It's impossible to take a stance on an issue without offending someone in the community, and we publish our opinions knowing this uncomfortable after-effect comes with the territory.
Such is the case with our recent editorial criticizing Johnsburg Central School Board member Mark Richards for tearing down campaign fliers posted by the three JCS Citizens Budget Committee members who were write-in candidates for the School Board in May.
Although we have regrets and apologize to Mr. Richards for going overboard with some of our language (i.e. putting him in handcuffs), we stand by the essential premise of the editorial - supporting the free election process.
Crafting our opinion, we felt it was unnecessary to rubber stamp the Post-Star's editorial calling for the resignation of Mr. Richards, yet we thought his apology was simply not enough. We called for him to perform some community service, which we now understand he was planning on doing, even before the editorial was printed.
Although we would rather put this issue to rest, new developments in this case warrant more coverage and a response.
Specifically, recent attempts by the Citizens Budget Committee to remove Mr. Richards from the School Board are questionable at best.
After Mr. Richards apologized at a School Board meeting, board members found no reason to ask for his resignation. They took into consideration his 11 years of public service, and so do we.
We strongly believe Mr. Richards deserves to stay on the School Board. He shouldn't have to throw away an opportunity to serve his community because of a mistake in which no person was physically harmed. We don't condone the behavior. It was a bad message to send to kids. But he has owned up to his actions and has made amends.
Critics of our editorial argue that Mr. Richards was performing a civic duty by removing the campaign fliers because they were illegally placed on utility poles, which are private property. Legally, no candidate should be placing campaign material on private property without permission of the owner. Therefore, our critics argue, we were wrong in implying that Mr. Richards may have broken the law (criminal mischief). As more details come to light, that is certainly possible.
We praised the write-in candidates for taking the high road by not calling the authorities on Mr. Richards. In this case, we were wrong. Apparently, the Citizens Budget Committee has sunk to a new low with a letter members recently sent to Mr. Richards.
Neither the Committee nor Mr. Richards will release the letter to us; however, we have learned that it basically asks Mr. Richards to resign or else the committee may resort to filing criminal mischief charges against him.
There's a whiff of coercion in the air, and it smells bad. So much for the high road.
It seems that the Citizens Budget Committee members are showing their true colors with every word and action against the School Board. And for what purpose? To take political pot shots and smear a good man's name?
Mr. Richards is a good man and a dedicated elected official. He made a mistake, he publicly admitted it, and he has made amends. That's good enough for us and should be good enough for JCS taxpayers. Let's move on.
It seems the Citizens Budget Committee members will do anything to tear down the good work of the JCS Board. With this threat to Mr. Richards, they may be walking a legal tight rope themselves by trying to coerce a public official into doing something that could hurt his personal and professional life.
While our policy is not to endorse candidates in local elections, based on the above actions, we would not support any Citizens Budget Committee member who signed the letter for a post on the School Board. Mr. Richards, on the other hand, deserves another term should he so desire.
Andy Flynn is the assistant managing editor for Denton Publications. He may be reached at email@example.com.