Robert C. Byrd has done much for North Central West
Virginia and the Mountain State. His work can been seen at the Federal
Bureau of Investigations Criminal Justice Identification System complex
or at the aerospace development near Benedum Airport.
Byrd likes to say that hes planted the seeds of
growth and success for the region. But its up to all of us to work together
to reap a bumper crop.
On Thursday, he gave all of us, especially the young,
important food for thought: Mistakes made as a foolish youngster may be
forgiven, but they are seldom forgotten.
While Byrd is hailed in these parts for providing
a much needed economic boost and has become a well-respected statesman
throughout the country, his membership in the Ku Klux Klan while a young
man in West Virginia has emerged throughout my life to haunt and embarrass
me and has taught me, in a very graphic way, what one major mistake can
do to ones conscience, career and reputation, Byrd said.
He said his membership in the KKK was the most
egregious mistake I have ever made. Upon introspection, I find the entire
episode difficult to understand. The only conclusion I can draw for myself
is that I was sorely afflicted by a dangerous tunnel vision, the kind of
tunnel vision that, I fear, leads young people today to join gangs or hate
In owning up to his past mistakes, Byrd will do little to silence his
critics. In fact, he will probably open the door for more criticism.
But he also knows that by speaking out, he plants
another seed. And this seed might be the most important, for it may be
the one that fosters the concept of cooperation and understanding in a
world full of diversity. Its a seed of education with the final lesson
being world peace.
Legal services needs to learn how to count
Shame on Legal Services for overstating its number
of cases. Whether the overstatement was deliberate to secure more funding
from Congress or accidental, as Legal Services says, we still say: Shame
on Legal Services.
Its not that we oppose Legal Services or what it
does. By providing legal aid for the poor, the government program helps
to make the U.S. legal system, in which wealth seems to outweigh right,
a little fairer.
But Legal Services overstated the number of cases
it handled in 1997 by the tens of thousands. Here are some of the numbers:
Legal Services reported that it served 1.93 million clients in 1997.
But an audit of just five of the 269 regional Legal Services program found
caseloads had been overstated by 90,000.
The Legal Aid Society of San Diego reported more than 14,000 telephone
calls as cases.
A Legal Services group in Florida reported 44,993 new cases in 1997.
It turned out to have worked only 5,500.
Remember, these are erroneous numbers uncovered
in reviews of just five of 269 regional Legal Services programs. How common
such overstatements are nationwide still isnt known. But Legal Services
says it is revising its counting methods and expects its reported caseload
to drop by 200,000 in 1998.
Perhaps the overcounting was just the result of
poor bookkeeping and out-of-date policies, as Legal Services officials
say. But there certainly was motivation to overcount. Congress looks at
Legal Services caseloads in deciding how much to allocate for the program.
The more cases reported, the more taxpayer dollars received. Congress gave
Legal Services $300 million this fiscal year, up from $283 million last
The overcounting shows us this much at least: Legal
Services is either a slipshod operation or a shady operation. Congress
should find out which it is and make sure changes are made.
Telegram editorial board member