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...

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Pork Rind Scandal No Longer a Laughing Matter


Once again this week, we see breaking news coming out of southwest Virginia in the little Town of Appalachia.

In the past, the Iconoclast reported on the investigation of allegations of voting fraud in the Town of Appalachia and the almost comical… if it were not so pitiful… practice of bribing voters to vote for certain candidates with of beer, cigarettes and pork rinds. Yes… pork rinds…

I guess you get the kind of government you pay for!

While voting fraud is unquestionably a serious problem, the news reports this week reveal even more disturbing circumstances than first meets the eye.

At first, this story sounded like it was about some pathetic “wannabe politicians” whose zeal for winning at all costs outweighed everything that their mommas had taught them about character, integrity, honor, and following the law. Sad? Yes. Pitiful? Yes. Stupid? Yes. Illegal? Probably.

But what real harm was done? After all, it is not like these people are running for President, or Congress or some other really important job. We are talking about the little Town of Appalachia. No real harm done. Right?


It seems that this story may be going well beyond that of some misguided political candidate “fudging” on the election rules.

The February 27, 2006 edition of the Richmond Times Dispatch is now reporting that a Wise County judge is ordering an investigation of possible corruption of the Town’s police force. This story is particularly intriguing in that the voter fraud issue now appears to be connected to the allegations of police corruption.

Those allegations suggest that police personnel tolerate a “certain amount of illegal activity” and that police officials “seize drugs and money and keep them.” In other words, these allegations suggest that the police are…as they say… “taking a bite out of crime” in ways that may not be considered socially (or legally) acceptable.

The connection between the allegations of voter fraud and police corruption is revealed in the circumstances of who is in charge of the Town of Appalachia police department. It seems that one of the candidates for the Town Council of Appalachia dropped out of the election race, endorsed other Town Council candidates, and was subsequently appointed to head up the Town’s police department when those candidates won their election to Town Council.

Some might think this looks like “politics as usual” in the practice of giving jobs to friends and family. Apparently, Special Prosecutor Tim McAfee does not take this matter so lightly and has indicated that he would be seeking indictments from the Grand Jury as early as this week. Prosecutor McAfee was quoted as saying: “I think they [grand jurors] are going to find it disturbing, the corruption and the level of corruption that we’ve found from witnesses and the evidence we gathered…”

But before we jump to any premature conclusions, the Iconoclast hastens to add that this matter is still under investigation and has a long way to go before we know the whole story. Here in America we are all presumed innocent until proven guilty and no one has yet been proven guilty. Time will tell the story.

However, this breaking news once again reminds us that the acceptance of little digressions sometimes are symptoms of big problems hidden behind the facade of complacency. Turn a blind eye here…turn a blind eye there…it is a slippery slope…
What started out as an almost comical and definitely pitiful story about the human ego and its frailty is now turning out to be a much bigger and more serious story of systemic official corruption.

The apparent local acceptance of the “innocent” election season treats in return for votes to help get friends in office is just one symptom of a much bigger problem. The acceptance of cronyism and/or nepotism is another symptom of the disease. Putting friends and family in jobs as a political payoff or as a way to cash in on inappropriate opportunity is a sure sign of betrayed public trust and official abuse of office.

By some accounts Southwest Virginia is one of the most beautiful regions of Virginia. I tend to agree. People who live in this region have many blessings to count. While some, including the Iconoclast may have earlier made light of the “pork rind” story, this is becoming a serious matter. Let’s hope that this inquiry leads to better days for public integrity in the Town of Appalachia. The citizens deserve better.


  • At 3/01/2006 8:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Will, I think your entries on issues of public integrity to be well-written and informative.

    In the case of this particular issue, you are correct. When I first read this story in the Times Dispatch I laughed too, it seem to be banal. Now, as you point out, there seem to be more siniter forces at play here.

    One would think some individuals would risk so much just to have control over such a small town. But never underestimate greed and corruption!

  • At 3/01/2006 9:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This story is not just about silly ego problems. Some of these people have discovered a way use their positions of public trust to make a buck or two. In this case, the cronyism is more than just a political payback and favor. Its about the scams they can run from those positions.

  • At 3/01/2006 11:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It sure is a slippery slope. Anyone who lives out here knows that. Ha ha. But seriously, most of us wouldn't dream that this kind of thing could happen. Most people are basically good and honest. But there are always going to be a few bad apples. Sometimes those bad apples dress up like the pillers of the community and run for office. What can I say. It (and you know what I mean) happens!

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

    Once you acquire the tast for pork rinds, it is hard to stop. Giving up the expectation of honest government is a small price to pay for some. Just think what you could buy with a real bribe.

  • At 3/02/2006 3:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Happy 100th Birth Day to the Town of Appalachia. Today 14 indicted! What a gift!

  • At 3/02/2006 7:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…



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