Saturday, February 27, 2010

News Virginian thanks citizen watch dogs

Citizens who oversee the government ... it can work when Americans hold their employees -- the government -- accountable.

Case in point is the mess at the Waynesboro treasurer's office that was brought to the attention of the News Virginian and Waynesboro residents by citizen watch dogs, and resulted in a new treasurer being elected to that post. After Ellen and Phil Winter noticed what appeared to be shabby record keeping in the Waynesboro treasurer's office, they took action. From the NV:
Close followers of city politics knew the Winters waved the red flags and then gathered reams of information from city government that showed a Treasurer’s Office in disarray. That led to a front-page story in this newspaper Sept. 30 reporting that Treasurer Sandra “Sandee” Dixon had been thumped in four straight state audits for tardy accounting and sloppy recordkeeping and had botched the handling of hundreds of thousands of dollars in city and state taxpayer money. Within slightly more than two weeks, two write-in candidates joined the treasurer’s race, doubling the field. On Election Day, challenger Stephanie Beverage topped Dixon for the job.
It was more involved than that ... the NV editorial goes more indepth ... but the end result was that citizen watch dogs stepped in to oversee government. As a result, the Winters have been nominated for the American Society of News Editors Local Heroes Award which recognizes people who help improve access to government.

The News Virginian concluded with sage words:
This is how a representative republic, powered by the people through open government and the accountability that affords, is designed to work. Thanks to the Winters for the lesson. Let us all follow it with due and equal vigilance.
It turned out well in this case but too often it is impossible to fight city hall and government overwhelms the watch dog citizen which would never happen if everyone was a vigilent as the Winters.

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