How IW could move forward

Published 12:37 pm Saturday, May 25, 2013

There are actually two incidents to consider in the controversy that’s developed recently in Isle of Wight County. Each should be considered separately and then together.

First, the IOW Board of Supervisors was listening to various department representatives asking for more money during a May 13 budget work session. Apparently frustrated with how much was requested and how little cash was available, Isle of Wight Supervisor Byron “Buzz” Bailey said at one point, “I guess we could be like Washington and print some money here in Isle of Wight County. Save the Confederate money; the South will rise again.”

The majority of the audience laughed, seeming to understand what Bailey later explained was a joke: “It was meant to emphasize that IOW County was as short of money as the Confederacy.”

In the context that Bailey made the comment, we can understand he was kidding, even if the choice of words now seems questionable at best. To his credit, Bailey quickly sent a letter of apology to the school board upon learning School Superintendent Katrise Perera and other people were apparently mortified by the comment.

Had that been the only incident, an open apology might have sufficed even for IOW NAACP President Dottie Harris. That’s just conjecture on our part. During the supervisors’ regular meeting on May 16, she expressed her hurt about the remark. Harris said she spoke for African-Americans in the county and that Bailey was thoughtless in his remark.

Second, there’s the matter of several emails both Bailey and School Board member Herb DeGroft circulated among themselves and other county officials on private accounts. As revealed by an anonymous source, the pages contain crude humor that might be interpreted as political. This is because President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama are featured on several pages. Understandably, that’s not how Harris and others see them. Indeed, they’re looked on as shockingly racial, even racist. For that, she’s called on both men to apologize and resign. Both Bailey and DeGroft readily acknowledge the sharing of the emails was unbecoming of their characters, and have repeatedly apologized for their actions.

Harris has repeatedly stated she’s determined to organize recall elections.

Alas, put the two incidents together and then the sea really begins to boil.

We respect why Board Chairwoman JoAnn Hall and Supervisor Rex Alphin have called on Bailey to resign. Likewise, we see why School Board Chairman Robert Eley and other members have asked DeGroft to resign. Private foibles made public are perceived as embarrassment to the county as well as the respective boards.

So far, both men defend their service to the community, and intend to stay.

Before further action is taken to oust the men, we’d like to suggest that the boards and NAACP get together and hash this out privately.

Perhaps repentance and forgiveness could come together this way and put a balm on the situation. Then the county can move forward.