Be realistic: public servants are only human

By The West Virginia Record | Mar 4, 2015

“What's the matter? Don't you trust me?”

When a public servant asks that question, every citizen should answer with an emphatic: No!

Because any public servant asking that question may be up to no good.

It's not that we don't have good men and women holding positions of public trust in our state and our country, but they're not angels, are they? Even the good ones are subject to temptation, influence, and errors of judgment, and that's saying nothing of the bad ones.

A good public servant expects to be held accountable for his actions in office and recognizes the need for guidelines and oversight. He has no reason to be – or pretend to be – offended by precautions that an understanding of human nature and a knowledge of history clearly justify.

“If men were angels,” James Madison observed, “no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men,” he continued, “neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”

Thomas Jefferson echoed those sentiments. “In questions of power, then,” he warned, “let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”

Our state Senate did some binding down last week when it passed a bill prescribing how the state Attorney General's office should go about hiring outside counsel when it's necessary to do so. If the House of Delegates also passes the measure, it will go to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for his signature.

Is this a reflection on, or rebuke of, current Attorney General Patrick Morrisey? Not at all. On the contrary, the bill simply codifies many of the reforms Morrisey already has made to the questionable practices of his predecessor, and Morrisey himself championed the legislation.

Morrisey might never do any of the questionable things his predecessor did, but he recognized that neither he nor anyone to follow him in the attorney general's office should even have such temptations.

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