“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” — Lord Acton
Because Robeson County’s eye is black enough, we hope that the old adage that bad news arrives as triplets isn’t always true.
There are similarities in alleged wrongdoings that have followed audits at the Lumberton Housing Authority, which provides housing to poor people in the city and county, and Four-County Community Services, an agency based in Laurinburg that gets some leadership — if that’s the correct word — from Robeson County while providing services — if that’s the correct word — here and in nearby counties.
Heads have already rolled. James Meacher, the longtime director of the Lumberton Housing Authority, has retired, but it’s clear he had no choice, and Richard Greene, the now former executive director of Four-County, was fired last week by that agency’s board. With the housing authority and Four-County, there are charges of money being misappropriated and nepotism.
The investigations into the extent of the corruption are continuing, but some conclusions can be made: When the flow of taxpayer dollars is unencumbered by oversight and accountability, the only protection from abuse is integrity, which in these cases was obviously absent.
Greene, in particular, deserves a shout-out, so we will give him The Robesonian’s inaugural I Will Do As I Please Because I Can Award. An audit showed that Greene used Four-County as his personal bank, but what makes him so worthy of the award is that he concealed a nine-year marriage to a Four-County employee so that she could remain on the payroll. That had to have been exhausting.
Still, when he left, Greene did so whining that he had been mistreated and — get this — with defenders on the board.
This behavior isn’t a forever leap from that of our county commissioners. In all the instances, we have public officials given the trust of the public — earned or otherwise — who have become attached to the taxpayer udder. Our commissioners have rewarded themselves handsomely, and as far as nepotism, we have multiple letters that have been sent to us anonymously that provide great detail — names, relationships, etc. — alleging favoritism is rampant at one county agency in particular, one that we won’t identify but nine out of 10 of our readers could correctly guess. We will get there eventually, when time and resources allow, but will make copies to provide the appropriate investigators.
The messes at the Lumberton Housing Authority and Four-County Community Services have been an invitation for criminal investigators to set up shop locally. Given the extent of the alleged corruption, they might be wise to buy instead of rent.