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PAGE 4-A, THURSDAY, JANUARY 6, 1994
School Board Learns The Hard
Way To Listen To Good Advice
The Brunswick County Board of Education is learning the
hard, embarrassing way that it pays to follow through, quickly
and thoroughly, when vour accountants sav you should tiuhten
This past November wasn't the first time auditors have sug
gested the school system get a better grip on its more than $70
million worth ol fixed assets. That's $70 million worth of taxpay
er-owned property, it's important to remember.
What il took to force the issue was the apparently unautho
rized disposal of some 46 pieces of cafeteria equipment, sold
back iu July w ithout having been declared surplus, for a total of
$350. Police say the restaurateur who bought the equipment in
turn sold !2 pieces of it for $7,800 to a restaurant equipment firm
mi the same day it was delivered to him by school personnel in
school-ow ned vehicles.
That's an average return of $650 per piece in the private sec
tor on equipment acquired at an average of $7.61 per piece from
a public source. Twenty pieces are still unaccounted for.
Depending on how you do the math, they may be worth $152.20
or $13,000, or somewhere in between.
The whole mess has cost maintenance supervisor Odell
Benton his job, though Benton denies strenuously that he had
anything to do with the sale, but simply delivered the equipment
in the same procedure used throughout his 15 years with the sys
Meanwhile, child nutrition supervisor Rebecca Brandon, who
authorized the sale, claimed not to know she had no authority to
do so. She, or someone else, apparently also lacked any knowl
edge ol the value w! the equipment. She remains in nv_i |M>iiuin.
The school board is having to sue the restaurateur in an at
tempt to recover the rest of the goods, a good indication to expect
there will be a lot more time, lawyeis and money between the
blunder and some answers. That is making the leap of faith that a
blunder is all it is...
In the meantime, the school board has hired a fixed assets co
ordinator who has proved she's pretty competent at finding
things and has a low tolerance for slipshod procedure. That's
"If it happened this time, how many times has it happened
before?" the school board chairman said last week. Don't hold
your breath waiting for an answer.
At any rate, it's time to put a good chain on the barn door be
fore am more (if the horses wander off.
? If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made
on me, this shop might as well be dosed for any oilier business.
I do the very best 1 know how?the very best I can; and I mean
to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right,
what is said against me won V amount to anything. If the end
brings out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would
make no difference. ?Abraham Lincoln
? The sole substitute for an experience which we have not our
selves lived through is art and literature.
" The idea that men tire created free and equal is both true and
misleading: men are created different; they lose their social
freedom and their individual autonomy in seeking to become
like each other ?David Riesman
? Inspiration descends only in flashes, to clothe circumstances; it
is not stored up in a barrel, like salt herrings, to he doled out.
?A smile /.> the chosen vehicle for most uinbiguiiies.
It's Open Season
On Political Candidates
Filing season opened Monday, in
all likelihood pushing some unlikely
people into the glaring liphts of the
Unlike the first day of deer hunt
ing or fishing season, on filing day
there's no rash of employees calling
in "sick" ht*cause they have some
thing better to do than work.
Instead, would-be public office
holders begin flocking outside the
Brunswick County Board of
Elections office at Bolivia shortly
before noon, followed closely by a
similarly-sized flock of watch
hounds or vultures, depending on
your view of the press anil media.
These early bird candidates are
vying for honors as the first to file -
and maybe get their picture taken by
a news photographer. They're like
greyhounds at a Florida racetrack,
eyeing the "rabbit" and chafing at
the gate for the race to begin. The
less eager or more wary will take
their lime, filing sometime before
noon Feb. 7?after checking out the
This year, a few may he confused
momentarily on arriving at Ihe com
plex. The elections office has moved
around Ihe corner from the tax
building to the agriculture building.
Not all of Ihe first-day polilicos
may gel their photographs taken or
campaign vows quoted, bul all will
leave Ihe elections office with some
thing new to do: As one more conse
quence uf the county's continuing
yrowih, candidates for all local of
fices must report campaign finances
starting this year.
Voters will find out. to some de
gree, who is financially supporting
each candidate's hid for office. I say
hurray, the more accountability to
voters the better.
Previously this information has
only been available for area district
offices when the district, like the
14th House, had a population of
more than 50.0(H). Now Brunswick
County's population has passed that
I can get enthusiastic over the
new reporting requirements for rea
sons other than accountability to
voters. After you've covered local
elections in one community or an
other for 20 years, each race starts
looking and sounding like the rest.
The issues remain much the same,
only the names of the candidates
I think this must he why journal
ists covering hopefuls for national
office start prying into candidates
private lives?just tor something
fresh to report, hang the conse
However, the new campaign fi
nance reports will provide legitimate
fresh fodder for jaded reporters and
their equally jaded readers. Even in
Brunswick County, where a high
percentage of residents relish the
sound and fury of local politics ami
follow every move, it's nice to have
something new to say about the can
You can het there will he re
porters jumping on each report the
day s! is filed. By the end of the
vear. we'll all probably be sick ol
reading who wrote who a check
That's the American way. though,
and I wouldn't exchange for any
Ken ember oil fhe+hims ue bought iasrueqn
lOhen -fbey said *No Thymerrf (Jni'l 1HHA1 f ^
"SA<30l/F& mj CAROLINA CflKT0D?J
Bubbie, bubbie, On The Double: Happy New Year
Fortified by a home-cooked New
Year's Day feast of collard greens,
hoppin' john and jalapcno cornbread
(I don't need luck, money or tradi
tion badly enough to eat hog jowl) I
guess I'm ready to face the chal
lenge of another year on the planet.
It' you're like me. you probably
don't really believe that col lards will
bring you greenbacks or that black
eved peas are lucky.
I have a pretty good idea that this
particular (peculiar?) Southern cus
tom is linked to the fact that a meal
of legumes, rice and cruciferous
vegetables seasoned with peppered
sidemeat?Tabasco liberally applied
to everything on the plate?is useful
in neutralizing the after-effects of
the liquid toxins associated with
New Year's Eve.
Eric and I used to sell those toxins
for a living. New Year's Eve was the
busiest day of the ye;tr at our Good
Spirits Shop, where people un
schooled in the ways of the grape
came for help choosing the right
bottles of celebratory bubbly.
(On all the other days of the year
they bought their Budweiser and
Manischewitz at the Winn-Dixie
next door, which explains why our
foray into retailing was short-lived.)
We know from experience that
you can. on New Year's Eve. with
nut hr#?:ikin?* ?? S\VC2!, !u!k U
who normally drinks his Crown
Royal mixed with Mountain Dew
into buying a bottle of Dom Perig
non to impress a dale. After all.
what's eighty bucks when it earns
you a reputation as a sugar daddy'.'
We learned that you cannot, no
matter how persuasive or persistent
you are. change the mind of some
one who likes cold duck.
And strangest of all w.ts the reve
lation that there are nomad Yankees
who wander the rural South in a
quest lor sparkling burgundy. You
could count on a handful of them
Yankee to me: "Where's ya
Me to Yankee: "We ain't got
none, good buddy. Ain't a jobber in
this market carries it no more. Kin I
interest you in a nice Chateauneuf
Yankee to me (very loudly as
mw,.>uv nUlK.> out till. VJtHH).
All day long on New Year's Eve.
people would tentatively ask for
help picking out a bottle of cham
pagne. as il ashamed they didn't au
tomatically know what they wanted.
How could they? It's confusing!
For instance, it is not commonly
known that a sparkling wine labeled
"extra dry" is not dry at all. hut
much sweeter than its drier cousin
"brut." However, there is one
American sparkling wine labeled
"extremely dry" which is more tart
than the brut style of the same
Spumantc is the same iliiug as
champagne, except that it is usually
sickly sweet, overpriced and made
in Italy. In Europe, you can't call it
champagne unless the grapes are
grown in the Champagne region of
Amciicau sparkling wines are the
same thing, too. basically. Some de
fiantly call themselves champagne,
while others respect the French
rules Any wine made by the same
method as real French champagne is
labeled "method champenoise" and
will always be much tastier than any
brand labeled "charmat hulk
Yoii could pretty much count on .1
customer who asked for help to he a
nice, honest person. You could count
on those who should have asked, but
didn't, to buy the most expensive
thing on the snelt. assuming it
would be the best. They were
wrong, but you never heard us com
plain about it.
Having been wine merchants,
we've had every kind of champagne
trom the supermarket's rot-gut
plastic-cork kind to the vintage
French varieties at the top of the
line. It doesn't pay to be snobby.
There's one brand available at
S3.W (as low as $3.4l) on sale) from
both supermarkets in Shallotte
which I would have pegged blind
folded at SI0.
There is another brand (I wont
name it. but it comes in a black bot
tle) which is wildly popular, al
though I think it has a nasty after
I he best value in the supermarket
is a brand've seen on sale through
out the holidays for around $7; to
taste it without seeing the bottle,
you d swear it was French and in the
In our experience the $25 and $35
and $65 French kinds are consistent
ly exquisite, but we gave them up
when salesmen stopped giving them
to us as holiday gilts
After all. folks who eat collard
green:, m.union i get too big lor their
Keep Your Eyes
On The Rood, Hands Upon
I wav watching an old VV.C. Fields movie the other
da\ The climnx was a wild, runaway car scene- where
(ieids and anoth
er guy were ca
reening town .i
road and fighting
;ner the steering
wheel ut .in
!? vers time
the wheel !<? tin left, the car slid halfway off the edge
and narrowly missed falling into the chasm.
In the nick of time, the other guy would pull to the
right and send them smashing into the jagged rock wall.
Just as the car was ahout to crash into a giant houlder.
Fields would yank it hack in the nick of time?to
ward the clitl again
I lie old Ford went on like this forever, crashing and
scraping and dropping pieces of its bodywork until you
could scan ely recognise it as a car. In his typical style.
Fields seemed blissfully Unruffled by all the danger anil
destruction as he calmly remarked:
"By the lime this journey is over, the re-sale value ol
this vehicle will In; nil!"
Eventually, the car flew into a grove of trees,
smashed into a giant oak and catapulted the two occu
pants into a field. What remained of the Ford gasped
one final sigh and settled to the ground in a heap of
MriokiOg i Uimmc.
As we embark on another election year, with candi
dates beginning to file for the May 3 primary, that
scune reminded me .1 lot ol |X>litics 111 Biunswick
When I moved here nearly two years ago, we had an
all-Rcpuhlican board of commissioners. Iking a life
long Democrat, I approached the joh of covering coun
ty government with a healthy dose of cautious skepti
Though I occasionally disagreed with their com
ments and actions. I found the board members to be
conscientious and well-meaning and willing to take a
stand lor what they fell government should ,ind
shouldn't do w ith our lax money.
I was also intrigued that they had chosen an active
Democrat to serve as county manager and attorney.
Considering how often he politely gave the commis
sioners advice they didn't want to hear, it was obvious
that David Clegg had been selected tor his management
skills, not his willingness to agree.
There are a lot of boards where that is not the case.
So I was pretty impressed with Brunswick County.
When the nexi election brought a new majority of
Democrats to the hoard, I expected things to roll along
in pretty much the same way, with some minor philo
Silly me. One week aflei the election, I sal down
with Clegg for our usual chat before the commission
ers' meeting. I was puzzled to lind him not a hit en
couraged about the prospect of serving a hoard domi
nated hy his own political parly.
He said he expected to he fired. He told me to watch
oui for pressure on other county department heads like
Engineer Robert Tucker, Emergency Management
Coordinator Cecil Logan. Parks and Recreation
Director H.J. Jones and Clerk to the Hoard Kelly
Hut you're a Democrat. And so is Kelly," I said
Just watch," he said.
Sure enough, each person on the list came under fire
within the first year. Clegg and Harcfoot resigned.
Jones wa% written out of the lirst budget proposal (but
eventually survived). Ixtgan was demoted. Tucker was
stripped of some responsibilities and became the target
of frequent snipes by hoard members.
When these events were reported or commented on
in the newspaper, Democrats complained loudly that
this sort of thing has always gone on in Brunswick
County. Politics as usual Previous boards did the same
thing. I was |usi new to all this, they said.
All r.f which may be true. But it doesn't make it
During the last election. 1 don't recall any great out
cry trom the pubiic demanding retribution against
county employees hired by previous boards. But I do
remember the Democratic I \ecutive Committee giving
their new commissioners marching orders to that effect.
Which suggests to me that voters in this county
ought to pay a little more attention to the election
process this year I hey need to gel involved in party
politics and to make sure that their candidates share the
same concerns they have tor the county's future.
1 hey shouldn I leave the selection of candidates to
small cliques ol party activists whose primary concern
is to settle old grudges against previous administra
I hey should encourage new candidates to stop all
this lighting over the steering wheel, to keep their eyes
on the road and to torget about the rear-view mirror.
As the I'renchman Joseph dc Maistrc said in 1X11.
"livery nation has the government it deserves '
It you observe government, you get observant gov
II you ignore government, you gel what you de