Among the destruction cast by the crime and pending punishment of former Harlem mayor and Columbia County commissioner Scott Dean is the lingering black eye to the county and city.
It’s been tough to shake off: Even in the midst of their joy this week at winning $10,000 in a nationwide contest, Harlem Middle School officials still felt the need to stave off the shadow cast by Dean’s child molestation case, insisting there are better things going on.
Unfortunately, that’s the way it is with such high-profile cases. Our community has been let down by politicians before: former state Rep. Robin Williams, sent to federal prison for looting a mental-health center, grew up in Appling; ex-state school superintendent Linda Schrenko and her partner in theft of federal funds, Merle Temple, were Columbia County residents.
As a longtime resident and local, rather than state, official, Dean’s downfall seems more personal. That was reflected in the stunned reactions of longtime acquaintances, and the unseemly glee from his political enemies.
But in the end, the shock, guilt and anger in such a case doesn’t rest on the community’s shoulders: It rests squarely on Dean. A jury of his peers found him guilty of committing two counts of child molestation, crimes made worse with the knowledge that the victim is one of the children Dean and his wife heroically adopted from a Guatemalan orphanage.
It’s a gaping wound, but it belongs to Scott Dean alone. Once a promising public servant, Dean squandered his support last year by inappropriately texting a county employee. Compounding it with victimization of a teen girl is nearly unspeakable.
Like that victim, who has been in counseling, the rest of the community now can begin healing. That includes celebrating triumphs without having to worry about the shadows of despair. Justice is served, and it’s time to move forward.