It’s Good to be the King

This Town Council is quick to get a paying customer (a business owner) by its good ear any time that owner treads, even lightly, on the Town’s sign laws. When business owners fail to follow the sign ordinance to the letter of the law, they are sometimes threatened with fines of $200 per day until the pesky law-breaking sign is brought to its knees.

Never mind that the sign might bring in a little business the owner desperately needs. There are no excuses. The law is the law. And the owner must understand that. The Town government isn’t going to put up with anything less than perfection when it comes to obeying the sign law.

But the Town government itself is fast becoming the most flagrant of the Town’s law breakers. Among its myriad of legal transgressions, Council has repeatedly voted to fill seats on the Planning Commission with people the Mayor and Council members say they know to be ‘good people’ (and, indeed, they are) without soliciting applications from the rest of the townsfolk as the Town law requires.

In at least three instances this year, Council just up and filled the seats with little warning. In one instance, Council reseated all the members whose terms had expired on one board without any open solicitation for applicants whatsoever, never mind for a period “no less than 30 days,” as is required by Title XV, Chapter 150.02, (B) and (D) of the Town’s statue. The most recent such appointment was made for a temporary term, which is not even provided for under the statute.

That’s called making up the rules as you go. Kings do it all the time and, for them, that’s perfectly OK. But our Town’s elected officials are not kings. So it’s not OK for them.

The Mayor and Council members’ easy lingo for explaining these legal faux pas goes something like this, “Well, we just felt it was the right thing to do” or “I didn’t know it was against the law” or, my favorite, “We have to do it like this because it’s almost impossible to find people willing to serve.” How do they know there aren’t people willing to serve if they don’t ask them? The point of open solicitation is to let the public know that the seat is going to be available so they have the opportunity to apply for that appointment. It’s not just a good idea. It’s the law. Just like the sign ordinance is the law.

When a Mayor or Council member takes the oath of office, they stand before us, with one hand on the Bible and the other raised, and solemnly swear to uphold the laws of the Town, so help them, God. Obeying the laws of the Town is not an option. It’s a requirement of elected office. It’s time for our elected officials to obey the laws — all the laws, not just the ones they like. They expect that of us and we should expect it of them.