The appearance of impropriety

Published 10:23 am Wednesday, January 25, 2017

For better or worse we live in an age where every decision made by public officials, be it large or small, is viewed through a lens designed to filter for the slightest hint of racial injustice.

The recent decision by Isle of Wight County’s Board of Supervisors to forego the tradition of selecting its leadership on a rotating basis, and renaming Carrsville supervisor Rex Alphin to repeat as board chairman, certainly raised some eyebrows. Due in the rotation to serve as board chair was the lone black member of the board of supervisors, Rudolph Jefferson of the county’s Hardy district.

While no one on the board has given a solid reason for moving away from the traditional process and skipping Jefferson’s turn, it appears as though members felt Alphin was best suited for the role.

However, while there is no evidence to support the notion that the move was racially motivated, it is somewhat tough to ignore the appearance of impropriety.

Public boards, for good or bad, have a history of selecting leadership positions with an eye on racial balance. While it is unfortunate that such decisions are necessary, the “optics” of such decisions are often important in promoting racial harmony. While we have no reason to believe race was a factor in this instance, the board of supervisors should have kept that in mind when making their decision.