Letter to the Editor: On the justice system
I have long held a belief that when an issue goes to trial the truth is beside the point. I believe it's more about who has the best story, who can sell their story the best, and who has the longest reach with those who are in authority (or control). The recent court hearing and sentencing of Commissioner Sitterud has done little to change my belief.
I found it interesting that he was put in jail. Jail! The place where we put murderers, rapists, drug dealers and the like. The place where we should probably be putting some of the CEOs in this country who have helped put many into bankruptcy while taking millions for themselves as they make their exit. Not people who unintentionally fill paper work out incorrectly and then do what they can to right the wrong when the discrepancy is brought to their attention.
From what I have read in the newspapers, it appears to me that this unintended discrepancy happened two to three years ago, that the amount of money in question is minimal ($1500 or less), and that the money was paid back at the time it was brought to the attention of Commissioner Sitterud. To me, personally, the timing on this matter feels politically motivated. Politics is such a mean, mean game. Why Commissioner Sitterud still wants to be a commissioner and work for this county is lost on me. Good for him, though. Maybe we should give him the chance. My thinking is that he must be doing something right to have so many ruffled and feeling threatened by his presence.
We hear often on the news and read in newspapers of people who have been accused of one crime or another. Some of these accusations are of things that are unthinkable, such as sexual abuse to a child, for example. These court cases go on for years, at great expense to the individual accused. We seldom hear or read of the final outcome of these cases, but, on occasion, the person accused, is found innocent. This does not matter. The person's life has been ruined emotionally, publicly and financially. It's my personal belief that there are times when people are accused and brought to trial because they have angered or crossed an individual or individuals. It is also my opinion that people often take plea bargains, or plead guilty to lesser charges, not because they are guilty, per se, but that they cannot count on the truth being told or heard. I'm not saying this is what has happened in the case of Commissioner Sitterud, but that it is a possibility worth considering. Something else worth considering is the possibility that many things could be dug up from the past on many people, if someone with enough connections, power, access to information, something to gain and the time, choose to do so.
I am not implying that what Commissioner Sitterud has been accused of, did not happen and was not against some policy or the law. I do believe, however, that it was done innocently and unintentionally. I do not believe that he, or his family, deserves what has been so viciously done to them. Good grief, we let murderers go free in this country (again, who has the best story, who sells it the best). Let's get a little perspective.
It was reported in one newspaper article that Commissioner Sitterud should know how mileage reimbursements work. Really? Apparently no one quite understands this because it sounds like the county still owes the state the money that was paid back. Here's a question: why aren't those involved in not paying the money back to the state being investigated and charged? What's more important, spending time wallowing around in all the bureaucratic rules, regulations and policies (which I'm sure number in the thousands) or spending time doing one's best to work for the community? There is not time for both. Also, I'm not convinced that Commissioner Sitterud is the person responsible for keeping this investigation going for 22 months. I don't think this is one person, but people.
After reading both articles in our local papers, it feels to me that the letter Commissioner Sitterud put in the papers had a lot of bearing on his punishment. Another way to look at this might be that he was punished for exercising his freedom of speech. Regardless of what one thinks or feels about this one incident, or about Commissioner Sitterud, it needs to be pointed out that he has paid his debt to society. In my opinion, he has more than paid the price. He didn't get away with anything and he didn't get off easy.
If you are tempted to judge him for recent events, then be fair and also judge him for all he has done for this county as a commissioner for the past eight years, and all that he has done for his community, including the youth, in the years prior to his becoming a commissioner.
I honestly feel, that at the end of the day, after everything has been said and done, we are better for having Commissioner Sitterud in our community working for us than we would have been (or will be) without him. I believe, all things considered, he is a good person with his county's best interest at heart. I believe he brings great strength to the office of county commissioner and will continue to do so, when given the chance.
I am sure there will be those who will be irritated and angered by what I have had to say. Who will say that I don't know the truth or have the facts. To that I ask, "Whose truth and whose facts?" There are as many opinions out there as there are facts and truths. All you have to do is pick the ones that work best for you.
In closing, I would like to say that I thought long and hard before writing this letter for fear of angering "the powers that be" in our county and suffering the backlash. And, might I point out, how sad that I feel I need to be worried. I am not putting any of this out there as fact. It is only my opinion - not my husband's, not my family's, not my friends' - just mine. And, after all, I am entitled to it.