Monday, February 11, 2013

Power Corrupts

We are fortunate in this country that Silvio Berlusconi isn't an American. For years Italians have had a mega-wealthy leader who thought he could get away with anything.  He was in trial for months or years for fraud and his love of to partying with underage girls and prostitutes.  I guess he figures that since he is one of the most powerful and wealthy men in the world, he is not accountable to mortal laws. He is running for prime minster of Italy, and he may win, again.  Power can corrupt.  Throughout history, we are rife with megalomaniacs exploiting the masses - Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin.  

Here, we have more checks and balances on our leaders.  But, being elected to an office can still be a heady experience, with more temptations than some can withstand. Through the years, I have been fortunate enough to represent clients who have the courage to stop discrimination by elected officials.  Years ago, I represented someone against a county auditor. The auditor acted as if she had no rules she needed  follow.  She had been re-elected over and over.  No one, except the voters, could fire her.  She was never made accountable for the hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars she cost the citizens of her county by repeatedly violating discrimination laws and retaliating against the employees who reported sexual harassment by one of her buddies.  
She probably is in office as I write this.  

One of my clients sued a small town because of sexual harassment by an elected police chief.  Again, he cost the taxpayers money.  I doubt the electorate ever held him accountable.  They were two busy farming to pay their mortgages. 

One of my clients had the fortitude to sue Mayor Funkhouser, who allowed his wife,  the self-appointed "first lady" to be unaccountable to citizens for racially discriminatory actions.  I like to think that my client was partially responsible for the mayor's defeat after his first term.  The electorate took care of that problem, probably because of all the media attention the mayor and his wife generated.

Suing an elected official is hard.  Reporters call. Sometimes lawyers make unethical statements to the press. Sometimes there are media feeding frenzies.  It takes someone special to go up against power.  And, if my clients win, there is no one to discipline the wrongdoer, since his or her boss is comprised of the electorate and most voters have a lot on their plates.  There are no performance improvement plans for elected officials, no suspensions, no form of discipline short of the ballot box.  Here's to those with the courage to fight the status quo!  It's a tough row to hoe. 

1 comment:

  1. In a semi-related note, I received a letter from the Social Security Administration saying that '... we do not need to review your case at this time'. Thanks for your help, Byron Funkhouser