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This article was originally published on May 23, 2023. It has been republished for emphasis.
COLUMBUS, Ga. — “Truth will ultimately prevail where pains is taken to bring it to light.” — George Washington, in a letter to Charles Thruston, August 10, 1794.
Before we dive in, it is important that the reader first understands the significance and brief story behind the quote from George Washington printed above.
The quote from Washington is from a letter he wrote in reply to Charles M. Thruston, a delegate from Frederick County, Virginia. Thruston had first written to Washington to warn him of small factions of the neighboring Kentucky government that were censoring and withholding information from the public in hopes of nefariously achieving political ends to undermine their newly-formed representative government and return to the monarchical control of Great Britain.
Washington responded to Thruston’s warning by reminding him that “truth will ultimately prevail where pains is taken to bring it to light,” empowering Thruston to take the action required to expose the truth to the public. Washington knew the public would make good use of it to secure the sanctity of their own government — and he was ultimately right.
So, too, will be the future of our city of Columbus, Georgia — if and only if our elected officials honor their oaths and take such pains to bring uncensored truth to light.
In recent months, there have been several instances of our city councilors appearing to the public to be idly standing by while other officials — both elected and appointed — are permitted to make a mockery of our City Charter and our representative form of government.
According to sources close to the Muckraker, these actions have been outwardly permitted to persist — entirely unchallenged — out of city councilors’ fear of taking action; fear of how some members of the public may perceive them if they were to take the appropriate actions to uphold our city’s laws.
However, what some councilors may not be considering is how their inaction ironically causes the very effect they are trying to avoid: a negative perception of council’s weakness by its constituents, ultimately resulting in the public disdain they are fearful of in the first place.
Should council discover the irony of this reality, they may come to actually embrace the responsibilities they are empowered to uphold instead of shying away from them — and there is nothing more their constituents would value from their elected officials than that.
Those responsibilities which council members are empowered to uphold are enumerated in their oaths of office. Their constituents don’t merely legally require that their oaths are upheld, but they need them to be as a People: both for their own good and for the good of our government.
The future of our city depends upon it.
Here’s a detailed look at the full oath of office sworn by our city council members.
THE OATH OF CITY COUNCILOR OF COLUMBUS, GEORGIA
“I, (state your name), do solemnly swear (or affirm), that I will well truly and faithfully perform the duties of Council Member of Columbus, Georgia to the best of my ability…”
City council members begin their oath by setting forth a solemn promise to the People of Columbus, Georgia. Though the oath is administered by both state and local courts as we are a city/county consolidated government, that government is a representative and democratic one. Therefore, the promises and affirmations made by councilors are to their constituents and fellow Georgians as a People.
“…and that I will support and defend the Charter thereof, as well as the Constitution and laws of the State of Georgia and of the United States of America…”
Councilors then continue their oath by promising to uphold the City Charter of Columbus, Georgia. The City Charter is the first and most important part of the Columbus Code of Ordinances. It dictates what our city’s form of government is, how it is organized, what the powers and duties of each branch are, how elections are to be carried out, how revenue is to be administered, and what ethics must be upheld. The City Charter grants more power and authority to city councilors than to any other elected or appointed official in Muscogee County, including the Mayor. Since city council is the legislative body of our city’s government, it has the power to overrule just about any action taken by anyone else by a supermajority vote of seven council members. The city charter also grants council members the power to conduct investigations into any department or individual they see fit, including the power to administer oaths for the deliverance of testimony and to subpoena witnesses and evidence through the Clerk of Council. The swearing of this section of a city councilor’s oath of office requires council to uphold those powers and responsibilities as set forth in the city charter and requires them to do so to the utmost of their ability.
“ …and that I further do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will well and truly discharge the duties of Council District (number) of the Columbus/Muscogee County Government in all matters that require my official action to the best of my knowledge and skill, and that I will so act, and my judgment will be most conducive to the welfare and best interest of the entire County…”
The oath continues by having council members make the same solemn promise to take action in their duties as councilors by “well and truly discharging” them, as opposed to standing idly by in the face of things that would rightfully require their official action. Councilors have a legal obligation to act in the face of controversy instead of hiding themselves away in fear of being judged or chastised by members of the public; they must act to discharge their duties to uphold the City Charter, as stated in this section of their oath. Additionally, councilors are required to do so in a way that is “most conducive to the welfare and best interest of the entire county,” which implies that councilors must endeavor to uphold the City Charter in a way that provides equal protection to be recognized without favoritism in accordance with the constitutions of the United States and of the State of Georgia.
“…I have been a resident thereof for the time required by the Constitution and laws of this State and of this County for the time required by law…”
In order for councilors to be eligible to hold office, they must have first been residents of the City of Columbus for a period of two years prior to the date of their election. By swearing this section of their oath, councilors are solemnly affirming that they have in fact met this and all other requirements regarding their citizenship within the jurisdiction of their office.
“…I do further swear (or affirm) that I am not the holder of any unaccounted-for public money due to this State or any public subdivision or authority thereof, that I am not the holder of any office of trust under the Government of the United States, the State of Georgia, or any other state, or any foreign state which I am prohibited from holding by the laws of the State of Georgia…”
Councilors also make the same solemn promise that they aren’t in possession of any money that they shouldn’t be, swearing that they don’t have any public funds that have not yet been returned to the public. Councilors are also not permitted to hold any other elected office or other privileged government position of employment or appointment while serving as a city councilor, be it here in Columbus, anywhere else in Georgia, throughout the country, or even in a different nation altogether.
“…and that I am otherwise qualified to hold said office according to the Constitution of the United States and the laws of Georgia, and that I will support the constitutions of the United States and of this State. So help me God.”
Councilors conclude their oaths by reaffirming that they are entirely qualified to serve as a city councilor in all capacities, as enumerated by state and federal laws. In closing, councilors again reaffirm their obligation to — above all else — support the constitution of the United States, so help them God.
Our city looks forward to councilors honoring their oaths of office. It empowers them with more than they may know — and they might truly come to embrace that once they understand it.
The future of our city depends upon it.
We depend upon you.
Facts are stubborn things — and we’ll keep publishing them, whether city officials like them or not.
© 2023 Muscogee Muckraker. All rights reserved.
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