Letter – Conduct unbecoming
Published 7:03 pm Tuesday, October 17, 2023
Editor, The Smithfield Times:
Although it’s challenging, especially considering the close relationships with Town Council members, friends and members in our small town, it’s imperative to hold our local officials accountable for the irresponsible exercise of power and any lawbreaking, regardless of the charge being classified as “only a misdemeanor.”
This misdemeanor charge unfairly hindered Renee Rountree’s opponent, Chris Torre, impinging on his First Amendment rights. While I don’t have a personal connection with Mrs. Rountree or Mr. Torre, I feel remorseful that Chris Torre had to invest effort in dealing with this negativity and pursue legal actions due to the actions of Rountree and her implicated family member. It’s also important to acknowledge the sense of betrayal felt by Renee Rountree’s supporters.
After sending an email to our Town Council members inquiring if they would ask Rountree to step down, several emails were very supportive of my concerns, but one email response stated: “She is innocent until proven guilty, just as you would be. Additionally, even if convicted, a misdemeanor conviction does not disqualify her from holding office.”
While I don’t dispute the law, I strongly disagree with this leader’s approach, as it sets an example of not holding our elected officials to the highest standards, even when caught red-handed, regardless of conviction.
The prevalence of this negativity, divisiveness and drama at our local level is diverting attention from the more crucial issues that impact the people of our community. The community deserves the focus of leaders who are not engaged in poor election strategies that, at the very least, lead to searches and warrants. Elected public officials should bear a greater moral and legal responsibility when representing the people of Smithfield and Isle of Wight County.
Numerous elected officials at higher levels have set a dismal precedent by engaging in unsavory politics. It is crucial that we demand more from our local representatives.