Punishing Corrupt Officials Severely

Personnel in West Virginia’s state Ethics Commission are always eager to answer public officials’ questions about what types of behavior are acceptable and what are not. On a regular basis, the commission offers training sessions.

But does a police chief really need to be told that using a state-issued purchasing card to buy tires at a business he owns is wrong? Of course not.

Last week, three current and former municipal officials in Richwood were arrested on embezzlement charges. They included the mayor, former city recorder and police chief. A former mayor also may face charges in the case — some of which involves alleged misuse of funds intended to help flood victims.

This ought to be really big news — a page one shocker. Unfortunately, revelations such as this are not uncommon in West Virginia. As you recall, corruption has gone as high as the state Supreme Court.

Nearly all of the time, there are no gray areas in allegations of corruption. They are clear cases of abusing the public’s trust.

The harshest punishment available needs to be meted out to those guilty of that offense. If Ethics Commission education won’t work — and it has not — perhaps something else will make the lesson clear.

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