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Council makes right decision on censure

There is little doubt sitting on a local elected board can be a hard job. Hometown politicians do not get paid much, and they receive, at times, plenty of criticism.

Sometimes, even, basic decorum can fade as appears to have been the case in Joseph. Recently, the Joseph City Council removed city councilor Kathy Bingham from office as mayor pro-tem, pulled her committee assignments and forbid her to interact with city employees as part of a move to censure her.

The censure has its roots in several different areas, including five letters of complaint asserting Bingham acted inappropriately in her role as a city councilor.

One complaint the council considered the most serious was a claim from a local businessman, Gary Bethscheider, that Bingham accused him of “flipping her off” during a February council meeting. Other claims against Bingham revolved around alleged harassment of city employees and violations of executive session privacy.

Finally, Bingham did not act appropriately under council rules.

As far as the censure goes, the council did the right thing. Just the violation of council rules should be enough to deliver some type of rebuke from the rest of the sitting members of the elected board.

One of the inherent strengths of our political system is ordinary Americans can be elected to positions, such as a city council slot. One of its weakness is that these people are — obviously — not professional politicians.

That means democracy is almost always messy, as was the case in Joseph. Whether local politicians like it or not, when they are elected they must adhere to a certain kind of acceptable behavior.

Another problem rural politicians often run up against is the one of transparency. The challenges the Joseph City Council faced, and how they dealt with them, were and are public record. The voters have a right to review every decision made by any elected board anywhere in the United States at any time.

The Joseph City Council appears to have made the right decision. Now their task will be to move forward and leave behind the obvious dysfunction of the past.

We ask a lot of our local politicians, that is true. But they freely sought their office. Once they are elected, they have a responsibility to act appropriately.