whether those in such posts want to accept it or not, they represent the city at all times; they are officials of the city and the public has every right to hold them more accountable than those in lesser positions.
As finance director, Life had the financial well-being of the city in his hands-hands citizens had every right to expect to be stone cold sober and responsible.
If it were not an election year, maybe Newell could have opted to treat Life's DUI arrest as he might treat the arrest of a lesser city employer and let the courts handle it. But, it is an election year, meaning if Newell had not terminated Life, it could have been used repeatedly in the upcoming election. Life resigned, thus freeing Newell from the potential political backlash.
In something of a surprise, Newell's request for funding to hire a part-time paralegal to handle the increased number of Freedom of Information Act requests stemming from the upcoming mayoral election and lawsuits involving the city sailed through the city finance committee, headed to city council for a decision.
Handling FOIA requests is a "cost of doing business" for the city, which means if a part-time employee must be hired to fulfill the requests, so be it!
City records and public business must be transparent, with the public having the right to inspect any and all public documents, including communications of public employees on city-paid, city-owned communication devices and/or any dealings with public business of any type.
If assuring the public access to public documents costs $3,000 a year, that's cheap to help guarantee public access to what it has every right to see and know.
Contact Jim Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org