County accountability: Push for statewide disciplinary board

America's work ethic has been lauded since colonial days. Perhaps that's because many of the early European settlers on our shores were laborers who were brought to a new land to do hard work for wealthy landowners. The productivity of U.S. workers has been a matter of pride for well over two centuries.

This same work ethic is among the reasons most elected officials work so hard -- and why elected officeholders who don't do their jobs are often pushed by public pressure to resign.

Most officials work hard

Anyone who knows much about the elected officials in the Cape Girardeau County Courthouse -- and courthouses across Southeast Missouri -- know that nearly all elected officials show up for work, supervise staff members and deal with telephone calls and personal visits from constituents on a regular basis.

But when an officeholder doesn't show up for work for months at a time, even if the reason given is health-related, there are no consequences, no record-keeping and, for now, no possible disciplinary action.

That's what Cape Girardeau County officials discovered when dealing with a duly elected county auditor who didn't show up for work after being confronted by county commissioners and prosecuting attorney demanding his resignation for violating the county's computer-use policy.

A new disciplinary board

Now the county's presiding commissioner, Gerald Jones, says he will advocate the creation of a disciplinary board for elected county officials.

This board would be a function of the county's salary commission that reviews officeholders' salaries. Authorization would require a change in state law.

Jones has considerable experience working with lawmakers in Jefferson City, both on issues of importance to Cape Girardeau County and on statewide issues as an active board member of the Missouri Association of Counties.

Most voters expect the officials they elect will be responsible and perform the duties of their office. When that doesn't happen, for whatever reason, voters have a right to know there is some form of accountability.