Resign or recall?
February 16, 2011 - Loyalty to a friend is certainly an admirable trait.
But when that loyalty leads a government official to betray the public's trust in favor of helping a friend cover-up an alleged crime, a serious line has been crossed.
The penalty for crossing that line should be either resignation or recall. To me, those are the two options facing Oxford Village Councilwoman Maureen "Moe" Helmuth right now. See story on Page 1.
By her own admission, it was Helmuth who, while serving as the village's deputy treasurer five years ago, discovered that deputy clerk M. Patricia Paad had allegedly taken between $2,000 and $3,500 in village tax money for her own personal use.
Did Helmuth report this to the village manager, council or police? No.
By her own admission, she chose to protect her friend by loaning Paad the money to repay what she had allegedly embezzled from the village.
Helmuth then remained silent about the alleged incident for the next five years until Jan. 25 when her concerns about Paad's honesty, as pertaining to her candidacy for the village clerk position, led her to inform Manager Joe Young of what had allegedly transpired.
Too little, too late. Helmuth is no hero here for finally speaking up. She's no hero for putting the needs of a friend above her obligation to the taxpayers.
She shouldn't have loaned Paad the money and she shouldn't have kept quiet. If she truly believed there was wrongdoing here, it was Helmuth's duty as deputy treasurer to speak up, but she did not.
In fact, Helmuth remained silent as she was promoted to treasurer in 2007 and later, elected to council in 2009.
Helmuth's questioning of Paad's honesty is a classic example of the pot calling the kettle the black.
Where was Helmuth's honesty as she helped conceal an alleged crime against village taxpayers not only with her silence, but with her very own money?
I know Helmuth's fan base will probably come after me for writing this column because she's a pretty popular person around here. Everybody loves Helmuth because she's the one who helped them with their water bills, cut-through the village's red tape on those building permits or bought the last round before closing time.
But no matter how popular she is, no matter how many favors she's done for others, what Helmuth did in this case was flat-out wrong and it should most definitely cost her the council seat she occupies.
To me, Paad's innocence or guilt in this matter is a separate issue where Helmuth's fate is concerned.
The bottom-line is Helmuth admitted she had knowledge of an alleged crime. She admitted she helped conceal it. She admitted to saying nothing for five years.
Village residents should be asking themselves a lot of questions right now. What else has Helmuth kept quiet about? What else has she done? What else is she capable of doing? Who does she serve – the taxpayers or her friends? Can she be trusted?
Is this really the type of person village residents want sitting on their council, representing their community and making decisions about how to spend their money?
This 10-year village resident says no.
When it comes to choosing public officials to safeguard my tax money, I don't care how popular they are or what a 'true blue' friend they are. I want people who uphold the law, do their duty and honor the public's trust.
Time for Moe to go.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.