I had a great conversation today with a guy running for police commission who didn’t want me to put in the paper that he’d been convicted of disorderly conduct and possession.
Those charges are from five years ago. “That’s in the past,” he said. True.
But the pending trespassing and resisting arrest charges aren’t from so long ago. Those are from January, and they won’t go to court until May 11, one day shy of a month after the election.
The man at first argued that this was his private criminal record, and I had no right to be putting it in the paper. I explained that I wasn’t looking to broadcast his record, but he had opted to run for public office. Every one of the candidates running for office went through the same level of scrutiny, I said, and we weren’t singling him out.
(Another man running for selectman and budget committee was arrested two and a half years ago for stealing scrap metal from the dump—a town entity. He was convicted of theft. Wouldn’t it be interesting to have someone convicted of stealing from the town elected to run it? I can’t make this stuff up.)
After explaining I wanted to give him a chance to explain his side of things he (the police commission candidate) did just that. He said he was set up (the selectman candidate said the same thing), and that he was the victim of police brutality, although he didn’t report it. I’m not sure about those accusations, but I can say he felt like I was tossing his hopes of winning the seat in the garbage. He called me back after we got off the phone the first time to tell me his attorney wanted me to know he might take a plea. I don’t want to be spreading this guy’s name all through the paper, but voters have a right to know who is running.
I’ve spent the last week and a half running through all the selectmen candidates, police commission candidates, library trustees, budget committee, etc. (I leave the school board to Lloyd.) They are all going to have their perspectives put in the paper. Almost no where do they get challenged before the election. We put in a few editor’s notes, like when a candidate says they would bring new ideas like LED streetlights (there are already LED streetlights), but we don’t have time to do full stories on all 30 candidates.
So here I’ve done a little digging, and I knock this guy totally off balance. I feel like telling him, “Look, but don’t run if you don’t want your criminal record discussed.”
The paper shouldn’t do that, he said, it’s private.
“Any middle school kid can go to the court house and request these records,” I said. “They are anything but private.”
I don’t think a criminal record should mean you can’t run for office, but I do think voters should be allowed to make informed decisions. On the other hand, some of the other candidate profiles should come with disclaimers themselves…
That’s politics, I guess.