An easy target

Published 9:20 am Friday, June 17, 2011

From anyone but Franklin City Councilman Greg McLemore, a tongue-lashing of a debt collector likely wouldn’t have major repercussions. Many people say things in frustration that are chalked up to the heat of the moment and quickly forgiven.

That McLemore, the combative Ward 3 representative on the City Council, was formally reprimanded by his colleagues Monday night says much about the microscope under which he finds himself these days.

By a 5-1 vote, the council said McLemore acted inappropriately in confronting a Virginia Auction and Collections Co. employee who, in a Paul D. Camp Community College parking lot, was disabling the vehicle of a delinquent Southampton County taxpayer. McLemore has been a vocal opponent of a tactic recently employed by Franklin, Southampton and Isle of Wight County to collect delinquent personal property and real estate taxes. Virginia Auction and Collections employees drive streets and parking lots looking for license plates of delinquent taxpayers. When they find one, they apply a boot to the vehicle, forcing the owner to pay their taxes before the boot can be removed.

McLemore, who himself spent some time on Franklin’s delinquent tax rolls before paying up earlier this year, believes the approach is extreme and unfair. Apparently, he said so to a poor fellow who was simply doing the job that Virginia Auction and Collections hired him to do. McLemore picked the wrong target.

Did his outburst warrant a formal and public reprimand from the City Council? That’s questionable. But McLemore, who has demonstrated surprising naïveté about the political arena into which he plunged a year ago, should understand that there are consequences to the verbal and written attacks he has inflicted on council colleagues since taking office.

McLemore hasn’t missed an opportunity in recent months to ridicule fellow council members or question their motives. On Monday night, the recipients of those attacks returned fire. If the rookie councilman doesn’t tone it down, it won’t be the last time.