Editorial: Landis policy not needed amid investigation

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 10, 2019

In a town where two former employees are being investigated for alleged embezzlement, we now have news that employees can officially run for office, too.

The Landis Board of Aldermen on Monday night approved a policy that excludes department heads or those serving in an interim role. And if elected, the person couldn’t be considered for such a position. An elected employee can’t vote on matters in their financial interest or official conduct.

Those are wise barriers to erect in conjunction with the policy, but the entire idea raises questions which we think are best avoided in the situation in which Landis finds itself.

For a hypothetical employee who is elected to the board, would he or she be excluded from voting on the annual budget, one of the most important votes for any town board members?

What about the residents and voters in Landis, many of whom are highly skeptical of incumbents who served on the board during the alleged embezzlement? There seems to be a groundswell of support for fresh eyes on the Landis board and, while incumbents who file for re-election will have their shot to convince voters that they deserve another term, the policy approved Monday will not help incumbents’ case.

What prompted the policy’s creation?

Interim Town Manager Kenny Isenhour used the example of a part-time firefighter, saying he or she is made a second-class citizen by not being allowed to run for the Landis board.

“It felt like that was an injustice,” Isenhour said Monday.

And there were no dissenting voices. The policy passed 4-0 on Monday.

Mayor Pro Tem Tommy Garver was absent from the meeting and watched via a live-stream online. Garver disagreed with the proposal, reporter Liz Moomey wrote in today’s Salisbury Post. We wonder whether the vote count would have been different if he had been there to make his case.

While the policy wouldn’t create an unprecedented situation in Rowan County (sheriff’s deputies have run for Rowan County commissioner before), we think there are many more important items for aldermen to address.

With an embezzlement investigation still ongoing, the Landis Board of Aldermen and staff would be better suited implementing internal controls to ensure embezzlement isn’t a possibility again and fine-tuning them during monthly meetings.