The Commonwealth Iconoclast

A site dedicated to covering issues relevant to the Commonwealth of Virginia, and nation at large, plus other interesting things too, as I see fit...

Monday, February 27, 2006

Apparently Chairman King wants citizens to butt out of County's business!


The saga of the high flying Chesterfield County officials has just about run its course. Just about everyone who had a thought on the subject has weighed in including the Iconoclast and yours truly. Thanks for the lively discussion. It has been fun and, hopefully, a lesson learned in better government.

This story erupted last week when the Richmond Times Dispatch and other media outlets broke the story of an $18,000 jet-setting joy ride, by then Supervisor County Chairman R. M. “Dickie” King, and County Administrator Lane B. Ramsey, ostensibly to respond to an “emergency” involving the arrest of then Board Chairman Edward B. Barber on charges unrelated to Chesterfield County official business.

Supervisor King has now ascended to the office of Chairman of the Board of Supervisors succeeding Barber in a routine change of chairmanship and not because of the unrelated charges involving Barber.

Happily, Chesterfield County leadership seems to be taking their lumps with reasonable grace and is acting with decisiveness to make amends. When the Chamber of Commerce gesture did not meet with immediate success, owing to questions of potential influence buying, the County Administrator stepped in with his own funds to make the County whole again. This is a meaningful indication of remorse and acceptance of responsibility.

To be fair, there is little doubt that Ramsey’s overall good reputation and service to Chesterfield County over the years will be little tarnished by this lapse of judgment perhaps during a period of emotional vulnerability. It was a mistake. Everybody knows it was a mistake. There now seems to be reasonable accountability and I see no reason why Ramsey will not be able to look back on this embarrassing experience years from now and laugh with us as a well deserved reminder in humility. It will be a minor footnote in his career.

While the big story is about ended, Chairman R. M. “Dickie” King now gives us something new to think about and another reminder of the importance keeping one’s mouth shut when you are ahead. Unfortunately for Chairman King, he may have to learn this lesson the hard way.

Apparently, the whole story about the $18,000 charter flight began when an ordinary citizen, one Ms. Brenda Stewart, a retiree living in Chesterfield County, obtained from the County through a routine request for public information the embarrassing information concerning the flight. Apparently Ms. Stewart is one of those rare individuals who takes her responsibilities as an ordinary citizen seriously and took the time and energy necessary to educate her self on what her County government was doing. This is not as easy as it may seem, as most of what happens can not be learned from merely reading the daily news. It requires some time and effort and access to public records. Without a little help from the so called “sunshine laws”, this challenge would be impossible.

The United States Congress and virtually all State legislatures have recognized the fundamental rights of citizens to participate in their governmental process and have passed laws that ensure that public business is conducted openly and that citizens will always have access to relevant documents pertaining to that public business. For citizens living here in Virginia, it is the Virginia Freedom of Information Act that guarantees these basic rights. More information on citizen rights to access public information can be obtained through the Virginia Coalition for Open Government.

However, in the February 26, 2006 edition of the Richmond Times Dispatch, Chairman King seems to be disparaging these basic rights by attacking an ordinary citizen for exposing some questionable official County business to public scrutiny. In this Section A, front page article Chairman King indicates his disdain for Ms. Stewart by suggesting that “he believes that Stewart’s request for information show that she and others have a political agenda.” King goes on to say: “I believe Ms. Stewart [and] her complaints are not always about the process but the fact that we don’t agree with what she says.”

Is it just me, or is it clear to everybody else that Chairman King is missing the whole point?

It doesn’t matter whether Ms. Stewart has a political agenda or not and it does not matter if the Board of Supervisors agrees with her views or not. Government has the higher obligation to be accountable to the people it serves. That is why government is required to conduct its business with high transparency and accountability through special “sunshine” laws at the Federal level and in virtually every state in America. Ms. Stewart has a right to know what her government is doing and, frankly, it is none of Chairman King’s damned business what her motives or political agenda might be.

Also revealed in the Richmond Times Dispatch article is a highly incriminating memorandum dated February 16, 2005 warning supervisors that the $18,000 charter flight was probably going to break in the news. The memo stated that “Since this could potentially become a news story we wanted to give you advance notice…”

Why…if this $18,000 joy ride was not problem… would the administration need to warn the Supervisors? Answer: it is called “consciousness of guilt.”

All this adds up to the classic “damage control” mode of thinking by public officials. While most Chesterfield officials seem to be moving in the right direction and doing what is necessary to put this matter to rest, Chairman King is still trying to place the blame elsewhere... blaming the citizen who exercised her basic right to ask for and receive public information.

While the big story is all but forgotten, the new story is the questionable attitude of Chairman R. M. “Dickie” King, the chief elected official of Chesterfield County, and his failure to recognize that he and his fellow Supervisors are accountable to the citizens…not the other way around.

Let us hope that Chairman King learns this lesson soon! Otherwise, look forward to Chairman King in the news again soon.


  • At 2/27/2006 4:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Chairman King's worst nightmare is to have a few dozen more civic minded citizens elect to exercise their right to participate in the process of an open democracy... just because they can. As annoying as citizens may be, they sometimes actually know a thing or two. Also they are the reason Chairman King is in office. Thanks for reminding him.

  • At 2/27/2006 4:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Are Buckie of PE and Dickie of Chesterfield kindred spirits or what?

  • At 2/27/2006 10:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Dickie King knows better. I suspect he may be getting caught up in the emotional circumstances and is speaking from his gut rather than thinking this thing out. Give him a chance. He will get it right.

  • At 2/28/2006 7:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Really? Don't you think that a "gut" reaction sometimes reveals a persons true feelings? In this case I think Dickie is telling the citizens of Chesterfield exactly what he thinks of their "meddling" in his...I mean...county business.

  • At 2/28/2006 8:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    There is a good chance that the Chesterfield pols did not get to the level of $18,000 questionable decisions over night. And probably this is not the only example. I think there is a good point here to remember. People need to pay attention to what their public officials are doing. The lady who dug up this information was just doing her civic duty. More people ought to follow her example.

  • At 2/28/2006 11:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Are you sure that the Big Story is really over? If you check out the the Richmond news, you will see that this story is not played out yet. People are wondering what else is going on.

  • At 2/28/2006 4:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I am always amazed when some elected official goes off on someone or the media when they are questioned on some matter of public business.

    Most handle these situations fairly well but there are always a few who let their egos get in the way and show their resentment of anyone who questions them. These people should not be in public service.

  • At 3/02/2006 2:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    There was an interesting article in the Richmond paper today concerning the role of the Chamber of Commerce in this matter and the reaction their hasty action to deflect responsibility produced.

    But, in the end it always comes back to the fundamental question: what on earth were the county officials thinking when they decided to charter the jet?! I hope they do some serious soul searching and get to the bottom of this matter.

  • At 1/25/2010 4:28 AM, Anonymous Leonard Okoth said…

    Stop wasting your time with surf for traveller leads, go to Sign up today and find the best value. your dreams come at end just visit & signup on I appreciate you as a customer for doing business with us... A customer is the most important visitor on our premises.

  • At 8/15/2015 9:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Its amazing what some think they can get by with.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home