Guilty verdict makes Blair

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 26, 2000

resignation best thing for Pike County

Stupidity and incompetence were cited as the reasons Pike County Revenue Commissioner Curtis Blair escaped felony charges. Those two attributes render him unfit to continue to serve as Pike County Revenue Commissioner.

After all, the county’s highest tax authority should not be incompetent; exercise, by his own admission, "bad judgment;" and offer a defense based on what a judge deemed to be ignorance.

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Judge John Rochester of the 40th Judicial Circuit found Blair guilty of an ethics violation of using his office for personal financial gain. However, the judge ruled that the violation was "without intent." Because intent was not found, Blair was guilty of a misdemeanor offense.

It is unrealistic to believe that Blair did not know he did not pay his taxes. After all, he was the tax collector. A second fact that is hard to swallow is his claim that someone in his office failed to publish his name on a delinquency list without his knowledge or approval. He signs off on that list.

He also cannot escape the fact that he paid his taxes only after he was caught in an audit.

Blair got slapped on the wrist with a misdemeanor charge – granted the penalties were stiff – but the ultimate consequences are similar to those suffered by traffic violators.

What Mr. Blair did was far worse than a traffic violation. What he did was dishonest, unethical, and unscrupulous.

We are disappointed that Judge Rochester did little more than slap Blair’s wrist. Perhaps it is a case of the "good ole boy" network that has so long haunted the state of Alabama once again prevailing.

Blair remains in office, counting our tax dollars despite apparent incompetence. Furthermore, he will be able to run again for subsequent terms once this term of office is complete.

That is a shame.

The way we see it, the judge harshly criticized Blair but did not pass down a tough sentence. Blair was found guilty of a misdemeanor instead of a felony. The judge, against common sense, declared that he found no intent.

All the fines in the world won’t take away the fact that Blair will not lose a single moment of his freedom or his rights as an American for abusing the people he was elected to represent.

Consider those who have lost their homes and property due to their failure to pay their taxes. Does Judge Rochester plan to rule that their property – and their rights – cannot be taken away from them because they were ignorant? Maybe they don’t open their mail. Maybe they don’t read the newspaper. Is ignorance a valid defense for their refusal to pay their taxes? Certainly not. And at the very least, the same standards should apply to the county’s highest tax authority.

We cannot change the judge’s verdict in this case, but clearly the people of Pike County deserve better than this. We deserve leaders who will uphold the people’s interests and not their personal interests. We need leaders we can trust, either morally or from a competency standpoint. After Wednesday’s decision, we do not believe Curtis Blair is that leader.

Mr. Blair should save Pike County additional pain and step down from his position as Revenue Commissioner.

May 25, 2000 10 PM  

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