Like a moth which cannot ignore the flame, I’m finding it hard to walk away from the Kim Davis story. She has clearly arrived, as I have linked to her Wikipedia page. Do you have a Wikipedia page?
You know the basics. Kimberly Jean Bailey Davis does not believe in same sex marriage. The law interferes with her beliefs, so she thinks she’s entitled to an accommodation. That position has gotten her a contempt citation and jail, courtesy of U.S. District Judge David Bunning. Now she’s out, back at work, and planning to sue Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D).* (Details are reported by Caitlin MacNeal for TPM, in Kim Davis’ Lawyers to File New Lawsuit against Kentucky Governor.)
I’m ignoring Ms. Davis’s challenging marital history. I think it’s probably fair game, given the fact that marriage is at the heart of what she’s focused on, but it’s tawdry and just not worth my time. I am, however, focused on two other issues.
Ms. Davis was elected to be the Rowan County Clerk in 2015. Before she ran for office she was the Chief Deputy Clerk, reporting to Jean W. Bailey, the elected clerk and, you guessed it, her mother. Now, her staff includes Nathan Davis, her son.
Should we be surprised by the fact that Ms. Davis cannot see the distinction between her personal views and her public duties, when she works in the family business? And it is a family business. Ms. Bailey was paying Ms. Davis 65% more than her co-workers, despite the same titles, in 2011. Her defense?
Kim has worked in my office for nearly 24 years and knows this operation from top to bottom. She works long hours, often goes without vacation, and is very skilled at her job. She earns her pay and does not deserve this kind of treatment.
Before anyone assumes I’m being partisan about this fiasco, Ms. Davis is a Democrat. (Admittedly, that party affiliation may mean different things in different places.) Regardless, the nepotism problem is non-partisan and non-denominational. Public offices do not belong to people or their families. They belong to all of us. Certainly, a child can run for office, and she or he can succeed a parent. It’s a free country, and voters decide. That said, we ought to expect bright lines when it comes to public office operations, and on the right side of that line ought to be a basic rule: family members need not apply!**
So here’s my other complaint. Why do we elect County Clerks? Clerks of the Court? Assessors? Treasurers? Etc.
The referenced jobs involve managing operations. Clerks, assessors, and treasurers do not make policy. Yet we use an expensive, partisan process to select people, qualified or not, to take care of pushing paper. Keep in mind, please, that l’ affaire Davis is about issuing marriage licenses, as ministerial as anything government does.
I know all about tradition. We’ve always elected people for these positions, so we will go forth in the same way. And low level elected officials have, in too many instances, used their offices to he’p folks, including their own people.
Alas, in thinking about this whole saga, the sad, sad conclusion I reach is that nothing about it is remarkable. At all. And that ought to really, really concern us, in 2015!
*Someone ought to be notifying the Kentucky Bar Association about the Davis legal team. I think their conduct violates the Rules of Professional Conduct and Rule 11, Fed. R. Civ. Pro.
**Robert Kennedy serves the country with distinction as U.S. Attorney General; however, the wisdom that comes with 57 complete years tells me President John Kennedy should not had his brother in his cabinet.