Our view: Cronyism takes stand in Philpot corruption trial
August 27, 2012 3:04PM
THE FIRST AMENDMENT
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Updated: September 29, 2012 6:05AM
This system is broken. Lake County taxpayers deserve better. Disturbing testimony in the weeklong fraud and theft trial of fresh felon Thomas Philpot unraveled a pattern of greed and cronyism at its worst.
The case came under scrutiny with Post-Tribune reporting in 2010 after Philpot had left the county clerk’s office, where the felonies took place, and leapfrogged into the county coroner’s office. By that time, he was eyeing a run for sheriff in the May primary. Without the newspaper’s investigation, Philpot likely would be waging another campaign at the taxpayers’ expense.
If an argument ever could be made on the merits of eliminating a whole nest of elected officials, Philpot’s conviction seems like a good starting point. County government jobs such as clerk, coroner, surveyor and others often are secured by people not based on their qualifications, but on connections. Philpot’s trial showcased close associates of the office holder placed in key positions for which they had no background or other qualifications, except an alliance and loyalty to the elected official.
His top deputy, who ran the office, had no experience in the complicated clerk’s office. She testified she wasn’t familiar with the child support federal incentive fund, but couldn’t wait to dip into the bonuses it provided, despite an admonition from another administrator that the fund never had been used like that in the past.
Then, there’s the former restaurant owner who became Philpot’s payroll chief. More gadfly than administrator, he testified he rarely even read the payroll records he signed, and knew nothing about the child support program, but Philpot made sure he got a bonus, too.
It was all money that should have gone to workers in the trenches who brought in delinquent support money. Of course, Philpot got more than anyone else.
The whole mess came crashing down on Philpot, likely leaving him behind bars.
While we sit and hope for reform, it’s as unlikely as a year going by without an indictment.
To those who are scheming to do wrong, we’ll be watching.