Editorials

Forgive our community leaders their felonies, for they were momentarily weak

Smithton Village Trustee Darren Vehlewald faces felonies after threatening gun violence and murder late on Sept. 5. He remains on the board and in charge of the village’s police committee.
Smithton Village Trustee Darren Vehlewald faces felonies after threatening gun violence and murder late on Sept. 5. He remains on the board and in charge of the village’s police committee. Provided

Smithton Trustee Darren Vehlewald, 52, went seriously off the rails late on Sept. 5. He repeatedly threatened himself and his estranged wife, tried to thwart the police investigation and involved his teenage son in the effort.

So with multiple guns and boxes of ammunition, he ended a cell phone video with “let the violence begin.”

While a police report characterized Vehlewald’s episode as “a human moment,” most people don’t threaten a mass casualty event when their marriage is on the rocks.

Smithton Mayor Raymond Klein said he has no authority to oust Vehlewald as a trustee. However there is no reason Vehlewald should remain as head of the village’s police committee. He was appointed to that spot, not elected, so innocent until proven guilty is not at play.

Imagine being a Smithton police officer and your pay, benefits, policies and leadership decisions are coming before this guy. He’s facing felony charges. How objective can he be about a department involved in his investigation and arrest?

The conflict of interest was apparent to Smithton Police, who had to call in Freeburg officers to ensure an arm’s-length investigation.

Regardless of the legalities, Vehlewald should be ashamed and resign from the village board without being forced out.

But shame and public service don’t seem to be mutually exclusive. Troy Alderman Allen Dyer pleaded guilty to felony drug possession and he’s refusing to resign over his “weak moment.”

With so many solid citizens in these two communities, do the councils really need to be populated by criminals with so little self-control that their “moments” involved felony-level crimes?

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