Vines criticism based on facts, not fiction

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 19, 2007

How is that our community has become so incredibly divided over something as seemingly simple as who to elect as the county’s circuit clerk?

Rumors, lies and other accusations have flown back and forth, whispered behind closed doors.

“Letters” — also known as false political propaganda — have been concocted and spread around neighborhoods disparaging the reputations of candidates and even yours truly.

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Little truth ever comes with such smear tactics. All it does is stir up the political pot with a spoon of confusion and false statements. Unfortunately, in the end, reputations can be damaged.

But that doesn’t matter to the people who are out for blood, the ones who will stop at nothing to spread lies and innuendo all in the name of politics.

In the grand scheme of things, who wins the race for Adams County Circuit Clerk doesn’t matter much.

Few, if any, of our lives will be affected by it.

The whole mess is unnecessary. The decision should come down to questions of qualifications and principles.

Mr. Vines has admitted publicly that he’s a “bad bookkeeper.”

Since bookkeeping is an integral part of the job of circuit clerk, it would seem he’s admitted already that he is not ideally suited for the position.

Year after year, in state audits, Vines promised to fix the wrongdoings. Yet the “mistakes” continued.

Eventually, when it appeared nothing was being done, the matter caught the attention of the state auditor, who pursued the criminal aspect of this.

Mr. Vines has admitted to breaking the law, the law he swore to uphold. Period, end of story, none of the other junk being talked about matters.

The result of all the political shenanigans is a diversion away from the real facts, the real issues of the political race.

Aside from that, Vines’ camp has begun a masterful plan to destroy this messenger and his opponents.

I didn’t indict Mr. Vines, an Adams County grand jury did.

I didn’t plead guilty to embezzling public money, Mr. Vines did.

And, I didn’t continue to run for public office despite having pleaded guilty to crimes that, were it not for a judge’s whim, would have rendered him ineligible to run.

Vines says that he is simply a bad bookkeeper, not a crook.

I disagree.

Despite what some people have said, no one, not one soul, in this newspaper has said a single word critical of Mr. Vines’ family or his religious beliefs.

We have, however, written about his record, both in office and his criminal one.

In the first few years after Vines first was elected, we wrote stories about his work in cleaning up the accounting of the office, his success in collecting back fees and purchasing a new computer system for the office. All of that was news at the time and all of it was, as I read it, positive news.

Of late, we’ve reported more of what would be considered “bad news” because that’s all that has come out of his office.

Vines’ supporters point to his work outside of the office — charitable and religious — as positive attributes that make him the best choice.

I, nor this newspaper, have ever said he doesn’t do good deeds in the community. He obviously has and does.

But we have said he’s done bad deeds at work, bad deeds with public money. That’s the problem and the single solitary issue important in this race.

It’s not about lies being spread; it’s about the truth and about trust, two things greatly lacking in much of Vines’ rhetoric and both are at the heart of what’s dividing this community.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or