County Commissioner Jerry Stephens was angry at The Robesonian last week when he went on WAGR radio station and spent 28 minutes criticizing this newspaper — with his focus on its editor.
We are glad we stayed until the end of the show because it was then that Stephens delivered a gift that we had not expected. He actually said that he would not blame county board Chairman Raymond Cummings if he voted to make his wife the next tax administrator.
“A hundred grand,” he said, speaking of the salary.
This newspaper had been told by multiple people that the plan was to let Cindy Lowry go and to hire Betsy Cummings, who has worked at the Tax Office since 2002. But the conversations were off the record — leaving us wondering how we could shoehorn her into Managing Editor T.C. Hunter’s page 1A story today about Lowry’s dismissal, as well as today’s Our View.
Problem solved. Thanks Jerry.
We don’t blame Stephens for being upset; the editorial was tough, but simply pointed out that Stephens has no control on the board, that he, like Commissioners Berlester Campbell, Noah Woods and Roger Oxendine, do as the chairman tells them. That was validated that very night when Cummings would not allow action on Stephens’ motion to gift $25,000 to the Raymond Pennington Athletic Complex.
Stephens said a lot of things on the WAGR show, including that this newspaper is going out of business (it isn’t, more people read our content than ever); that we had said the board had already voted to hire Betsy Cummings, (we haven’t, but give us a few paragraphs); and that we had said he takes kickbacks (we haven’t).
Then he played the race card, using the terms “Nazi” and “racist,” saying all our criticism was directed toward minorities on the board. Yet, in that very editorial that sent him in a sprint to WAGR, Lance Herndon, a white on the board, was criticized for not supporting Stephens’ request.
It is true that a lot of this newspaper’s criticism has been directed toward the minorities because they control the board, and engineer efforts such as the Angel Exchange debacle, as well as the firing of Lowry. We will bite our tongue no longer: We will say explicitly that Cummings and the other three have kept control by exploiting Noah Woods, who has served this county honorably for decades, but now has diminished acuity. They shamefully use him like a puppet.
Stephens also said he would like to meet with the editor, but did not return our phone call to make that happen. Editor Donnie Douglas has been invited to WAGR on Sept. 5 and we hope Stephens shows up.
We would ask him why commissioners in the state’s poorest county enjoy the richest pay and benefits, why he voted to buy Angel Exchange and then admitted on the show he didn’t know it was almost $100,000 behind in paying taxes, or why he and his wife hauled voters to elect a perjurer as sheriff.
We will tell you today that the plan is to hire Betsy Cummings, and she may be well-qualified, but that does not preclude a real search.
Don’t buy the line that Lowry is leaving because she refused the contract extension. While technically true, it was only through November, and she wanted a two-year contract. Hunter’s story today points out her success in increasing tax collections while working with a board whose members don’t pay on time and who have relatives who don’t pay at all. Oxendine raves about her performance, but doesn’t indicate why she was let go, evidence again on who is calling the shots.
The end of November would be after the tribal election, and Chairman Cummings, an expected candidate for tribal chair, knows his removal of an American Indian as tax collector will be remembered on Nov. 13. The end of November is also before Faline Locklear Dial replaces Woods on the board, so expect a decision on the replacement before then.
Stephens incredibly asked the question of “who wouldn’t?” vote to put their wife in a job to make that hundred grand.
Stephens should know that there are honorable people left in this world. We doubt there is another commissioner on that board who would cast such a vote, and Chairman Cummings won’t either — but only because his vote won’t matter. No one is confused that he directed this coup and will make the hire.
Stephens argues he isn’t a sheep, but watch as he and the other two sheep follow along, and Woods responds vacuously to the prompt.