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LETTER: Chairman’s P-card charges give reader ‘heartburn’

Dear Editor:

The adjective fiduciary means held and given in trust. 

Each elected official in Newton County, in running for office, is accepting a fiduciary duty and enters into a trust and confidence with the voter which compels him/her to act solely on behalf of the constituency best interest which elected  him/her.  Even judges who are compelled (must) to follow the law are often swayed to act on the behalf of those who elected him. 

We are becoming  inured to either being ignorant of fraud/lavish spending or not caring when our caretakers forget and stick a toe over the line where money and rules/law are concerned. Often the toe becomes the entire body and if there is any justice left — hopefully jail time awaits them. 

Recent revelations and data gathered on the use of credit cards by Newton officials — as well as around the state, indicate many have forgotten that not only is their salary paid by the taxpayers, but their benefits as well. 

Some of the charges made by the chair of the Newton County Commission, Marcello Banes, are very questionable and need a review by whoever has authorized these charges. They are not doing their job if allowed to stand! 

I feel there is a direct correlation between the recent tax increases we all got kissed with and what I feel are over the top charges made by the chair and others and need an immediate repayment. The Covington News has given Mr. Banes space to answer charges from others about these charges and he failed miserably beyond telling us all the charges were legitimate and he met all obligations. Not in my opinion.

Mr. Banes must understand that legitimacy goes far beyond the letter of the rules and law, and there must be an avoidance of even a hint of an impropriety of not protecting the taxpayer’s money and personal enrichment. At this point we need a watch dog on all the charges made by the credit card holders of the county (in fact I say have all the cards turned in immediately) who is not politically threatened by not only saying no but loving to say no. We taxpayers are sick of the cavalier attitude of those when elected thinking it is their money. There are many of Mr. Banes’ charges that give me heartburn, but the most obvious ones are having the county attorney wasting her time pursuing things like getting rid of the Confederate Statue on the Square, which has been there since 1906. 

This seems to be Banes’ primary mission in life and he should pursue it with private money — not taxpayer money from those of us not wanting the statue removed or thinks he is already overpaid. 

Also, since the distance to Savannah is only 226 miles and a trip I often make in four hours or less, I wonder why he chooses to fly when it takes that long to be seated on an aircraft leaving Atlanta. Why not use his county provided car and the free gas provided by the county instead of the $400 round trip on Delta? 

And then the almost weekly car washes and lunches at Longhorn while he is in town. I also question that with current technology such as Skype why a business trip to Savannah is necessary anyway. I suppose we should be grateful that the Commission boondoggle destination “business” is not in Costa Rica or Hawaii. 

Personally, I do not want any of the county officials buying anyone — and I mean anyone — a lunch or dinner on my dime. Play big shot on their own money! 

There is a fine line between being gracious and bribery — thus the reason there are laws against public officials accepting or giving gifts. If we need our officials to court such business for the county in such a grandstanding fashion, we do not need the business which usually wind up affecting the tax digest negatively anyway. 

I would advise all who hold these charge cards never forget where their allegiance should lie — the taxpayers are fed up. And Mr. Banes, in the interest of honor, I suggest you repay all the frivolous charges that you or others might even suspect are invalid. And while you are at it, you might want to read a biography on Harry Truman and his notions of pay and honor while in public service. He licked his own stamps.  

Felton Hudson