Monday, November 14, 2005

Dems may Want Charnock Ousted, but are They Prepared to Hold Themselves to the Same Standard?

Earlier today, I predicted Democrats in Charleston would soon seek the ouster of Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Bill Charnock in light of the report of a very partisan legislative investigator. Earlier today, I confined myself to the prediction and explaining the underlying political motive present.

Given the time to research the issue further, it appears these ambitions by some Democratic partisans are either premature or might boomerang if pursued. The allegations cited in the Legislative Auditor's (the Legislative Auditor is an employee of the Legislature, which, of course, is dominated by the Ruling Party) report amount to collection of parking ticket-equivalent violations even if the allegations are true.

When you boil the Legislative Auditor's report down to the accusations, it amounts to nothing more than a collection of misdemeanors and civil infractions that are never enforced when violated by Democrats. Like I said earlier today, I hope the law is enforced and enforced equally.

All this presumes the allegations of the Legislative Auditor can be proven and constitute crimes under state law. However, Bill Charnock is strongly disputing these allegations. Today's Charleston Daily Mail and the AP wire both had stories on point. Until I see more evidence, I am holding firm to a presumption of innocence. If Charnock did do something wrong, he should not be held to a different standard just because he has an "R" next to his name.

I welcome attempts to raise the bar relating to public ethics in West Virginia. God knows this state is a cespool where few in government take ethics laws seriously until an offense rises to a federal felony. Maybe after Bill Charnock is persecuted (er, prosecuted) for a variety of petty offenses we can start pursuing issues like State Auditor Glen Gainer sending campaign press releases on his office fax machine, Governor Manchin employing campaign workers on the payroll doing political work on public time when he was Secretary of State, and all the legislators who do not keep a 2 computers, one public and one personal, in their offices and instead commingle activities on one computer even though no real additional cost is borne by the state.

Regardless of what the facts prove to be, one thing is clear: whatever hopes some Democrats in the capital city may have had for ousting a Republican prosecuting attorney appear to have crashed on takeoff.