Monday, September 14, 2015

Kim Davis and the Harper Valley PTA

By Bob Ferris

On my bike ride this AM to the library I was thinking about Kim Davis and in moment of bizarre free-association the twangy tones of Jeannie C. Riley’s immortal ballad “Harper Valley PTA” flashed into my mind.  Now to be clear in this instance, Ms. Davis is not the one played by Barbara Eden but rather the whole panel of the self-appointed, self-righteous folks judging the widowed mother.
“My words can never express the appreciation,” she said of the constituents who voted for her, “but I promise to each and every one that I will be the very best working clerk that I can be and will be a good steward of their tax dollars and follow the statutes of this office to the letter.” Kim Davis quoted in Washington Post article 
As a result of this whole gay bigotry kerfuffle the entire world now knows about Kim’s various marriages, her acknowledged affair, the illegitimate children and the restraining order she filed on someone she later married.  But I am more concerned—as it relates to this job—about her professional behavior.  She got this job because her mother hired her.  That may not be illegal but it is certainly unethical particularly when you understand that either she or her mother also hired Nathan Davis who is Kim’s son. Were Kim and Nathan hired through an open process and were they the most qualified applicants for that position?  That is a question that has been raised but not answered in any reasonable sense.

There is also the issue about Ms. Davis’ overtime when she was chief deputy clerk and directly supervised by her mother.  This situation required a public hearing and the Fiscal Court reduced the office’s salary funding by a third in 2012. .  Though Ms. Bailey—Ms. Davis’ mother—may have done nothing wrong, her behavior and that of Ms. Davis’ expose the clerk's office to issues of trust and doubt which in a very real sense is part of the clerk’s job as fiscal and administrative manager to avoid.  Of note also is that when Ms. Bailey was passing out marriage licenses to her daughter like popcorn that she should have known that it was probably improper to allow Ms. Davis to certify her own personal marriage license as she did for the license to marry Thomas Dale McIntyre Jr.

Now I will stand up for the principle that folks should be able to practice their religion even when that is practicing no religion at all.  That said, those religions should not in this context be directed like weapons at others in this country regardless of their color, country of origin, creed or sexual orientation.  I also think that religious sects of all stripes should practice a little self-awareness.  If, for instance, you are one of these Christian sects like the Apostolic folks that magically erase past sins via baptism and rebirth you have to understand that you are in many people’s mind a lot like a remedial reading class telling others that you are suddenly English scholars (think too of Bristol Palin as a voice for abstinence).   Similarly I cannot think that people seeking to make themselves right with some higher power for past transgressions should think that process involves searching the landscape for the sharpest stones to toss at those going through a similar journey.

My sense is that Jeannie C. Riley wrote the PTA song to make people think and look inwards into their own lives before thinking they have the moral high ground to critique the lives of others.  I believe this is sound thinking and good advice.  In this regard, Ms. Davis should examine her own life and also look at the promises she made when elected (above).  The court rulings clearly indicate that she is not keeping to the statutes of her office and the dog-and-pony-show she has catalyzed rather than thinking her way thought and avoiding is costing tax payers which strikes me as a less than fiscally responsible action.  If she wanted to do what is truly right she would resign, but I am not sure I see than happening as it is unlikely a person with a lifetime of bad decisions will suddenly break pattern.

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