Lapses in judgment

Published 11:11 am Saturday, May 3, 2014

Last Sunday’s edition of The Tidewater News included an in-depth look at all of the candidates who are vying for seats in next Tuesday’s city council election. All of the candidates were interviewed fairly and given roughly equal space on the main news pages of the newspaper. We thought at the time our coverage was incredibly fair to all eight candidates.

As it turns out, it wasn’t.

Seven of the eight candidates are fully registered with the city registrar’s office. They obtained the appropriate number of signatures to qualify as candidates, filled out the appropriate forms and are held to a minimum standard for financial reporting of campaign contributions and expenditures.

One of the eight showed up on our doorstep one day and told us he was going to be a write-in candidate for mayor.

And even though Ken Sanford has since proven to be serious about his campaign, he chose not to go through any of the preliminary work required to be on the ballot, and won’t be held to the same level of financial scrutiny and accountability as a registered candidate.

He neither earned, nor deserves, the same level of coverage as the seven who registered. Yet there he was on the front page with six of the registered candidates. To make matters worse, Ward 6 candidate Frank Rabil was relegated to page 10.

The fact that Sanford is not a registered candidate makes him no less viable an option for voters come next Tuesday, it just means he shouldn’t reap the same rewards as those who chose to thoroughly and completely engage in the process.

So in the end, our attempt to be fair to all caused us to be unfair to most.

It was a lapse in judgment we won’t repeat.


At the end of the day, the fact that a suspect was apprehended during a foiled break-in attempt this past week in downtown Franklin is good news.

The way it reportedly took place, however, is not.

When Dan Crumpler discovered on Sunday that his business had been broken into, it was evident to investigating detectives that the intruder was likely to return that evening to finish the job. So Crumpler asked the police department to post an officer in the event that he did return. His request was denied.

Crumpler then offered to pay for an off-duty officer to monitor his property overnight. That request was also turned down.

Then, after a request to the Southampton County Sheriff’s Office to allow an off-duty deputy to perform a similar service was originally granted, a courtesy call to the Franklin Police Department led the sheriff’s department to rescind.

Crumpler was assured that there would be increased patrols downtown that evening. Unsatisfied, he turned to retired Franklin police officer Ronnie McClenny for advice or a referral. McClenny offered, for a price, to stand guard himself.

The burglar returned, McClenny called the police, and a suspect was apprehended. But only after he had regained access to the property, in spite of the increased patrols.

I am extremely hesitant to be critical of local law enforcement, given the danger of their work and the fact that they generally do a good job under difficult circumstances. In this case, however, the circumstances for the Franklin Police Department seem to have only been made more difficult by their own choosing.

Had the department simply decided to set up shop at the scene of a crime that was almost certain to occur, they would likely have been lauded this week for taking such preventive measures. Instead, Franklin taxpayers can only speculate as to the reasons why they didn’t.

TONY CLARK is the associate publisher of The Tidewater News. He can be reached at