Knightdale councilman Mike Chalk has served the town of Knightdale well during his tenure on the council. And, like anyone else for whom legislating is not a full-time job, we certainly believe he has the right to earn a decent living.
It’s also important to remember, though, that public officials, including elected ones, have a responsibility not to make use of the public trust to gain personally on a financial basis.
Oh, sure, he should be able to enjoy the benefits of residency just as much as the next person. A new park, a well-planned neighborhood, a strong recreation program should add to the quality of his life much as it does for everyone else.
Sitting behind the council table should not, however, be an open door to negotiate contracts with favorable terms between the town and a company he is somehow involved in.
Chalk has said repeatedly that he has not profited from his relationship with Carolina Landscape Services, a company that maintains the town’s roadway medians.
It’s hard, though, for the average person to swallow the argument that Chalk hasn’t benefited when the contract includes indications that he is involved with the company. It’s hard to reconcile that argument when one of Chalk’s family members works for that company. Chalk argues that he’s broken no rules and has not violated the ethics policy of the town. But Chalk voted to award the contract to the company even though his son worked there. And he did so without acknowledging that fact.
Sure, other council members may have known of the relationship, but it’s not at all clear that the public was aware of it.
But perception can sometimes be as powerful as the truth. Knightdale taxpayers watch as their money goes to a company that one of the council members is intimately involved in. On its face that seems improper. And if it isn’t, it should be.
Many of us would love to buy a job the way some Gov. Pat McCrory campaign staffers seem to have done. In the absence of that, perhaps the next best thing is to run for the town council in Knightdale so one can steer a few dollars their own way – or at least in the direction of some of their loved ones.