Laments such as “unfulfilled promise,” “what might have been,” and “sad ending” do not begin to explain or disguise the brazen misbehavior and monumental chutzpah exhibited by the recently and belatedly deposed 2nd Suffolk Sen. Dianne Wilkerson.
She has a lengthy record of criminal offenses and accusations of failure to file income taxes; non-payment of college loans, home mortgages, municipal liens and condominium fees; and stealing campaign contributions. Nevertheless, Wilkerson has been repeatedly endorsed for, re-elected to and rewarded with public office by her fellow legislators, other elected and appointed officials and her trusting constituents and supporters. Now she is accused of soliciting and accepting bribes and public corruption.
Support of issues whose time is past due and which have already gained widespread support, such as minority rights, gay marriage and skating rinks, do not make a leader. Curley-esque stunts like appearances at wakes, birthday parties and barbecues should not endear a public figure to the community. Setting an example of personal responsibility and integrity are the real marks of leadership—marks she never made, an example she never set.
The presumption of innocence, which her criminal lawyer has asserted during recent discussions, is a legal concept reserved for the courtroom and jury trial, as is “guilt to a moral certainty.” We, the people, in contrast, must use common sense and personal values in judging, endorsing and electing candidates to public office. This we have not done in the past regarding Wilkerson. We should have known better. The presumption should not blind us to the real, repeated misbehavior that occurred, the damage caused and the lessons to be learned.