by Ron Gregory
The recent arrest of Jeffery Simpkins, a Williamson attorney, for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in Kentucky brings to two the number of such charges recently in the Commonwealth. Simpkins, who was charged March 19, follows an earlier arrest of another Mingo lawyer that we reported here a few weeks ago.
Like many others, Simpkins has stayed along the edge of Mingo County politics for years. He, in fact, was recently listed as one of the hosts of an event for Mingo Circuit Judge Miki Thompson. While having friendly relationships with folks does not necessarily mean the friend condones all conduct by the other party, I think the friendships maintained by Thompson are beginning to be — at best — curious.
It was, after all, at a celebration for Thompson’s circuit judge victory that Mingo Delegate Justin Marcum ran crying to law enforcement about being threatened during the party. According to normally reliable sources, there was alcohol involved in the verbal (and perhaps physical) altercations that occurred that evening.
It just seems to me that the judge, who must preside over cases being tried by the local bar, maintains strangely cozy relationships with many of those lawyers. It also did not get things off to a great start when Thompson’s location was the scene of whatever went on election night. As we all know, the judge later tried to solicit money from members of the Mingo bar to refurbish her courtroom, only to be quietly reprimanded by the Supreme Court.
Although nothing was publicly said, Thompson quickly refunded money to local lawyers who donated for the project. That came after the new judge held what was billed as separate “private” and “public” swearing-in ceremonies when she assumed office.
None of these episodes has done much to send sighs of relief from the mouths of honest Mingo Countians who suffered through the Judge Michael Thornsbury reign of tyrannical terror.
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It is, perhaps, impossible for me to explain that my job at this newspaper is not to help my “friends” and destroy my “enemies.” At the paper, our reporting job is to tell the truth and our first responsibility is always to our readers. In an opinion column such as this one, our job is to as fairly as possible evaluate the goings-on in the region.
While I am rarely — if ever — wrong, opinions expressed in this column are simply mine. Each reader has a right to opinion; I do as well. It is possible, though unlikely, that I COULD be wrong sometime.
Therefore, when we become involved in a situation like the recent poll worker controversy in Mingo County, the paper’s job is to report the facts. My responsibility is to separate fact from fiction and comment on the motivation for certain activities.
In the recent case, it was further illustrated that Gilbert Mayor Vivian Livingood, ordinarily a good mayor, is interested in promoting the candidacy of Thomas Taylor for County Commission over all else. Her social media comments and plans to organize a mob to attend a County Commission meeting were designed for one purpose — to keep a running battle with the County Commission, specifically John Mark Hubbard, and the Town of Gilbert. Hubbard is Taylor’s opponent.
Despite the protestations from Livingood that she was just trying to “stand up for Gilbert,” the only person running for County Commission in her group is Taylor. Nobody else on Livingood’s “team” is on the ballot against Hubbard. The idea is to make Hubbard look bad and somehow gain votes for Taylor. It is an exercise in futility but don’t try to tell an anger-driven Gilbert mayor that.
While her “standing up for Gilbert” is viewed as an embarrassment among level-headed residents, Livingood is only accomplishing more “bad treatment” of the town by the county. An event that heretofore had gotten $2,000 from the county for the town received $600 after Livingood’s first tirade.The old admonition, “don’t bite the hand that feeds you” certainly applies here.
As far as poll workers are concerned, the County Commission has a right to appoint one worker per precinct. That is their right AND duty. Who they choose to appoint is their business and nobody else’s. They have no earthly obligation to reappoint people from previous years no matter how well and loyally they have served. To argue otherwise is just foolish.
As I noted in Facebook posts, the appointments of poll officials was made on motion by Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith, seconded by Commissioner Diann Hannah. Hubbard was out of state and not available for the meeting. It is difficult to see, therefore, how any of this could be Hubbard’s “fault” but that was how it was being portrayed.
Now that Livingood’s “team” has figured out that Hannah seconded the motion, the public outcry has died down. No longer is the courthouse occupied by “crooks and liars” who are attempting to destroy democracy as we know it.
If the Mayor felt it was wrong and crooked for those who were appointed to be so, it is still wrong. Regardless of who seconded the motion, it happened. To save some degree of self-respect, Livingood should keep her spot on the Commission agenda, appear and present her evidence that the process is flawed, and accuse Smith and Hannah of orchestrating it. What’s fair for Hubbard, after all, is fair for Hannah.
Let me reiterate that I don’t believe there was ANY wrong-doing. But if Livingood is sure there was (as she posted on Facebook), the facts remain regardless of who is involved.
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As for friendships and newspapering, I really don’t want a “friend” who I cannot criticize when he or she is wrong. And I expect my “friends” to criticize me if I ever deserve it.
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Also, let me point out that the newspaper does not make its decisions on who to endorse based on one episode or one portion of a candidate’s career. We can completely disagree with something a candidate did in an individual matter and still endorse that person’s candidacy. The whole of their service is taken into consideration. Let it still be known that, weighed on a truthful scale, Livingood’s positives as mayor far outweigh her negatives.
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Speaking of endorsements, the Chronicle strongly endorses the re-nomination and re-election of Lincoln County Clerk Direl Baker in the Democrat primary and general election. Baker has done an admirable job in the position.
Further, Baker’s primary opponent, Ollie Hunting, was a Lincoln County school administrator who openly fought a newspaper inquiry into the sexual exploits of Lincoln County coaches some years ago. Hunting went so far as to demand that the School Superintendent ban a Lincoln Journal reporter from school property so that no more questions could be asked.
That is not the type of person you want holding onto public records at the courthouse.
Also in Lincoln, we endorse Lisa Ramey for the Magistrate position of the retiring Mona Snodgrass. A crowded field of competitors pales when compared to Ramey, whose toughness and fairness are just what the public ordered.
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In Logan County, we favor the re-election of County Commissioner Danny Ellis, who has worked hard for the good of his constituents. He, Danny Godby and legendary Coach Willie Akers make an unbeatable team that keeps Logan on the move.
For Assessor in Logan, we must support Glen D. “Houn-dog” Adkins. A legendary public servant and friend to the average taxpayer, Adkins deserves another shot at public office. There is no ill feeling here toward his incumbent opponent but we feel Adkins is the best choice.
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Gary Williams should be returned as County Clerk of Boone County. His professionalism and fairness are impossible to beat when it comes to the Madison courthouse.
For Assessor, we favor the nomination of current Deputy Assessor Susan Baisden. Baisden is knowledgeable and fair. She is a real asset for the people of Boone.
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Your comments, story ideas, as well as rumors and accusations that elected officials are crooked are aways welcome. Use my email address or call my cell, 304-533-5185.