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 10, 2006

Town of Appalachia: A new sunrise.

An Update Report.

Brighter days to come.

The investigation widens.

Lessons for other communities.

Good news folks…

Metaphorically speaking, the good citizens of the little Town of Appalachia are waking up to a new sunrise and breathing in fresher air these days.

This is the result of the airing out of town hall and the removal of corrupt officials and their practices of cronyism and abuses of official offices for retribution, protection and financial gain.

As of this past week, the Appalachia Town Council was once again complete, with a full complement of Council members and… for the first time in a long time… a Mayor who didn’t have billowing clouds of corruption hanging over his head.

Readers of the Iconoclast will remember this most pitiful story that first broke last year.

The story started with reports that voters in this sleepy little Southwest Virginia Town were being bought off during the 2004 town elections with assorted bribes including six packs of beer, marijuana, and… the clincher… pork rinds! See previous posts here.

Initially it was kind of funny… but also so pitiful that a vote can be bought so cheap… A bag of pork rinds… Unbelievable…

But, as we now know, what started off as a bad joke has snowballed into a full blown Federal investigation and eventually a 300 page federal election-fraud indictment against 14 officials including the former Mayor, the former Town Manager, a former councilman, and others.

The trials for these initial indictments are scheduled for this fall.

Stealing votes, stealing elections, putting cronies in useful offices, abusing public offices for fun an profit. It was a slippery slope that took down the top dog politicians in the Town of Applachia.

The 300 page indictment is not the end of it. The investigation continues widen into organized illegal gambling, allegedly sanctioned and protected by town officials!

We can expect more "shoes to drop" in the coming months. Probably more indictments.

This is a sad story about a sorry bunch of politicians who sold out their integrity for money and inflated egos. This story is too often heard these days.

There are lessons that we might learn from the tragic experiences of thelittle Town of Appalachia. These lessons, if learned in time, can save others from suffering the same ignominious grief.

Just last week, the Iconoclast reported on an alarmingly similar case of cronyism and nepotism in Prince Edward County, Virginia.

We should know by now that cronyism and nepotism is a "gateway drug" for harder forms of official abuse of public office.

In the case of Appalachia, it apparently spread to retribution against political enemies and protection of illegal activities for friends. Now it is apparently extending to include large scale illegal gambling.

When politicians start giving out jobs to friends and family, those tainted employees are highly susceptible to other abuses.

Because of their connections, tainted employees serve a different master and may not follow the same rules that others are expected to follow. They know that they have friends in high places to whom they owe favors in return for their jobs and protection. Conditions are right for an escalating pattern of further abuse of public trust. Lots of temptations. A favor here. A favor there. Wheeling and dealing. Pretty soon, the public interest gets compromised and then forgotten and finally sacrificed completely.

The practice also sucks the morale out of honest public employees and sends message that integrity does not matter. Cronyism and nepotism, once it gets a toe hold, tends to spread and protect itself from perceived threats.

It is like a cancer on government. It keeps growing until it is killed or cut out.

But for now, back in the little Town of Appalachia the good town-folk can sleep a little easier knowing that they are back on the road to honest government. They have a ways to go yet and there will be some painful bridges to cross along the way.

But they are on their way to recovery.

And once they complete the process of cutting out the cancer of corrupt government, perhaps together the good citizens of Applachia will conclude that good government is worth jealously fighting for and protecting in the future for the common good of all citizens.

Congratulations citizens of Appalachia.


  • At 7/10/2006 9:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Just picture all the great real estate deals that could happen if you have connections in high places. There is nothing wrong with cronies helping cronies.

  • At 7/10/2006 11:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    As you correctly imply, privileges of office are sometimes very profitable. Giving out jobs to friends and family is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

  • At 7/11/2006 9:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ok, so it's still midnight in Prince Edward when it comes to ethics at the Courthouse. Hopefull the citizens of this County will see a new dawn when we hold BOS elections in the fall of 2007.

    I know I'm counting down the days.

  • At 7/12/2006 3:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Just got back from the meeting with our Supervisors in Prince Edward. It is getting more and more interesting as we start to understand relationships and motivations and financial incentives of public officials.

  • At 7/22/2006 12:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Seems the council member, now mayor, has benefited again from the alleged wrong doing of his former running mates.


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