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, July 24, 2006

Charlotte County: Questions of Accountability


Charlotte County Administrator Travel Expenses Raise Citizen Questions and Concerns!

Supervisors decree everything fine and dandy!

Administrator has reason to smile?



Now and again the Iconoclast receives tips from readers about “interesting situations” involving government officials across the Commonwealth. Such a story was recently forwarded to us by several friends in Southside Virginia.

The story involves Charlotte County government and the way it accounts for the expenditure of tax dollars… or doesn’t account… but at least thinks it does.

Confused yet?

Charlotte County is a small rural county in the vast region generally called Southside Virginia.

It would probably be fair to characterize Charlotte County as a tranquil but poor rural County. There are no cities and very few job opportunities for young people. For that matter there probably are not a lot of job opportunities left these days for anyone.

Charlotte County likely has more than its fair share of elderly, retired, people on fixed incomes, and poor people.

Most would agree that Charlotte County government has many needs and few public resources available to meet those needs. They need to make every dollar count.

More information on Charlotte County can be seen by clicking on this link.

The story that the Iconoclast will now address erupted in media reports about a month ago. Both The Richmond Times Dispatch and The Southside Messenger recently reported on this story in considerable detail.

However, the story goes back to at least last year.

It seems that the controversy started last year when a citizen of Charlotte County, one Mr. Larry Lail, made a request to the Charlotte County Administrator’s office for documentation of travel expenses incurred by long-time County Administrator Russell B. Clark and his Assistant County Administrator Stephanie Heintzelman.

Mr. Lail apparently wanted to see where these two top County officials were traveling to and how much the taxpayers of Charlotte County were paying for these activities. His request covered the years 2002 to 2004.

This request was by itself quite unremarkable.

In America, there is a fundamental presumption that all government functions belong to the people. That is why government records are typically referred to as “public records.”

Here in Virginia, the prevailing “sunshine law” is known as the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

Under this law, most governmental documents are presumed to be available to any citizen upon request (there are a few exceptions to protect certain exempted public and private interests for good cause).

What was remarkable about Mr. Lail’s request was the reaction by Charlotte County government… or more accurately… unusual reaction.

Normally, one would presume that a citizen request for public documents would be fulfilled in just a few days as is required by law.

That did not happen.

The basic problem was that the County could not deliver the requested receipts for the travel expenses because those documents did not exist.

Supervisor Joseph Carey acknowledged that "...Mr. Lail discovered a flaw in the system, and the board took action to correct it…”

Long time Chairman of the Board Gary Walker offered: “We can’t give him what we don’t have… it’s not there.”

According to County Attorney Russell Slayton, the County has not required receipts for travel expenses in the past. Lawyer Slayton goes on to explain that the County is not required to provide anyone with receipts that do not exist.

Wow. All those years in law school certainly paid off!

If this legal explanation was not enough to put the matter to rest, the creative resolution passed by the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors would certainly do the trick.

By a vote of four in favor, the Board voted to approve a resolution to declare that all was “proper and reasonable" with travel expenses. Two Supervisors abstained from the vote and one Supervisor was absent.

The resolution stated in part “a review of past reimbursements has confirmed that those reimbursements were made in compliance with the county’s reimbursement policy.”

In case you are wondering, those voting for this creative resolution to decree all fine and dandy, were Chairman Haywood J. Hamlet, Vice Chairman Garland H. "Butch Hamlett, Jr., Supervisor Gary D. Walker, and Supervisor Nancy R. Carwile. Supervisors Ashley L. Myers and Joseph E. Carey, Sr. abstained from voting and Supervisor David M. Guill was absent from the vote.

Ok…

Now I have a few questions.

What policy?

What kind of official policy would knowingly leave this kind of gap in the County’s fiscal accountability systems? Remember… we are talking about a considerable amount of money here.

This is a gap big enough to drive a Mack truck through with the doors open!

How long has this been going on?

Who is responsible?

What kind of Board would allow this kind of problem to go unchecked for so many years?

What have the auditors been smoking all these years?

The Iconoclast sought to find answers to these questions.

As a first step, a representative from the Iconoclast contacted Charlotte County Administrator Russell B. Clark in June ask him to either respond to a series of specific questions or, if he chose, to respond generally to the situation as he saw fit.

We checked back with Mr. Clark last week with a reminder.

As of this date, County Administrator Clark has elected to ignore both options.

On the other hand, several citizens have openly expressed concerns that the Board’s action by passing the resolution was a “disappointment” and little more than an act to “sweep obvious problems under the rug.” Citizens question how the Board can decree something is "proper and reasonable" on faith without any factual evidence.

One source noted only four Supervisors out of a total of seven actually voted in favor of this dubious resolution.

This is hardly a confidence inspiring vote.

Most interesting, several sources reported that alleged “sloppy and/or questionable financial management” practices involving the same Charlotte County officials, most notably, County Administrator Clark, date back a good many years.

The Iconoclast wants to make it absolutely clear that it is not suggesting that any Charlotte County officials have misapplied public funds.

However, on the facts we have learned from media reports and other sources in the community, the Iconoclast would conclude that the circumstances indicate a fundamental lack of adequate financial management oversight by the Board of Supervisors, poor financial management by the administrative personnel, and a less than forthright response to legitimate questions of governmental accountibility by the members of the Board of Supervisors.

Bottom line, Charlotte County government is probably not going to be a top contender for any “Iconoclast Good Government Awards” in the foreseeable future.

When considering problems of sloppy financial management, whether it is in Charlotte County or elsewhere, it is important to keep in mind abuse and waste of public resources is not limited to only clear-cut cases of criminal misconduct.

Other sources of abuse and waste can and do result from bad judgment, incompetence, greed or ethical weaknesses.

If citizens do not pay attention, public officials will with alarming frequency take advantage of their apathy.

Citizens have the power to make a difference. Much waste and abuse can be prevented through citizen involvement.

Take for example Brenda Stewart, ordinary citizen in Chesterfield who uncovered travel expenses incurred by top Chesterfield County officials, including an $18,000 charter jet trip by the Chesterfield County Administrator and Chairman of the Board for matters that were arguably not even legitimate County business.

That County Administrator has since repaid the citizens the full amount for that lapse of judgment.

Another recent good example was citizen Lee Albright who exposed a culture of abuse by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries ,where state officials financed what can only be described as exotic travel… in this case an African safari… at taxpayer expense and then sought to cover up the abuse.

As a result of this citizen's demand for accountability, several senior state officials were shown the door.

It is not always easy for citizens to get the information they need from government agencies. Even though the law is clear, public officials with secrets to hide are sometimes very creative in resisting the prying eyes of concerned citizens.

This story in Charlotte County, Virginia is ongoing. The results may be months away. But it is good to see that Charlotte County citizens are exercising their rights as the lawful owners of the Charlotte County Courthouse and everything it contains.

Best wishes in this noble quest for responsible government.



NOTE: As always, the Iconoclast appreciates information submitted to it in confidence. Please keep us posted on developments.

24 Comments:

  • At 7/24/2006 6:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Is everything is Southside screwed up or what?

    Why do peoople put up with this?

     
  • At 7/24/2006 8:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I lived and worked for most of my adult life in Charlotte County. We are indeed a poor rural County. Resources are scarse. State statistics reveal that half of the school children in the County qualify for reduced or free lunch. So you get the picture.

    I also know that this is not the first time County officials have been questioned about their spending habits. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to realize that government officials should always properly document travel expenditures. This is a basic concept.

    The hard working people of this County should be assured our tax dollars aren't being wasted. I'm appauled that the Board chose to ignore this issue. Shame on them!

    We deserve better.

     
  • At 7/26/2006 2:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    True, anonymous, we should be assured our tax dollars aren't being wasted. But I have a problem with the Iconoclast's report. The end of the report cites a couple examples of citizens who acted to make a change (for the better) in their communities. Seems that this is what Lail did. Recognized a problem, brought the problem to light, and the Board fixed it. Gone are the handwritten -at best they could be called "notes"- from supervisors asking for reimbursements. Hello to official forms that are now filed away. I applaud Lail for his efforts. But to backtrack and accuse people of stealing money from the county is ridiculous, legally and logically. First, many government and non-government organizations allow their employees anywhere between $5 and $15 (depending on the rich-factor) for meals while on company time--UNACCOUNTED FOR-- these are of such meager value (to a multi-million dollar firm, corporation, or, better yet, COUNTY) that they son't matter that much.

    Thing is, people know that this county is based a lot on trust. For years the Board has approved things like jail expansions (to use another recent tete-a-tete between Lail, Bob Armentrout, and the Board) without having things like written estimates, etc. And things got done and people were happy. Now, am I saying that estimates are a bad thing? No. I am saying that is the way things were done around here for a long time - however good or bad or responsible or irresponsible that may have been. And nobody, thinking in an educated, logical manner, can possibly disagree with that last sentence.

    So Lail got things changed. Good. It's time to move on, in my opinion. Let's look to the future and ask better questions, like why in the world do we have a business park sitting empty? Why are there empty storefronts? Why does the town of Keysville continually attempt to thwart the efforts of a group trying to renovate the Keysville depot? etcetera, etcetera.

    Back to a previous point, very briefly. Many corporations allow unaccounted-for expenses of a meager amount. Lail is talking about $6,000 in unaccounted reimbursements. Yes, that seems like a lot of money, but NOT when you realize that Charlotte County is a 30+ million dollar per year business and the $6,000 was reimbursed OVER A FIVE YEAR PERIOD.

    Grow up, guys. Start talking about real issues.

     
  • At 7/26/2006 4:29 PM, Anonymous Mike Hunt said…

    Come on now, is the county really a Business?!

    Are the "Real Issues" the ones you missed your cut on?

    I can assure you that sound financial accountability never loses its importance no matter the size enterprise.(See ENRON)

     
  • At 7/27/2006 8:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    tust me, this isn't he first time folks have questioned some practices down at the CA's office.

     
  • At 7/27/2006 2:09 PM, Anonymous An interested observer said…

    In my previous life, I worked for 37 years for several different organizations in the field of financial management.

    Having had the opportunity to look at the books for literally dozens of large and small businesses and not-for-profit organizations, and to trouble-shoot financial problems, I can assure you that the idea of basing financial management systems on "a lot of trust" (as suggested by one of the previous writers)is an extremely dangerous practice, one almost certain to result in systemic waste and abuse, and not infrequently, embezzlement.

    What amazes me is the common refrain that I have heard in so many cases that the individual responsible for an abuse or embezzlement was one of the "most trusted" or "the last person I would have suspected" to be involved in such acts.

    Regardless, of the size of the organization or its organizational purpose, for-profit, not-for-profit, government, it is important to have financial systems that remove the temptations that lead to waste, abuse or worse.

    Document even the little stuff or you will find that you have put the big stuff at risk too.

    Trust me, it is not a good idea to base your fainancial management systems on "a lot of trust."

     
  • At 7/27/2006 7:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    An earlier commentator suggested "to accuse people of stealing money from the county is rediculous legally and logically."

    Actually, in reading this article, I did not get that sense at all. The author of the article seems clear enough that no accusations of criminality are being made but is obviously critical of the County's financial management procedures.

    Does the commentator know or suspect something that the rest of us don't know? Why would the commentator jump to that conclusion?

    Is this maybe a Freudian slip by the commentator revealing deeper insight?

     
  • At 7/27/2006 7:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Trust me, it's the little stuff that will eventually lead to big stuff. You never can have too much oversight into where the money is going. Especially in government.

    Regards,

    MC Hammer

     
  • At 7/27/2006 9:18 PM, Anonymous flabergasted mom said…

    How can anyone say that "things get done and people are happy"? What bubble is this person living in? It seems that every year that goes by we have fewer jobs and the kids have to move away if they are to have any chance. I guess if one works for the County and has a nice expense account, one could say that "people are happy". I'd be happy too if my kids could such good jobs.

     
  • At 7/27/2006 9:59 PM, Anonymous call me crazy... said…

    Anon 2:53 stated -

    "For years the Board has approved things like jail expansions (to use another recent tete-a-tete between Lail, Bob Armentrout, and the Board) without having things like written estimates, etc. And things got done and people were happy. Now, am I saying that estimates are a bad thing?"

    What? is this person serious. I live in Halifax, but really, the County BOS would approve things like a jail expansion (which could easily cost in the millions) without ever so much as having a "written estimate"? Really? Wouldn't awarding a contract for somethign as large as a jail expansion be required per State procurement laws to bid these types of projects out? Wouldn't it be required to hold an open public budding process via an RFP? And you wonder why folks in your County become suspicious when ANOTHER anonomly in found in County accounting/financial practices?

    It sounds to me that the BOS needs to hire and Administrator and County Attorney that are fimilar with standard governmental financial practices, or someone could end up in an 8 X 4.

    there might be more to this story indeed.

     
  • At 7/28/2006 1:30 AM, Anonymous Roberts Rules said…

    Given the media coverage, specifically The Richmond Times Dispatch report, it should be abundantly clear that the Charlotte Board of Supervisors acted irregularly. The idea of just declaring things ok without any documentable basis is alarming.

    It would have been better if the Board of Supervisors would have declared this situation a matter of concern and to pursue further investigation.

    Indeed, the Board of Supervisors needs to seek independent council to avoid exposing themselves to serious legal consequences.

     
  • At 7/28/2006 6:31 PM, Anonymous JR from Drakes Branch said…

    The two gentlemen mentioned in the Richmond article should be commended for their efforts on behalf of the rest of us. I would like to learn more. Does anyone know how to get in touch with Mr. Lail or Mr. Armentrout, phone or email. Thanks.

     
  • At 7/28/2006 6:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Unfortunately, the concerns about the past protocal , issues of accountability and actions taken by the government of Charlotte County is at the very least questionable. The people of Charlotte County are afraid to speak up and afraid to quesion and disagree. This begins to feel like an extremely elitist place, heading towards totalitarinism,whereas a few people with a few good secrets hold the cards. The rest of us with no " Ace up our sleeves" are left praying that there is an accountable
    " Statesman" left who may allow their sense of " gentleman's propriety" extol the truth and allow the " real people" to take back their government. Charlotte County's government favors government by the few for the few. This may be an interesting case for the courts to examine! But it would never happen here... It is a poor rural , unimportant dot on the map , forgotten by true culture and because of poor planning ,politically unimportant.

    In response to the question of why people put up with this, I say it is because the people are afraid. Everyone is is somehow too delicately connected, and some are afraid for their jobs, their friendships, and their respectability. It is not politically correct to question this administration. What year is this? When the citizens are not allowed to question the government, we teach our children nothing about their rights and freedoms as Americans.
    Thank You, Mr.Armentrout and Mr. Lail. You are truly " Statesmen"!

     
  • At 7/29/2006 12:57 PM, Anonymous Terry M. Tharpe said…

    Accountability should be first and foremost, especially if you are a county administrator. That is part of the job. If the job is not done properly, then there should be some changes made, such as hiring a new county administrator or recalling certain county supervisors for letting this unaccountability happen.

    Terry M. Tharpe

     
  • At 8/01/2006 9:51 PM, Anonymous Larry lail said…

    All right! Thanks Iconoclast.
    Here are a few enlightening facts which further illustrate the lack of accountability in Charlotte County:
    1. The Sunshine Law, Freedom of Information Act, (FOIA) statutes and requests remain unfulfilled in Charlotte County.
    2 The performance of the County Administrator has not adhered to the position description.
    3. Former Chairman of the Board, Gary Walker and County Administrator R. B. Clark were interviewed and quoted by Southside Messenger, 2005, regarding FOIA requests.
    4. Southside Messenger reviewed the FOIA requests and the County responses but the conclusions reported were unfounded. Misinformation regarding FOIA requests was reported.
    5. Mr. Walker reported that a Board review had been conducted and no impropriety on Mr. Clark’s part was found. No such review had taken place.
    6. I appeared before the Board on October 4, 2005, and detailed FOIA failures. The Chairman of the Board of Supervisors told me at the meeting that responses would be provided.
    7. The Board members were aware that no review had been conducted and the County was in noncompliance with FOIA.
    8. The Board of Supervisors and County Administrator were featured in Southside Messenger editorials as I pursue FOIA requests.
    9. BOS held a closed meeting, not listed on the agenda, on FOIA requests,
    10 Southside Messenger interviewed the County Administrator after the closed meeting and reported the Administrator stated, “The Matter is closed.”
    12. I persisted in continuing my correspondence with the County Administrator in regard to the FOIA request for receipts of the Administrator’s reimbursement claims and a copy of the policy that would exclude him from having to provide said items.
    13. County Administrator forwards letter to the County Attorney for response.
    14. On December 6, 2005, County Attorney’s response to my letter was, “There is no such policy.”
    15. Within two weeks a receipt policy was created by the Board of Supervisors for the County.
    16. Having done this, it seemed the BOS believed the matter closed.
    17, My FOIA requests began on August 10, 2005, requesting the following: position description detailing and enumerating all accountable tasks involved and specified for County Officials—County Administrator, Assistant County Administrator, Legislative Liaison, and Zoning Administrator. I asked for specific monetary compensations and all expenses related to the functions of each of these positions: salary, phone, office space, travel, food, lodging, meetings or any other expenses that have occurred within the past twelve months.

    (Note: The position description of the County Administrator combined requirements of a sign-out log for him and pre-approved by no less than three Board members regarding conferences, seminars, and out-of-town meetings; yet neither the Board nor the County Administrator could provide a chronological history or receipts to verify what Mr. Clark had claimed on invoices the Board regularly approved for reimbursement.)

    A non-receipt practice that had a five-year history of reimbursement claims became known after my new FOIA request in April 2006 and the Board of Supervisor’s receipts Policy implementation in late December 2005. This information illustrated the distorted responses of the Board of Supervisors who were aware of the 2005 misinformation epidemic with participation by the County Administrator.

    I suggest the Commonwealth Iconoclast contact the County administrator of Charlotte County to obtain (under the FOIA) voice cds of the Board Meetings of October 4, 2005 and June 20, 2006. Then contact the Charlotte Gazette, Drakes Branch, VA, to request a copy of my letter to the editor July 5, 2006 in reference to a resolution, which passed on June 20, 2006. Jamie Ruff made reference to this information in an article in the Richmond Times Dispatch June 22, 2006.

    Accountability of the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors, the County Administrator and the State Statutes of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act were defied in what I consider an outright contempt of taxpayer concerns and disregard of public law

    It’s as though Charlotte County has a lack of accountability “virus.” Is this virus above the law? Time will tell! And, I hope the Iconoclast will continue to track this issue.

    Larry Lail
    Charlotte Court House, VA

     
  • At 8/01/2006 10:22 PM, Anonymous Praying for change said…

    I am just a "fly on the wall" observer, but what the gentelman just said (above) is about what we have come to expect in Charlotte County.

    It is about time that people start saying what is what out loud.

    What baffles me is WHY our supervisors tolerate this nonesense year after year, in spite of problems and concerns that have not been so secret.

    Clark, as a so called county administrater, is disgrace. I could tell you stories but I will refrain at this time.

    What do those supervisors need before they actually do something or act accountable? Does the courthouse have to fall down around their ears?

    Of course I don't really expect Walker to do anythng. He is just as bad as Clark. Maybe worse.

    But what about the rest of them?

    This board ought to be ashamed of themselves for letting this stuff go on so long.

    I will withhold my name because I know these boys all too well. I got to live here. Thank you for understanding.

     
  • At 8/04/2006 2:58 PM, Anonymous JR from Drakes Branch said…

    If you haven't noticed, take a look at the Green County story just posted this week in the Iconoclast.

     
  • At 8/09/2006 1:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The following unsigned editorial appeared in the Editorial Section, page A2 of the August 3, 2006, Southside Messenger, published in Keysville, VA. It included a small photo of a young man sitting at a laptop with his eyes masked out.

    “Anonymous bloggers
    What is the value of truth, and what sacrifices are we willing to make to ensure that in it’s pursuit we refrain from obscuring it? These are the questions that surround us as we delve even deeper into the communication age.
    Up until recent years the American public was reliant on mass media outlets to obtain their news. Successful media outlets got that way because of their ability to gain the trust of their readers. Journalists of any respected newspaper follow a code of ethics which mandates that they remain honest and objective. The internet however; has spawned a new form of journalism: blogging. Blogs are simply online journal entries that can be posted by anyone with access to the internet. This freedom of press has spurred the explosive growth of citizen reporting giving a voice to anybody that can find someone to listen.
    As promising as blogging appears to be, there remains one major caveat; unlike professional journalists, bloggers are not tethered to any code of ethics. Compounding the problem even further is the fact that while professional journalists are required to put their name behind their work, bloggers can remain shrouded in the cloak of annononimity. This trait is a two edged sword. In professional journalism reporters have relied on sources that they keep anonymous to the public for years; deep-throat anybody? But when the reporter puts his name at the top of the column, it forces him to become accountable for every word he publishes.
    While common sense would seem to dictate that blog readers will learn to discern between those who consistently post the truth and those who don’t, the fallibility of people to believe what they want can create a dangerous flow of mistruths and lies that can easily be perceived as facts. And without being able to confront the author of such lies, it is nearly impossible to stop those responsible.
    The bottom line is this; if you plan on posting online remain truthful. When discussing hearsay identify it as such. When you see somebody else starting a wildfire of lies, confront them about it. But most of all, stay classy Southside.”

    Comment: Talk about the pot calling the kettle black: it appears your coverage of the shenanigans and slight-of-hand by one each R. B. Clark, the Public Administrator, and some of the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors may be cutting to the quick. Highlighting this type of old time, good ole boy politics, at the expense of the taxpayers is long overdue. Keep up the good work and coverage of this type of abuse and maybe, just maybe, the voters will realize they have been taken for a ride and take action. It should be noted the managing editor of the Southside Messenger is related to a Supervisor who was a former Chairman of the Board of Supervisors.

     
  • At 8/24/2006 3:17 PM, Anonymous CDL said…

    If you haven't already seen it, check out the Crewe Burkeville Journal today, a letter to the editor concerning the sorry state of affairs here in Charlotte County. Seems like everybody sees the problem except the Board of Supervisors.

     
  • At 9/05/2006 11:52 AM, Blogger keepitsimple said…

    Charlotte county,,screwed up? sorry state of affairs? board of supervisers blind?
    Its seems the problems are not unlike anywhere u.s.a.,,,Not as much people problems as system problems.The system can and is being questioned.
    What does the system require of
    particpants?----if the answer is unclear,,,,fix the system.
    The tools seem avialable, intelligent leaders,,engauged citezons.Work on the system,and the county will be better for it.
    Keep it simple.

     
  • At 10/03/2006 11:03 PM, Anonymous MeMe said…

    You are such a darling and so polite. But the system, such as it is, is just something that RB makes up as he goes. Why did his assistant quit? What are these questions about improper closed board meetings? You got to change the people to change the system. Have a good day.

     
  • At 10/06/2006 10:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thanks meme....I think.I feel the system must be the focus.We must not assume future people(officials)will be as accountable as the citezens may require.The rules(system)must be clear.Mr.Carey seems on task in this respect.I think we agree meme.
    keepitsimple

     
  • At 11/29/2011 4:54 AM, Anonymous images and pictures said…

    IF I SEE SOME WHERE BEST POSTS BRO THEN I CAN SAY ITS YOUR BLOG I AM NOT SPAMMING JUST TELLING U THE TRUTH I AM HERE FROM LONG TIME AND INTRESTING IN UR ALL POSTS YOUR SITE IS FABOLUS HTTP://WWW.IMAGESA.BLOGSPOT.COM/
    HTTP://WWW.JAVEDISAAC.BLOGSPOT.COM/

     
  • At 5/23/2016 2:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It is now May 2016 -- ten years later! -- and nothing has changed in Charlotte County. There is still no accountability or transparency in local government. County Administrator Russell B. "RB" Clark is still running the show with the help of his "gang" on the Board of Supervisors.

    Gary Walker, Haywood Hamlet, Nancy Carwile, and Garland "Butch" Hamlett are still on the Board. Butch Hamlett is not part of the gang but goes along with their votes. He does ask questions sometimes, but seldom gets answers and votes with them anyway. Nancy thinks she's one of the boys, but they just use her. They've added Robert "Butch" Shook (who goes along with the gang but is not in the inner circle), and newer members Warren Weston and Royal Freeman, who vote with the majority and don't ask questions. Other than on coyote claims (which is an inside joke), there is seldom a Board vote that is not unanimous.

    County Attorney Russell Slayton is still talking out of both sides of his mouth; and Averett Jones, editor/owner of the Southside Messenger and brother-in-law of Supervisor Gary Walker, continues his role as mouthpiece for the gang.

    Sadly, Larry Lail passed away, but a new group of citizens have picked up the torch and are once again asking questions of RB and the board. While the county has gotten a little better about responding to Freedom of Information requests, the citizens are still getting stonewalled on many things. The officials still do not keep proper records about expenses and still continue to eat on the taxpayer's dime with no explanation of who or what. And from what I read in the Charlotte Gazette its not just $5 meals. The Board minutes still don't tell us anything.

    We're now going to be stuck with a $12 million new courthouse. Most citizens don't like the plans and neither do the historical experts. RB and the supervisors have said they don't care what anyone says, they're building what they want. Of course, they've tried to say they have no control over it, that the judges are demanding things. Well, the local people and the historic people who are fighting against the courthouse plans seem to think that's not true. Go look at the Charlotte Gazette's website and you will find lots of letters and stories giving lots of information -- and those writers provide proof of what they say, unlike the "gang." http://www.thecharlottegazette.com/category/opinion/

    Like most of the other people who commented here, I'm hiding my name because I have to live here. The supervisors, the sheriff, deputies, school board, etc. are all related. People are very afraid to speak publicly against any of them, but privately they will tell you a lot. In the past people have received threats or had things happen. No one runs against the gang in elections because they're afraid to. It shouldn't be that way.

    The only way it can be stopped is if all the citizens stand up together and say ENOUGH! There is a meeting about the courthouse on June 1, 2016 at 7:00 pm. Come to it and show you are tired of how things happen in Charlotte County. And come to Board of Supervisors' meetings on the second Tuesday of each month at 1:00 pm. Show them we're tired of good ole boy politics and "that's the way it's always been" excuses. Things can be changed but first you have to show up and demand it.

     

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