Our Opinion:

May 4, 2014

What is a good public servant worth?

We’re not sure about elsewhere, but in Mingo County, apparently, the answer is somewhere between $8 and $39.38 per hour, with the majority of hourly county employees earning somewhere between $10 and $20 per hour.

In fact, only four of the 113 regular, full-time employees made the minimum of $8 per hour while nine are paid more than $20 per hour.

That leaves an even 100 regular full-time county employees who make somewhere between $8.01 and $19.99 per hour.

What kind of message does that send to taxpayers?

We can’t say for sure, but in a county where good jobs are hard to find, and the majority of residents work for much less than the typical county employee earns, we would say that it sends a message that many of their elected officials are indifferent to the plight of the people who put them where they are.

And the pay is only part of the equation.

As long as the county employees meet the qualifications to perform their duties with a high degree of competence, there is no argument that some of them could command high salaries whether in the private or public sector.

But if their only qualification is that they are related to someone else on the county payroll, and based on the observation that many county employees have the same last name that appears to be the case, then their qualifications must come under serious scrutiny.

It has long been suspected that the Mingo County payroll is riddled by nepotism, and the appearance on the list of several employees with the same last name does little to dispel this notion.

It is little wonder that people wonder out loud if families with substantial political clout are kept on the payroll simply because they are adept at getting out the vote on Election day.

Then, there is the question of how jobs in the courthouse are filled.

When a position for a county employee is vacant, and we assume that is a fairly rare occurrence, is the opening advertised to the public or does the department head or the Mingo County Commission hand pick the person they want to fill the position?

Of course, that is probably the least of the taxpayers’ concerns. It is not unusual for employers in the private sector to fill positions without advertising them, and even civil service lists can be manipulated to assure that the department head hires the person he or she wants to fill a vacancy when it occurs.

Nowhere, except for the hiring process is it more true that “it’s not what you know but who you know.”

However, when you are spending the taxpayers’ money, every precaution should be taken to assure that the most qualified candidates are hired for when job openings become available.

We can’t say with any degree of certainty that any, or all, of the employees in the Mingo County Courthouse are less than qualified for the good-paying jobs that they hold.

We know, however, that many people who are working at positions that pay them less than they are worth, or who are unemployed in the stagnant Mingo County economy, would give their eye teeth to have one of the jobs in the courthouse that are currently held by someone else.

We certainly hope that all of the individuals employed by the Mingo County Commission are fully qualified for the jobs they hold.

For some reason, though, due to the questions raised here, we have our doubts.