Mecklenburg County commissioners did Thursday what they should have done last week – appoint George Dunlap to the District 3 seat he lawfully won in a vote of party activists. Unfortunately, the appointment hasn't ended the political gamesmanship that held it up.
Bill James and Karen Bentley, two of the four board Republican members who all tried to block the appointment, failed even to show up. James quickly zipped off an incendiary mass e-mail lambasting the vote as “legally questionable” and labeling Dunlap as “thuggish.”
For his part, Dunlap hasn't behaved much better. Of some of the public officials who oppose him, he said recently that they “might as well just go ahead and put those sheets back on.”
Neither the comments of James nor Dunlap are acceptable. This is not the kind of behavior the public wants from their elected officials. The members of the board of commissioners are public servants, elected by the people, and obligated to work on behalf of the citizens.
We're glad the other Republicans came on board and voted with the Democrats to appoint Dunlap to fill the term of Valerie Woodard, who died unexpectedly recently. He was nominated in a process that followed the rules to the letter.
The commissioners' vote also saved the county from spending needless money defending against a lawsuit to force the appointment. The Democrats suing dropped the lawsuit Thursday.
It's unlikely the appointment could have been stopped anyway. The reasons the Republicans cited for blocking it were specious – that Dunlap was an excessively divisive figure and that his background should be investigated. Dunlap is no more divisive than some of the commissioners who wanted to block his appointment, and his background is well-known. He's been on the school board 13 years, repeatedly elected in a district that encompasses the same territory as the District 3 county commissioner seat.
Commissioners' chair Jennifer Roberts said after the appointment: “Hopefully now we can move forward with the county's business.” It's time. Many critical issues deserve their attention.
The needless sparring over this selection left the residents of District 3 without a voice on those matters. That should never happen. Commissioners must put aside their personal feelings, stop the name-calling and do the job citizens elected them to do. If they don't, at election time – now and in the future – citizens should give them the failing grade they deserve.