Robeson County, in southeastern North Carolina, has officially become the state’s poorest jurisdiction. It leads — or is near the top in all of the worst categories — crime, child abuse, venereal diseases, poverty, illiteracy. You wouldn’t know things were so bad, if you took a gander at what the county government is shelling out to each of its elected commissioners.
The county board of commissioners is the fourth highest paid in the state — a salary of $21,760 per year. That does not include the cost of the pols’ participation in the county employee health insurance and retirement plans. Each commissioner gets also $150 per meeting for every outside board that he orshe sits on. The commissioners are also allocated a total of $320,000 worth of taxpayer funds each year. That money can be spent — at each individual commissioner’s discretion — on projects within his or her district. Ah, buying votes with tax money.
Now, we learn about their taxpayer-funded private dinners after each board meeting. Between January 3 and January 17, the board members made 18 visits to Lumberton area restaurants for dinner — and the taxpayers picked up the $5,619.14 bill. That’s an average of about $318 per dinner. All on the taxpayer dime. In the most impoverished county in the state.
Hmmm. If I recall the details of the Open Meetings law correctly, any time a majority of board members gets together, that counts as a meeting. (I think you can make exceptions if ABSOLUTELY no government business was discussed.) I hope minutes were kept. If not, you’ve got violations of state law, punishable by stiff fines — which of course would be bled from the dwindling base of abused taxpayers in that county.
Pembroke, also in Robeson County, had its ABC store shut down because thousands of dollars worth of liquor had disappeared without a trace. The Lumberton Housing Authority has been reprimanded by HUD. A few years back, the sheriff and about half of the sheriff’s department were dragged off to federal court — and, in some cases, jail — on corruption charges.
Robeson County is in the tight grip of a hard-nosed Democrat political machine like nothing else outside of Cook County, Illinois. What relief is there for law-abiding people tired of being abused, lied to, and ripped off? They can move outside of the county. The state could step in and take over the operations of the government — kind of like what the governor of Michigan is doing with Detroit.
Now that Republicans are in charge in Raleigh, perhaps our state government will take some interest in cleaning up this mess and putting the Robeson machine in its place.