Former Evans political mover Merle Temple must have been extraordinarily uncomfortable this past week when fellow fraud defendant Linda Schrenko turned the tables on him in federal court.
But many others in the area heaved sighs of relief when Schrenko pled guilty to stealing more than $600,000 in federal education money. That's because their names were on the witness list from prosecutors.
Now, with former state school superintendent and gubernatorial candidate Schrenko admitting guilt in court, those witnesses won't be called to testify.
But that doesn't mean they should just slip away quietly - especially those with an obligation to the public.
Board of Regents Chairman Tim Shelnut paved the way Monday when he admitted to the State Ethics Commission that he may have committed what he calls "minor ethics violations" in donating more money to political candidates than is allowed.
Shelnut, the wealthy former owner of The News-Times, has been a generous donor to political campaigns of all persuasions. His admission that he may have been too generous should be a signal to shut off the spigots.
While Shelnut is at least talking about coming clean, one person still on the hook is retiring state Rep. Sue Burmeister.
Conspicuously absent Tuesday morning from the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce post-legislative breakfast, Burmeister recently announced her intention to not seek re-election.
As one of the recipients of significant amounts of campaign cash from Shelnut, either for herself or as a pass-through to Schrenko, Burmeister also was released from testifying when Schrenko pled guilty. Being relieved of her subpoena from the federal court does not, however, relieve Burmeister of her obligation to testify in the court of public opinion.
To paraphrase the Watergate inquiries, what did she get? And when did she get it?
Just as Shelnut is offering information to the Ethics Commission in advance, Burmeister must come forward to disclose her knowledge of improper campaign donations.
State Rep. Ben Harbin, chairman of the Columbia County legislative delegation, says Burmeister isn't expected to step down from her post. Her term ends Dec. 31, and he says the family issues that prompted her retirement won't keep her from the more-limited legislative duties now that the state House isn't in session.
One of those duties must be to tell the public what she would have been expected to talk about in court - especially if she chooses to stay in office for the remainder of her term.
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