by Steve Fair
After The Sunday Oklahoman broke their story about Cargill being delinquent six years in a row in paying property tax on his Harrah law office. The former speaker didn’t make any excuses and in fact was contrite in his response. “I take full responsibility for this error,” he said on Friday. "Í apologize to the people of Oklahoma and to my colleagues.” In fact, Cargill called a number of his fellow Republican colleagues and extended to them a personal apology. In the end, that wasn’t enough and his poor judgment cost him his dream job.
State Representative David Dank- R-OKC said it best when he said that Cargill’s troubles were of his own making. “It is unfortunate that it had to come to this, but Speaker Cargill brought his troubles on himself,” Dank said. “The people of Oklahoma have a right to expect exemplary conduct from those they send to the state Capitol and he failed that basic test.” Cargill's conduct may not have been exemplary, but his resignation was. It spoke volumes about the differences between the Republicans and Democrats. Republicans don’t excuse misbehavior, even in their own ranks.
Dank, who is introducing sweeping ethics and campaign finance reform legislation this session, says, "Oklahomans should know that his resignation came after considerable pressure from members of his own party," he said. "We are determined to advance a true reform agenda during the upcoming session, including passage of the ethics and campaign finance reform bill I have introduced to address many of the same issues that led to Speaker Cargill’s resignation. I look forward to working with the new House leadership to make that bill a reality."
Oklahoma Republicans called for his resignation and Cargill had enough character to step aside. In his resignation letter, Cargill said, “I want nothing more than to have good ideas to move forward without the burden of being weighed down by personal stories about me.” “I have always said my leadership has been about good ideas and this move should allow those ideas to flourish as they should."
Cargill had to resign. The average person does not have the luxury of ignoring the rule of law. They can’t file their income returns late or pay their taxes chronically late and expect to get a pass. The average citizen has a right to expect their leaders to be following the rule of law.
Republicans hold their leaders to a higher standard. As Dank said, "the public should expect exemplary behavior from their leaders- no matter their party affiliation.”
What compounds the situation is when you have another Republican lawmaker who justifies his negligence and non-compliance of not filing their tax returns by saying, “He was too busy doing the people’s work.” Are you kidding me? Leading by example is doing the people’s work. Complying with the rules and laws that all of us have to submit to is the peoples work. Whining, justifying and blaming others for their negligence is not the people’s work. That type of response is childish, immature, and arrogant. Those who engage in it are unfit for public office. How a person responds when they are attacked for something they have done wrong reveals a lot about their character or lack of it.
For example, take State Auditor and Inspector Jeff McMahan. McMahan was indicted by a federal grand jury over a week ago. In spite of dozens of calls for his resignation (many within his own party), he has yet to comply. Cargill’s supposed crime involved private money and he did not misappropriate any taxpayer monies, but McMahan’s is alleged to have "turned his head" when he was supposed to be watching out for the people’s money in exchange for illegal campaign contributions.
Lance Cargill obviously made some poor judgments in his life, but stepping aside was not one of them. By voluntarily doing so, he proved the cause he was laboring for was greater than he was. That’s a rare quality in politicians and it shows more character than most politicians exhibit. Doing the right thing is never the wrong thing to do.