Residents living in Statesboro City Council's District 2 have an easy decision during the next five days of early voting and on Election Day, Nov. 8 - don't vote for incumbent councilman Gary Lewis.
Lewis was first elected in 1998 and he is the longest serving member on the current council. He was last reelected in 2007 and his term ends Dec. 31. We believe the citizens of District 2 and the city of Statesboro will have a far more effective city council if Dec. 31 is the last day Lewis serves as a council member.
Through his actions and, perhaps more significantly, his inaction, Lewis has demonstrated he does not deserve another term. In looking back at his 13 years on council, we can't come up with a single ordinance or decision of importance on which Lewis has taken the lead.
What's worse is Lewis' total indifference and arrogance towards the residents of his district and the city. Even though he was elected to represent the citizens of his district, he refuses to be accountable. When questioned, he won't explain his votes on council or why he supports or doesn't support an issue.
After he voted to give former city manager Shane Haynes a $162,000 severance package in 2010, Lewis was asked if he thought the citizens of Statesboro deserved to know why Haynes received such a large settlement. Lewis' reply: "Not really."
When given the opportunity to speak directly to the voters in District 2 at a forum Thursday night, Lewis said: "I'm going to have to pass on this one." He offered no other explanation and did not come to the forum.
Two weeks ago, Lewis handed out campaign flyers in which he accused fellow council members Will Britt and Travis Chance of conspiring with his three challengers to run against him, even though none had ever met the other. When offered the chance to explain the flyer in a council meeting, Lewis said: "I don't have to comment on this right now." We believe Lewis knew almost nothing in that flyer was true.
All three instances exhibit his refusal to be accountable for his actions as a councilman.
Short of committing a crime, it's hard to imagine anything that should disqualify a candidate from consideration for office more than a lack of accountability.
And we do believe Lewis committed a crime last year when a Statesboro Herald employee witnessed him taking eight newspapers from a vending box while paying for only one.
The facts are simple. Newspapers were being stolen from the same box for about a year. The Herald employee started watching the box and one morning saw Lewis take the stack of papers. He cross checked the money in the vending box with the number of papers missing and confirmed how many were taken. Lewis denied he took the papers, but when the Herald newspaper carrier went to swear out a warrant, Lewis agreed to a $1,000 settlement in exchange for the carrier to drop the matter.
One more thing, no papers have been stolen from the same box since Lewis was accused.
Through a series of missteps and incompetence over the past few years, the city council has struggled with its credibility as a governing body. Lewis was not solely responsible for the problems, and his being voted out of office won't solve all the council's issues. But what is clear is that his continuing in office past Dec. 31 would be a blight on District 2 and the city of Statesboro.