Jefferson County Commissioners Bettye Fine Collins and Shelia Smoot chose to leave the state this week “tending to other groups they represent”, even as 900+ county employees got the news that they would lose their paychecks effective today.
Both commissioners’ staff members refused to disclose their whereabouts. What is it with that? They’re public officials, accountable to the public. They have no business instructing their staff people to withhold that information.
Not to be deterred, Birmingham News reporters tracked down Collins in San Diego, registered under her maiden name, where she was attending a Republican National Committee meeting. When contacted, her first question was, “How did you find me?”
Smoot was in Nashville to attend a National Association of Counties convention. I sure hope other attendees were able to give her some pointers on good governance. She returned to town on Wednesday, and, according to a very persistent commenter at al.com, intercepted the layoff letters that were to be delivered to the Information and Technology Department, one of her fiefdoms. No idea why; perhaps she hopes to keep all of the staff to maintain the county’s new website.
Both Smoot and Collins are being excoriated in comments at al.com (not a place you want to visit unless you’re planning to shower immediately thereafter). Me? I don’t care that they left town to attend events that were planned months ago, although the appearance is terrible. [ETA: Yeah, I do care, based on Bill's comment below. It's just shitty for the bosses to go out of town and leave everyone else to deal with the fallout. Smoot got back in town on Wednesday, so she's at least in the county.] I do care very much that they told their staffs to withhold that information from the press and public.
And I’m still waiting to hear that they and their fellow commissioners will take steep pay cuts in solidarity with the employees who are losing their jobs and livelihoods. Any suggestions on how long I should hold my breath?