Apology good, but it’s action that makes a difference with constituents

Published 10:38 am Friday, August 21, 2015

One of our country’s founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, gave some pretty good advice when it came to apologies. “Never ruin an apology with an excuse,” he said.

Sadly, Warren County Tax Collector Antonia Flaggs-Jones either did not know of Franklin’s advice, or if she did, she did not follow it.

Over the past few weeks, Jones’ office has been mired in a mistake made by her office. The mistake was an error that resulted in the publishing of names of county property owners — who had already paid their county property taxes — among those who failed to pay.

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Those names — both those who had not paid and many others who had already paid — appeared in the Monday, Aug. 10 edition of The Vicksburg Post.

You can imagine the phone calls Jones’ office received — and the many the newspaper received — when that erroneous list was published.

As Jones’ would later say, blaming her employees, the error was the result of some new employees making a mistake.

That’s unfortunate; not only in that those new employees had simply made a mistake, but their boss would so easily drive the bus over them in the process.

Again, as Ben would say, “never ruin an apology with an excuse.”

As the county scrambled to discover what had happened, some county leaders appeared to take a level-headed approach of asking that a public apology be published, hopefully clearing any embarrassment and potential legal issues of those who incorrectly appeared on the initial list.

But, for some reason Flaggs-Jones felt the inclusion of the names was unnecessary.

Admittedly, the delinquent tax list that was republished in the Aug. 17 edition appears to have been corrected, but for some the damage has already been done. And, Flaggs-Jones did apologize for any inconveniences those who incorrectly appeared on the list might have gone through.

It should not have taken the Warren County Board of Supervisors — the governing authority of the county — to force Flaggs-Jones to publish a list of names that should not have been published in the first place and publically apologize for the error that was made.

And, that decision by the board should not have been done in such a contentious manner.

Flaggs-Jones needs to remember she has an important job, but a job that is provided for by the residents of Warren County. Not anyone else.

“We’ve got to remember who we work for. None of us is perfect and the taxpayers know we aren’t perfect. But there are some things that are more meaning when a mistake is made than others,” District 5 Supervisor Richard George said during Monday’s meeting, making a motion for tax collector’s office to publish an apology and the list of names.

Will there be ad published in the newspaper? We don’t know. Flaggs-Jones appears to have still been against the motion, even after it was passed.

In the end, this was a mistake and those happen. Believe us. We have our share of mistakes and work hard to apologize for those errors, sometimes doing so in print.

But, the mistake here was not in the initial computer or employee error; it is what has happened since. As author Stella Young once said, “apologies are great, but they don’t really change anything. You know what does? Action.”

It’s now time to see what action will ultimately be taken.