Information in this post comes from these stories in the Birmingham News.
We live in a county that has elected criminals to its County Commission. Well, maybe they weren't criminals before they ran for office. Maybe. But Jeff Germany, Chris McNair, Mary Buckelew, Gary White and now Larry Langford were all commissioners between 1986 and 2006.
Jeff Germany, convicted in 2006 of using social service programs to get taxpayer money for personal gain.
Chris McNair, convicted in 2006 of bribery and conspiracy tied to the sewer rebuilding program.
Mary Buckelew, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in sewer deal, after receiving Salvatore Ferragamo shoes and a handbag worth $1500, a $1400 spa treatment and $1119 more in items from the Italian designer store.
Gary White, convicted in 2008 of conspiracy and bribery tied to sewer program. His conviction was set aside and he is awaiting new trial.*
Larry Langford, indicted for bribery, conspiracy, fraud, money laundering and filing false income tax returns in 2008.
* I personally think White's charges were politically motivated (Why Gary White Was Prosecuted). But still, five former County Commissioners, one of which is now the Mayor of the largest shrinking city in the state.
Why do the people of this county elect so many crooks? Or do they elect good people who can not resist the temptations set before them after they enter public life?
Various city and state officials have commented about what effect this will have on Birmingham's near and distant future. Can a county teetering on bankruptcy and stacking up felons like cordwood attract entrepreneurs and business investors to locate in its largest city?
Many writers in Jefferson County, including me, find it difficult to avoid cynicism about this because we pay for the Rolexes and Ferragamo shoes every time we flush the toilet. To accept bribes at the expense of the people who elected you shows what you really think of those people.
Langford is such a hypocrite, urging inner city parents not to buy expensive clothes for their kids, and wearing a Rolex watch to his "Sackcloth and Ashes" show. He said he learned a lesson as a child after being beat with an electric cord by his mother and taken to juvy by his stepfather to be shown what happens to boys that steal after he was caught stealing money to buy oatmeal cookies.
Maybe its time for a few more lashes with the electric cord.
And maybe its time we look for different leadership qualities in those we elect to public office.