Elected officials accountable to voters

Published 9:09 pm Saturday, January 16, 2016

Government accountability is near and dear to the hearts of all newspaper folks. It’s a big part of what we do.

To that end, we published a story today about the work hour requirements of elected officials. It turns out, there are none. Elected officials can come and go as they please. They don’t punch a clock and no one tracks their leave time.

But that doesn’t mean there’s no accountability. All elected officials answer to voters. The only problem is that voters have no idea how many hours an elected official works. If they did, there might be some surprises.

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We’re not suggesting that Lincoln County’s officials are taking advantage of the system because we have no way of knowing. But the possibility exists, and it’s the same in all 82 counties in Mississippi.

Elected officials enjoy the flexibility of setting their own work hours but also have to answer to constituents at all hours. Voters recognize that those officials work for the public, so they should be available to the public.

But that doesn’t mean they are always in the office. Many elected officials have duties that take them away from their desks. They are often at meetings, conferences or simply handling business elsewhere.

So, the appearance of missing work because they aren’t in the office may be misleading.

At the end of the day, every elected official understands that their job is on the line every four years. That’s motivation enough to show up and work hard. The public will know if a particular office isn’t being run well or if a particular office holder is absent most of the time.

We encourage all elected officials to honor the trust that the public has placed in them. That includes working a full day, five days a week.