By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
When a person runs for elected office, it is not something that is done lightly. Once elected and even during the campaign, elected officials are scrutinized, their lives are examined from every angle and their pasts are raked thrice over for any discrepancies or concern.
In short, to be an elected official, you need to have tough skin. But the actions taken against politicians isn’t necessarily without merit.
An elected official is the face of that community, they represent the wants and needs of the constituents. So, it makes sense that the people who elect officials to office want to know that they can trust the person representing them.
The general public is inherently wary of elected officials by nature of being a politician and those individuals have to work hard to earn that trust and to keep it.
That’s not to say that elected officials can’t make mistakes, after all politicians are humans too and to be human is to be flawed. And while all mistakes can be forgiven, not every mistake is forgotten.
Earlier this week, Ald. Chantia Lewis, who is currently running for the U.S. Senate, was charged with five criminal counts of fraud. She released a statement stating her innocence.
Her first court appearance is later this month.
The charges against Lewis said she defrauded the City of Milwaukee and campaign donors of over $20,000, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
In light of the charges, Common Council President Cavalier Johnson released a statement relieving Lewis of her duties until further notice.
“Make no mistake that our judicial system presumes that every individual is considered innocent until proven guilty in court. However, until this matter is resolved, I am moving without hesitation to protect the institution of the Milwaukee Common Council, as well as the City of Milwaukee.”
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the criminal complaint against Lewis accused her of using campaign funds to attend a worship conference in Florida, pay tuition at Agape Love Bible College, fund family trips as well as other personal expenses. The Journal Sentinel noted that Lewis’ attorney said the issues arose from accounting errors.
In another article, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the other Common Council members are not expected to be charged in relation to the case.
Lewis is not the first alderperson to face criminal charges and it is unlikely that she will be the last. And it’s unfortunate because Milwaukee deserves to have elected officials that can be respected and trusted.
Other alderpersons to be indicted and sent to prison are Rosa Cameron, Jeff Pawlinski, Paul Henningsen, and Willie Wade.
The younger generations especially should be able to admire and be inspired by the leaders in their area. An alderperson, more than other elected officials, is embedded in the community. They are a role model to constituents of all ages.
When it comes down to it, the public’s trust should be valued above all else. It is the public that will elect or re-elect someone and it is the public for whom politicians have to answer. Without the public’s trust, a career in politics is infeasible, and once that trust is gone it is next to impossible to get it back.