I write with respect to the story on Mrs. Douglas, the resignation of Mr. Hartford, and the resulting comments in both the news columns and the blog at the end of The Sun’s story on Tuesday, August 6.
Serving in a public position can be a thankless job when one is concerned about the manner in which the public’s business is being administered. This is particularly true in a small town, where addressing a personnel problem is bound to ruffle feathers. My point is not to take sides on the issue because I am not in possession of the facts. Rather, it is to point out that four of the seven Town Council members, a majority, had sufficient concerns about the conduct of the office to indicate their lack of support for the Town Manager. That led to his decision to resign, if one takes him at his word. I do.
No matter what may be one’s position on Mr. Hartford’s decision and the events leading up to it, there is one principle that should be clearly supported: It is the duty of an elected official, when a serious problem is suspected, to call attention to it, generate discussion about it, and to join in making a factual determination that will solve it. This appears to be what Mrs. Douglas did. The fact that a majority of the Council agreed with her should end all discussion about her supposed dictation of a result. Such an allegation is an insult to the intelligence and the execution of their official duty by those Council members who supported the decision.
It is difficult to believe that anyone could take pleasure in attacking the job performance of another. Yet, it is a necessary part of serving as a member of the Council. What would we have a Councilor do? Ignore the matter and walk away from it? That is precisely what we do not want!
Mrs. Douglas is to be congratulated, not because of the result in this instance, but because she took her responsibility seriously, and, with an awareness that she might find herself in the minority, she nevertheless fulfilled her oath to serve the people of Westerly. The fact that some people do not agree with the result is beside the point. Very few decisions satisfy every citizen.
What we must fear most, is the politician who never takes the risk of “rocking the boat”, but “goes along to get along” and ignores what in his/her judgment is wrong.
To his credit, it should also be noted that Mr. Hartford handled the matter as gracefully as could be expected of anyone in that situation. He deserves the respect of all for dealing with the issue as he did.
In spite of what some would have us believe, the citizens of Westerly should be proud that the matter was resolved by the Council and by Mr. Hartford without resort to the sort of recriminations that have appeared in The Sun.
Harry L. Staley
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