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EDITORIAL: Without light, Purcellville languishes in the dark

Part of Purcellville's Christmas tree didn't light up during the lighting ceremony, an unfortunate metaphor for the town's operations in recent weeks. Facebook/Karen Hieber Jimmerson

The Christmas season arrived with unanticipated expectations in Purcellville this year.

The town promoted a low-key start to the season with the annual tree lighting ceremony outside Town Hall. Families gathered around the big Norway Spruce awaiting the mayor to flip the switch illuminating the tree. Hot cocoa was served as the high school choir performed holiday songs.

Then something unexpected happened: The mayor wasn't there, as he had been in years past. The switch was flipped without him, but many of the lights did not illuminate, leaving part of the tree in darkness.

These things aren’t supposed to happen in Purcellville. It’s a town that’s supposed to work -- an ideal, almost nostalgic, community where people get along, families thrive and life is good. But now spirits arrive to cast the town into darkness.

The Purcellville story could have been written by Charles Dickens. Ghosts lurk in Town Hall. They create fear, deceit and trepidation in a town that should be celebrating the joy and goodwill of the season.

Dickens’ enduring character of Christmas, Ebenezer Scrooge, provides a storyline that leads out of the darkness. Scrooge finds redemption by confronting his ghosts and then transforming into a kinder and more honest man. The characters in Purcellville’s morality play should do the same.

Town leaders can return integrity to Purcellville by confronting ghosts and bringing all aspects of its messy scandal to light. Nothing less is required than to restore the credibility of government in the town.

Here are a few places to start. Town officials should disclose:

-- Specific allegations of wrongdoing against the police chief, including the names of those who made them.
-- All Town Council discussions conducted behind closed doors, or private conversations, pertaining to the police investigation and the employment of former town manager and his replacement.
-- The reasons for putting the interim town manager on leave.
-- Reports of improper relationships among town officials, contractors for the town and outside parties of interest.
-- The vetting process for the specialist hired to investigate the police allegations, as well as disclosure of findings from background checks.
-- Emails, social media posts and communications by and among town officials pertaining to the conduct and contacts of town officials.
-- Everything.

Anything less than full disclosure must be regarded as a cover-up by the town. There are no passes for secrecy, no excuses for conducting the people’s business in private, and no justification for anything less than open government in the ongoing Purcellville mess.

Purcellville residents deserve a better story for Christmas.


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