More nonsense in Waynesboro

Column by Chris Graham

Just when you think the Waynesboro political scene couldn’t get any weirder …
A group comes forward and says that Lorie Smith needs to recuse herself from further votes on the stormwater improvements that are in line to begin later this year because her husband is now in charge of overseeing the program.

It apparently doesn’t matter that Bert Smith is a long-time city public-works department employee whose salary isn’t going to be affected by whatever ends up being done to improve the stormwater system in Waynesboro – as opposed to being, perhaps, an employee of a private entity that was set to do some contract or consulting work on the project whose salary could then be said to be affected by the work and therefore the vote.

Because then there would be a clear conflict of interest for Lorie Smith – and then it would be obvious to everyone that she would need to step aside on any and all votes involving the project.

But neither Smith nor her husband stand to gain or lose a cent if the city decides to do any amount of improvements or decides to throw the whole program out the door and do nothing.

So where is the conflict? OK, honestly, no one really thinks that she has a conflict – at least I can’t imagine anybody with a shred of knowledge about what it means to have a conflict of interest really thinks that there is a conflict here.

No, this isn’t about citizen watchdogs calling out a public official on possible wrongdoing – this is about scoring political points, as so much of the activity on the Waynesboro political scene has been about in recent months.

At least the discussions over the substance of tax and fee levies have merit in that they involve partisans on two sides of a clearly divided political fence – so those political battles are the kind that I think we can all accept as being good and necessary, no matter how heated they may get.

But this nonsense about conflicts of interest that aren’t there reminds me of the nonsense from this spring about who on the city council was supposedly liberal and not.

It doesn’t advance the discourse to bring things down to this gutter level that some would prefer to be the order of the day.

Not that this stops some in the city from acting in this way.

Sigh.

Chris Graham is the executive editor of The Augusta Free Press.

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