Sunday, April 15, 2007

Joe Sam stirs up Republic hornet's nest in the northlands

State Senator Joe Sam Queen introduced an innocuous bill, S1302, called "Divide District 24." And a bunch of Republicans have their panties in knots over it.

The current district attorney, Republican Gerry Wilson, is going all over the place (and being printed all over the place) telling everyone who will listen that it's a "waste of money" with no benefits. It will cost $1.25 million in the first two years.

Democratic Senator Queen counters that there's such a backlog of cases and such distances to travel that the savings to private citizens would be far greater than the newly created administrative costs. Of the five judges in the district, none live in Madison or Yancey. The district attorney lives and works in Watauga. The new division would give Madison and Yancey the chance to have district attorneys and judges living closer.

As if it's a bad thing, DA Wilson has said it will create several high-paying jobs. Those jobs: another district attorney, as well as two additional superior court judges, directors of juvenile and mediation, as well as additional staff. If there's that much work, one wonders why DA Wilson is opposed to adding more staff.

Which brings us to the political realities. Avery and Mitchell are over 80% Republican. Watauga Democrats fight hard to win their county elections. They do not have any chance to come up with numbers to overwhelm the Avery/Mitchell onslaught. However, any judge or district attorney from Madison and Yancey would have a good chance of being Democrats. And if the bill passes as written, our Democratic governor will be appointing them.

"What they want to do is gerrymander the district and create jobs," Wilson wrote recently. He also pointed out that since most candidates in the fightin' 24th ran unopposed, "This does not sound like a district in which the people are dissatisfied."

(I guess he's never heard of the Soviet system and their so-called election results of overwhelming support.)

DA Wilson argued in a front-page article he wrote for the March 28 Avery Post that the provision to provide for gubernatorial appointments are a constitutional violation (separation of powers). He wrote that even if the bill didn't pass, "it would give a legislator the power to influence the actions of judges and prosecutors by merely threatening to introduce a bill to realign their district unless the judge or prosecutor gave into his wishes."

Former Avery County Sheriff Clerk of Court Nub Taylor has a lot to say about all of this. Perhaps that's because he recently lost his job and was convicted through the actions of DA Wilson for modifying bonds. Below I reprint some of his letter to the editor from April 4th Avery Post, even though it obviously should be taken with a large bucket of salt:
"What Mr. Wilson fails to tell you is that he and all of the other judicials of the 24th District would be losing their grip, or, as I like to call it, a stranglehold of two of the counties that they draw political contributions form.

"Last May, when I was standing trial for modifying bonds, I was taken out behind the courthouse by Mr. Wilson and my attorney, former DA tom Rusher, and the two of them gave me a heads up on how I had steeped on the toes of the Brotherhood Justice, that I needed to show more respect for the judicial system. I told them that I give respect where respect is due. I didn't roll with the flow and the flow drowned me. I was accused of a lot but only convicted of modifying bonds: something I had done for Sheriffs and other law enforcement for 23 years. I crossed the line with the Brotherhood of Justice and I paid the price just alike a former Clerk and Sheriff did. They too rocked the boat. Now Senator Joe Sam Queen is rocking their boat."

"For twenty-two years I saw people who knew someone, or knew someone that knew someone, get slapped on the wrist while those who were considered nobodies paid the price of the system. Judges and District Attorneys work when they want to , that's wy our system is so backlogged. Here in the 24th District, judges continue cases to get home early while DAs pick and choose who to try."
I might not have reprinted former Sheriff Clerk of Court Taylor's accusations except the vehemence and amount of Wilson's argumentation seem excessive. Also, I got suspicious when Wilson's front page article appeared with no notation that it was not written by a reporter, no notation that it was a letter to the editor or opinion column. (His name and title were printed on the jump page at the end.)

As to Taylor's strongly worded accusations, another local paper, the Avery Journal, has asked for information on the cases that were dropped. He won't tell them.

Joe Sam is coming to Avery County in May to speak before the all-Republican County Commission. I'll have to make note on my calendar. Last time he came to Avery County, they locked him out of the courthouse. Good thing it was a nice day.

1 comment:

Drama Queen said...

CORRECTION: Nub Taylor was clerk of court, not Sheriff. Bad mistake. Thanks to a reader for letting me know (and slapping me on the wrist for my sloppiness!)