On Wednesday evening, the Rio Rancho City Council censured Councilor Chuck Wilkins by a vote of 4-2 for failing to disclose his newly acquired property in Unit 10. Wilkins’ wife was obviously angry at me for calling her out in my most recent Observer column (continuing to scream as I said they were) and one of the most telling things about the evening was that the Tea Party couldn’t separate the issue of Wilkins’ act as a governing official from their existence as an (ostensibly) separate and uncompromised entity. Wilkins’ responded to the censure with an obviously off topic statement that he printed and handed out to the audience. For those who are unaware, there is a procedural rule that doesn’t allow any governing body member to talk about off topic items.
So it’s rather telling that Wilkins would print this up so his wife, Renee (RRTP president) and mother (RRTP board member) could pass this out. In case he was called out by another member for going off topic in his speech (which he was), he clearly planned to be successful in getting his message out to the public, at least for the moment.
This tactic failed to gain traction as the KOB news reporter almost laughed at how preposterous the move was, and at the end of the evening, many copies of those statements were left littered on the floor of the council chambers. The final nail in Wilkins’ coffin seems to be the glib statement he made to the media about the censure not being a “big deal.” A Facebook comment on the Committee for a Safe Rio Rancho states:
The fact that he broke the law and feels it’s no big deal to do that and when he gets censured as part of the punishment and feels it is no big deal just shows how much he care for our laws. He feels he is above the law. He needs to be prosecuted. Showing no remorse for his wrong doing is a criminal mindset.
Would be placing a home office in a residence at the edge of large development with paved roads from Southern and from an expanded Westside Blvd using a relocated and paved 19th St SE (instead of being a nuisance requiring trees to be planted, his own words from Wednesday night) to direct clients to your home office be an advantage?
It would seem that Wilkins’ reaction has backfired on him and will continue to do so if he doesn’t remember his place in public servitude.
The Paradox of Public Servitude
You wouldn’t know by looking at our public officials these days, but running for and obtaining elected office is an act of voluntary servitude with the public as their headmasters. But if we were to judge political office by how government officials and the media treat politicians, you’d think that it’s a glamorously powerful position to be in. The position of elected office does indeed come with a great deal of power.
If wielded humbly, that power can be used for good and if wielded pridefully, that power will be used for corruption and only ends in tyranny and oppression. So why do we call elected office ” public service” if they wield so much power? That’s the paradox of public servitude. A paradox is when two or more seeming contradictions are true, in this case, the idea of a servant having power.
The ‘politician’ killed the ‘statesman.’ The notion of a public servant humbly wielding power in just fashion has been replaced by the egotistic megalomania of the politician. And while Wilkins’ has tried to pass himself off as just a regular guy, his latest move has all but cemented his image as a politician. The point that Wilkins missed was not that he had done something illegal, (he may not have) but rather his actions speak loudly about his questionable intentions concerning his involvement in the Unit 10 project and specifically about the $2 million to pave Westside Blvd.
The reason why the Charter and Governing Body Rules & Procedures require disclosure, even if only to say that that there is no conflict of interest, is to show the public that your intentions are nothing but honest. By not disclosing until painted into a corner, it casts a shadow on the whole issue. It takes courage to stand up and do the right thing, but humility takes far more strength than courage ever could.
Councilor Wilkins’ Only Honorable Option
The worst thing Councilor Wilkins could do at this point is puff up his chest and dig his heels in. If he’s an honorable man, then he would be wise to humbly ask forgiveness for not being completely forthright with his property. He should also release all records (including those held at his private business) of his plans for Unit 10 and then pass the torch to another governing body member and recuse himself. It’s true that this whole debacle looks bad for the City of Rio Rancho.
It seems that our local government can’t get serious about our ICIP priorities. If it’s not Mayor Swisstack subverting the council for a park, it’s Wilkins subverting the council for a road. None the less, the egg on our face is not the result of the censure brought against either man but rather from those governing body officials (like Swisstack and Wilkins) willing to go rogue. It’s one thing to go against the grain of tyranny, it’s quite another to go against the grain for money.
But will he do this? Unfortunately he probably will not. Wilkins’ could have diffused the whole story at the censure by being apologetic and instead lashed out at anyone and everyone he could. And if the latest post on his blog is any indication, Wilkins’ is unfortunately on the war path.