Is “As long as we don’t get caught, it’s okay” our new motto?
Larry Stanford Editor
Last I looked, the United States is still, for the most part, a law-abiding country. In other words, we use the laws of the nation and the states to guide us in what we do every day. Of course, there is always someone or some company who thinks they are above the law and don’t have to do what everybody else does, but usually, sooner or later, they get caught and are punished for their law breaking.
Locally, the City of Thomaston is trying to be a law-abiding city. Unfortunately, the Upson County Board of Commissioners and their appointed attorneys apparently feel that they are above the law and do not have to do what others have to do.
At issue is the Service Delivery Act, OCGA 36-70-20, last updated in 2008. This law requires all counties and cities within the counties over a certain population level to develop and maintain a service delivery strategy to avoid the duplication of services. After initially approving a new service delivery plan in August, the Board of Commissioners decided in October, based on the opinion of their attorneys, that a recent Georgia Supreme Court decision has made the service delivery strategy null and void. That decision led to the City of Thomaston asking the court for an injunction that would require the county to abide by the service delivery plan approved in August. The city is basing its argument on OCGA 36-20-27, part of the same law that says that if a service delivery strategy plan is not in place in a county, that the state can withhold any and all financial assistance, grants, loans, and permits from the county and its municipalities until the plan is in place. The city wants to follow the law.
But in court last week, county attorneys brought up the fact that the county and city have operated without a service delivery strategy plan since 2010, when the county dissolved the plan, and the state has not taken any action or denied any funding to either government. It amazed me when I heard them say that the first time and I thought perhaps I had heard wrong. But they said the same thing several times – history has shown that the state has done nothing even though they don’t have a service delivery strategy act. In other words, they are saying it is okay for the county and city to break the law, because they haven’t been caught doing it!
I wonder what kind of message that sends to the people of Upson County? If it is okay for their elected county officials to knowingly break the law as long as they don’t get caught, then it should be okay for the citizens to do it, too, right? Let’s apply that mentality to other situations.
Don’t like somebody? Go out and kill them. You’re breaking the law, but hey, as long as you don’t get caught, it’s okay.
Need some money? Go rob a bank. You’re breaking the law, but hey, as long as you don’t get caught, it’s okay.
Need some transportation? Go steal a car. You’re breaking the law, but hey, as long as you don’t get caught, it’s okay.
But just remember, you’re breaking the law, and if you do get caught, there will be penalties to pay.
I think our county commissioners need to remember that. If they don’t have a service delivery strategy plan in place, they’re breaking the law. And if they get caught, there will be penalties to pay in the form of no financial assistance from the state, which in turn will penalize every citizen of Upson County.
We are still a law-abiding country, and I believe our elected officials should be setting an example for the rest of us – obey the law.
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