Our system of government depends on the trust people put in elected officials. When that trust is violated it creates the worst poison that can afflict society – cynicism.
Too much cynicism can cause people to quit caring about their government because they begin to suspect everyone connected with the government is corrupt.
This seems especially true in several counties in southern West Virginia where despite convictions of elected officials in recent years, corruption remains still deeply imbedded in government.
The latest episode is the arrest of Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury for conspiring to violate the constitutional rights of his former secretary’s husband. While the sordid details have been thoroughly dissected by both national and state media, it boils down to Thornsbury allegedly having an affair with the secretary and when she ended it, the judge is accused of trying to ruin the husband’s life by getting him thrown into prison on fake charges.
In his attempt, the judge was apparently successful in soliciting help from both the Mingo County Homeland Security director – who was also a business partner of the judge – and a West Virginia State Police trooper who was had a Trooper of the Year in 2010.
Thornsbury is presumed innocent until proven guilty, but we wonder if he found any irony in pleading innocent at his arraignment last week in the same courtroom where he has presided since being elected in 1997.
In another ironic bit of news, the same federal grand jury that indicted Thornsbury also indicted Mingo County Commissioner David Blaisdell in a different matter. Blaisdell is accused of threatening a company to give him the same tire discount for his private vehicle that it offered to the county’s vehicles.
Two Mingo County elected officials under indictment is not just a black mark on that county. It cuts into the confidence all voters have in their elected officials.
Corruption should be rooted out wherever it is found. If Thornsbury and Blaisdell are convicted, they should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.