Whether the town of Bladenboro opts to use inmate labor down the road is an issue the town’s council will need to work out, probably at its April or May meeting. But the issue, which has been discussed at the town’s February and March meetings, certainly showed the unprofessional backside of at least one council member.
Council member Sarah Benson, who has no doubt where she stands on the issue of using inmate labor in Bladenboro, has been aggressively vocal at the past two meetings .
On Monday, she verbally attacked Town Clerk Melanie Hester for trying to give an answer to a question Benson posed to Town Administrator John O’Daniel. Though Benson prefaced the chastising with “I’m not trying to mean …” it was obvious to those present that Benson was, if not mean, blatantly unprofessional in the public setting.
But Benson wasn’t done.
Moments later in the conversation, she attacked Mayor Rufus Duckworth with a question that should have been reserved for a one-on-one discussion in the back room. The issue was a telephone call Duckworth had received from a county official several weeks ago asking whether Bladenboro might be interested in using inmate labor.
In out opinion, Duckworth did what he should have done: He talked with the department head(s) who have dealt with inmate labor before and would have to work with the inmates if the town joined the program. He was told using inmate labor wasn’t worth the troubles it brought, so he told the county thanks, but no thanks.
Benson chided the mayor for that decision, saying he had no authority and should have brought the issue to the board. We, of course, disagree.
While Benson is firmly on the side of using inmate labor, almost to the point of zealot stature, the rest of the board seems to be part against it and part on the fence.
While a number of questions remain unanswered about the use of inmate labor for Bladenboro, one thing is certain: the cost. Depending on whether the town must transport the inmates to and from Elizabethtown each day, the cost to Bladenboro is estimated to be between $11,000 and $24,000 for three inmates.
And keep in mind that those inmates must be supervised at all times and cannot perform a number of duties that require driving a vehicle or using certain equipment.
Is it all worth it? On the surface, we don’t think so, but that will be a decision the board will have to make.
We just hope that, as the discussion continues, some professionalism and tact can be displayed from the right side of the council table.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Professional is not a label you give yourself — it’s a description you hope others will apply to you.” (David Maister)