One of the most upsetting comments we have heard in some time - distressing because it seems to be all too accurate - came from a woman whose job it is to ensure public officials obey the law.
During a workshop Thursday in Wheeling, West Virginia Ethics Commission Executive Director Joan Parker outlined and explained some of the rules for government officials and employees.
"I'm not surprised anymore, after six to eight years on the job," Parker commented. "I'm convinced people are limited only by their imagination on how they can violate statutes."
The overwhelming majority of public officials and employees - almost all of them, in fact - seem to be conscientious about how they do their jobs. But the possibilities for wrongdoing prove irresistable to a tiny minority.
On a fairly regular basis, criminal acts by public officials and employees are exposed. Just this summer, a judge and a county commissioner in Mingo County were arrested.
In some counties, residents have no reason to believe they can trust local law enforcement agencies to do anything about crimes by officeholders.
But what Mountain State residents need to understand is that help is available. Parker and her agency have an excellent record of coming down hard on misbehavior by public officials and employees.
William Ihlenfeld, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of the state, has a special task force dedicated to rooting out public corruption. His counterpart in the Southern District has a similar program.
Again, nearly all public officials and employees in our area try to do the right thing. But Parker is right: The few bad apples can be very, very rotten. If you know of one, call Parker and/or Ihlenfeld - and help get rid of the culprit.