Sunday, November 30, 2008

Matthew Major doesn't get it.....again.

My local editorial writer misses the mark again. I understand he writes "on behalf of Public Opinion's editorial board", but I must assume that he's not continually writing pieces 180° of his own opinions.

On one hand, he doesn't understand why I "need" to carry my firearm when I go vote - because it might upset someone, but on the other, he's annoyed that voters can't wear a political t-shirt to the same poll. After all, that's their right.

This time, he's placing full responsibility for one person's actions (Sheriff Michael DeLeo) at the feet of someone who's actually decided to push back against DeLeo's overstepping of his authority (Meleanie Hain). His editorial is a great example of how a typical news story - lacking all of the facts, and often with some simply reported incorrectly, can snowball into a piece that is so far off of the mark that it's laughable when you know the whole story.

Another dispatch from the "Wait, Did I Read That Right?" file: A Lebanon County woman is suing the county sheriff who revoked her concealed weapons permit after she caused a ruckus by openly carrying her sidearm to a children's soccer game.

Yes, Meleanie Hain has made the news again by combining her publicity-conscious soccer game stunt on Sept. 11 with naked grab at a cool $1 million in public money in a lawsuit filed Monday.

You see, Hain says the publicity generated by the revocation of her permit -- subsequently and successfully challenged in court -- has caused emotional distress and turned her baby-sitting business from a full-time operation to a one-day-a-week job.

Let's be clear: No one is claiming Hain broke the letter of the law on Sept. 11, a fact reinforced by the Oct. 14 reinstatement of her permit.

In a nutshell, Hain openly wore a firearm to a soccer game for small children. Other parents in attendance -- rightly or wrongly, for whatever reason -- complained to the county sheriff

Mrs. Hain did not "cause a ruckus". She did carry her firearm to the soccer field on September 11th, just as she had done on at least a dozen previous occasions, not to mention the hundreds of other times and places she has done so. The "ruckus" was caused by Charlie Jones and Nigel Foundling, a public defender and former district justice, respectively.

Right To Know documents clearly show their attempt to use their position to force Hain to comply with their demands. The flurry of correspondence amongst various Lebanon county officials shows they were scrambling for any leverage they could come up with to 'persuade' her to submit to their wishes, but they were unable to come up with anything that had even a remotely legal foundation. Then, all of a sudden, a 'concerned parent' writes a letter to the Sheriff. A letter than he has since admitted (directly to Mrs. Hain) that he wished he'd never written.
The sheriff responded to those complaints. A judge correctly slapped down the sheriff's response and returned the permit, but not before characterizing the entire mess as a lapse in judgment on Hain's part.

And at that point, this story should have ended.

Instead, Hain compounds the issue by suing a public servant. "She has been stigmatized unfairly," as her lawyer put it to The Patriot-News last week.

Stigmatized? Yes, indeed. Unfairly? We're not so sure.

Check the transcript and the law Matt. The Sheriff is required to conduct an investigation. By his own court testimony, this consisted solely of reading the single complaint letter that he received (the one the author wished he never sent), and visiting the park to look around. Those in authority do not have unfettered power to take action beyond the scope of the law. When a citizen does this, they are punished. The return of Mrs. Hain's license was simply the undoing of the Sheriff's improper action. The impending suit, and it's outcome are his punishment.
And, to our way of thinking, that's not really the issue. Because if Hain wins this case, Lebanon County will be on the hook for a million-dollar payoff.

We fail to see why taxpayers should be punished for Hain's failure to anticipate that touching off a gun-related controversy might cause her baby-sitting clients to rethink their day care arrangements.

Frankly, we can't blame people who don't want to the leave their kids with a grown woman who hasn't yet learned that we all must accept the consequences of our actions.

The DeLeo revocation fiasco is not the first time Lebanon county row offices have been plagued with corruption and/or scandal. As a matter of fact, it's not even the first time a dark shadow has fallen across the Sheriff's office. If the county electorate is willing to be governed in this fashion, then they should have no complaint about the associated cost when a dose of reality comes their way. If they don't agree with the heavy-handed tactics employed by their leaders, they should take action at the ballot box to lessen the likelihood of similar events occurring in the future.

As far as the loss of clients, this was a direct result of the Sheriff's action, and the ensuing climate in the Sheriff's office. The first client lost was a Deputy. He was very clear that he had no issue with Mrs. Hains behavior - either during the care of his child, or at the soccer field. The issue for him was criticism and pressure at work, applied by the Sheriff and other staff there. His testimony in the civil case should prove very interesting. The second client lost was a direct result of the first, as the second child no longer had a playmate of similar age. Neither client expressed any concern with the level of care provided by Mrs. Hain, who by the way, doesn't carry her firearm while providing child care services in her home.

Basing editorials solely on other news accounts can easily allow you the opportunity to make yourself look the fool when the accurate and complete facts are known. I'd think Mr. Major would approach this job more carefully, as looking the fool is already something he's quite accomplished at.

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