It may sound “corny” to some people these days when cynicism seems to be the prevailing national mood, but we believe elected public service is the highest calling in a democratic republic such as ours, whether it be at the national, state or local level. To be trusted enough by voters to be given the awesome power and responsibility to represent them in government is an honor above all others.
That’s why we were so taken aback and so disappointed by the actions of longtime Pittsylvania County Supervisor Coy Harville, actions deemed serious enough that a majority of the county Board of Supervisors voted July 16 to remove their colleague as chairman of the Pittsylvania County Service Authority Board.
The story began late last year when Harville, as chairman of the service authority, was soliciting donations from local businesses to pay for a Christmas dinner for authority employees. Harville approached Jay Rigney, owner of Wilson’s Lawn & Garden, about donating merchandise for prizes and presents at the dinner. Rigney politely listened to Harville’s request and then, just as politely, declined.
That’s when things got interesting, shall we say.
The encounter at the business’ front desk was recorded by a security camera, so there’s no disputing what happened.
Rigney said he doesn’t solicit donations for his employees’ holiday dinner and wouldn’t expect a public body such as the service authority to do so. Both men raised their voices with Harville threatening to write a letter to the editor of the local newspapers calling out Wilson’s for not supporting the dinner.
“You will never get a dime from me,” Harville is seen telling Rigney, “and I’ll put the word out.”
Within days, Rigney raised the matter with service authority commissioner Hershell Stone who confronted Harville and elicited a pledge he’d never solicit donations from the public again. Stone also requested the service authority board send an official apology to Rigney, but oddly, that never happened.
So, later in the spring, Stone approached Supervisor Bob Warren about the incident, and on June 3, after Rigney gave his permission for Stone to show the video to Warren, the two men watched the incident unfold. That’s when the severity of the incident hit Warren, who then arranged for board colleague Ron Scearce to view the video.
On July 11, Warren and Scearce arranged to meet Harville. Warren informed Harville he had two choices: voluntarily resign from the service authority board or be removed by the Board of Supervisors. He had the four votes needed, Warren said, but he didn’t want to embarrass Harville publicly. Angered and claiming he’d done nothing wrong, Harville walked out. Five days later, he was removed.
Harville is a 36-year veteran of the Board of Supervisors; residents of the Westover District have voted again and again to select Harville as their representative in Chatham. His constituents obviously believe he is doing a terrific job.
Yet you would think Harville, in his 36 years in elected office, would have grasped the simple lesson that such a post is a trust he holds from the public, that there are standards for behavior and conduct a public servant is supposed to uphold. Evidently not, because he has accused the four supervisors who voted against him of taking part in a “political stunt,” nothing more.
No, sir. It was not a stunt; it was holding elected officials to the standards voters expect them to adhere to. Public service is a high calling; you let us down, sir.