The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

July 12, 2013

Our View: Higher standards

A small-town mayor and a public safety employee are in the news this week after being taken to task by members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Both have been charged with driving while intoxicated. Neither of the cases have  played out in the court system as of yet.

Members of the Jasper and Newton County MADD are already planning to call for the resignation of Oronogo Mayor Robert Pearish. The mayor, on May 8, was stopped by Carterville police and charged with driving while intoxicated and speeding. According to a report provided by the Jasper County Circuit Court, his blood-alcohol content was 0.097, exceeding the 0.08 blood-alcohol percentage limit in Missouri.

Members of the MADD chapter also are critical of Jason Smith, 36, of Oronogo, who was charged with a DWI recently. Smith, the director of Joplin METS ambulance service and the former fire chief of the Oronogo Fire Protection District, was pulled over at a sobriety checkpoint by the Missouri State Highway Patrol early on the morning of June 30. According to a probable cause statement, Smith’s blood-alcohol content was 0.132.

We know that DWI arrests of public officials and those who are in the business of promoting public safety bring out a mixed reaction. Some are quick to call for dismissals or resignations. Others regard it as a personnel matter.

We hold public officials to a higher standard because they have chosen to run for an elected position and committed themselves to uphold the public good.

That seems to follow that they will adhere to the same laws that they make or oversee. Our standards are even higher — as they should be — for those who enforce laws or prosecute lawbreakers. If found guilty of violating the public trust, police officers and prosecutors have effectively ended their credibility and their careers.

But does a DWI arrest mean the end of public service for everyone at every level? We don’t think so.

Generally, in our coverage of past stories involving public officials and accusations of drunken driving, those who were open, transparent and apologetic survived.

No one is infallible, but those who accept the mantle of public servant owe it to their public to do the right thing, no matter how difficult that might be.

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