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A citizen responds to Douglas, Maddox
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Dear Editor,

Last weekend, two Newton County commissioners, John Douglas and Levie Maddox, defended themselves and their colleagues on the recent reappointment of Mr. Tommy Craig as the county attorney, a post he has held for nearly 40 years.

The pair spent much of their editorial complaining about the so-called “negative noise” they have heard in response to the reappointment, alleging that it “simply drives good people away from participating in the process of local government.” This, they write, “leaves a stain on our community that is not justified or fair.”

The wording used in Messrs. Douglas and Maddox’s editorial is hyperbole and a desperate attempt by two politicians who are feeling pressure from the community to change the subject. Rather than respond to the concerns of their constituents in a thoughtful way, they largely double down on their actions, misdirecting readers into believing that virtually anyone who criticizes them are part of some “a modern day lynch mob.”

In reality, and contrary to what Messrs. Douglas and Maddox would have our community believe, the response to the reappointment of Mr. Craig has been predominantly respectful, though taxpayers are frustrated. They see a Board of Commissioners that does not listen to them and is not actively taking any serious effort to reduce the burden they bear.

It seems that the mere presence of criticism of the Board of Commissioners and its actions, no matter how small, is enough to be dismissed as “negative noise” and the hyperbolic label of “a modern day lynch mob.” Frankly, this sort of classless language is beneath any elected official, no matter what office they hold, and it is an example of the contempt it appears they have for their constituents. Moreover, it shows tremendously thin skin.

Messrs. Douglas and Maddox spent one sentence of an approximately 400-word editorial acknowledging exorbitant legal fees the county pays to Mr. Craig’s law firm before deflecting to additional budgetary issues that need to be addressed. They never bring up Mr. Craig’s very significant tax problems, which were at the center of the recent 11Alive story.

Interestingly, they write that “[t]he claim that [Mr. Craig] pocketed $1.1 million last year is slanderous and false and those making such claims are flat wrong.” They, of course, never explain why. One could surmise that it is another attempt at misdirection, given the language used.

Obviously, Mr. Craig’s business — the one from which he was walking when a reporter approached him before he shut a door in her face rather than answer tough questions — received the payments, though one can imagine that he took a salary of his own after overhead expenses. But the 11Alive story makes clear that Mr. Craig’s “firm was paid $1.1 million last year,” a finding that came from unimpeachable information obtained from the county through an open records request.

Needless to say, the 11Alive report is accurate while Messrs. Douglas and Maddox are engaging in political doublespeak. And the thing is, they are really bad at it.

Newton County is only well served if its elected officials are responsive to the concerns of the community. But the events of the last month, especially the last week, have shown that the Board of Commissioners is incredibly out of touch.

It appears the Board of Commissioners is more interested in protecting politically connected cronies than doing what is right by taxpayers. The missive authored by Messrs. Douglas and Maddox is an example of a lack of self-awareness. They are the very examples of why good people shun the process that will help us achieve a greater, more prosperous community.

The tide can be turned, but it will take an incredible drive from the residents of our community to make this out of touch Board of Commissioners listen. But to those elected officials who are determined not to adapt to the demands of their constituents, the ballot box awaits.

Jason Pye