Careless spending of taxpayer dollars is unwise

Published 11:19 pm Saturday, October 6, 2012

Mr. Selmon, you should have known better.

Charles Selmon, Warren County’s supervisor for District 3, on Monday handed over a personal check for $40 to cover postage for letters endorsing a political candidate using county taxpayer funds. The amount is not the issue; the practice is.

We only can hope that this is not an everyday occurrence at the courthouse, but pardon our skepticism.

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In September, Vicksburg Warren School District Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Swinford served a three-day suspension and had to reimburse the district $357 for using a district vehicle to assist her moving into a new house. She said that it was her understanding that it was long-practiced “policy” to check out district property for personal use.

She took responsibility, apologized and said the practice would cease within the district.

In Selmon’s case, letters returned to the Warren County Courthouse as undeliverable had been metered from the Warren County Chancery Clerk’s Office. Metered mail carries codes used to charge the activity to a business or entity that uses it, in this case, Warren County.

In each of the letters returned, Selmon, a recent past president of the Mississippi Association of Supervisors, asked voters to support Ceola James in a run for state Court of Appeals. Selmon, who has been a member of the Board of Supervisors since 1995 and also is a former postmaster in Vicksburg, laid the blame as a mistake.

“Two weeks ago, we had some problems and mistakes as it relates to mailing,” he said. “I would like at this time to donate a check for $40 as well as stamps.”

We hope it was a mistake and not a common, unwritten “policy.” If it is the latter, that policy — much like the school district’s “policy” — must cease immediately.

Our elected officials are the stewards of our money — and in already-strapped fiscal times, their diligence, honesty and integrity should be at the fore of every decision made by a person or a public body. Playing fast and carelessly with taxpayer money — no matter who was being endorsed — must be halted. There is not enough in the coffers for careless decisions, whether it costs $40 or $40,000.

Mr. Selmon, you can do better.