Never forsake the public trust

Jul. 16, 2013 @ 05:01 AM

It is two words that have a lot of meaning but not a lot of understanding.

Those words are public trust.

Politically, public trust is essential and is traditionally the first item overlooked when conducting business.

On a quiet Monday at the Rutherford County Airport, I learned of a land deal that has residents in the county whooping and hollering.

It was that day I learned that the Airport Authority would be paying $300,000 for 10 acres of land not even next to the airport property. It was made worse by the fact that the land was owned by Rutherford County Commission Chairman Julius Owens.

I had to ask myself immediately if the deal was illegal in any way. Thus far, the answer has been “no.”

However, to the public, they see an elected official getting nearly twice the appraised value for his land for what amounts to a tree.

I’m no expert but I do know that in the realm of public relations that isn’t good.

But, the story has spiraled since that day.

There have been stories about the Authority having a tentative arrangement in 2010 to remove the trees for much less money.

Then Airport Authority members citing greed and a situation being taken advantage of in another story.

The Rutherford County Commission is set to discuss a possible takeover of the airport operations during their August meeting — which ties into the first story I will have upon getting married.

Lest I not forget that for the first time in my journalism career, I have reported on a rumor. Granted, I wasn’t reporting the rumor but the fact that a rumor had been spread under the guise of “learning how fact rumors spread.”

I would say that was not the best management decision ever made.

And it further questions how much the public trust is being considered by elected and appointed officials in the county.

Don’t get me wrong, these stories don’t appear in print because we have a mission of targeting a group or individual. Our mission remains information.

I could talk about moving on and doing what it best for all involved, but I won’t waste time on that. The decision on what to do with the Authority rests in the hands of the County Commission. And, quite honestly, there is not a lot of “moving on” we can do when we are talking about public money and the all-important political phrase “public trust.”

It is that public trust that is not to be trifled with.

 

Matthew Clark is the Editor of The Daily Courier. He can be reached at mclark@thedigitalcourier.com. Follow him on Twitter @UMass_MClark or @TDCMatt.