In elected office, credibility is everything.
Lose that, and you've lost the voters' mandate to serve.
Such is the case with Malta Town Clerk Flo Sickels, who long ago lost her credibility due to her misconduct.
But the icing on the cake is the town's decision to pay a former deputy clerk a $100,000 settlement to resolve a case involving Sickels’ inappropriate behavior.
In 2013, Sickels was accused of having a town employee work for the town Republican committee on taxpayer time and using her authority to compel town employees to work on her re-election campaign. Those who objected to performing the tasks were subject to bullying and retaliation, creating a hostile work environment.
In October 2013, the town Ethics Committee censured Sickels for her actions. But in May 2014, the Town Board — comprised exclusively of Republicans — responded lamely by issuing her a letter of reprimand and requiring her to take a course in ethics. No request for her to resign. Not even a suggestion that she apologize to the employees or the residents. At the time, we thought the response was a slap on the wrist and suggested the town's Republicans had taken it easy on one of their own.
But now, in light of the settlement, the Town Board and the town Republican Committee have done what they should have done last year — strongly admonished her in public and requested that she resign her post in the best interests of the town and its residents. Apparently, being found in violation of ethics rules wasn't enough to compel the board or the committee to act. But money talks.
Unfortunately, Sickels doesn't have to honor the board's request. She was elected, after all, and they can't legally kick her out. Republicans have already replaced her on the November ballot with another candidate, but she doesn’t have to leave.
So she stays. But at what price? She's cost the town and its insurance company a lot of money. And how effective is she going to be in her job if the Town Board doesn't recognize her, the employees don't respect her and the public doesn't trust her to conduct herself appropriately?
If Sickels truly wants to serve, she'll honor the Town Board's request and step down. If she thinks she deserves to hold the office again, she can put that to the test by grabbing an independent ballot line and running for her seat in November as a non-incumbent. If the voters put her back in, then so be it.
But for now, she's lost the credibility she needs to serve the citizens. And without that, she isn't serving them at all.