Meekins’ mistake

February 18, 2014

Is a three-decade-old misdemeanor enough to disqualify someone from elected office? That will be your call, which is the point we will make in today’s Our View.

We didn’t go looking for dirt on Lloyd “Micky” Meekins, a local businessman who filed last week for the District 6 seat on the county Board of Commissioners. We don’t as a matter of routine do criminal background checks on candidates, and even if we had in this instance, it’s doubtful that we would have found anything since Meekins’ crime occurred in South Carolina.

Instead, an email that was sent to us anonymously put us into action. If a candidate had been charged with shoplifting or driving while impaired 30 years ago, there is a good chance we would have ignored it, believing that people can rehabilitate themselves and a person’s past should not be the main sail in that person’s future.

But this case was different because Meekins was charged with violating federal election laws — and, we contend, elections laws are violated routinely in Robeson County through the manipulation of hauling voters to the polls. There is currently an investigation into election fraud in the recent municipal elections, and the probe is not limited to what did or did not occur in Pembroke.

According to a newspaper account at the time, Meekins was charged in Dillon County, S.C., with conspiracy, obstruction of justice and voting more than once. In the end, Meekins agreed to testify against others in exchange for pleading guilty to a misdemeanor conspiracy charge.

To his credit, when a reporter from The Robesonian called Meekins and asked him what happened, he was forthright but not without excuses for his actions, saying that he was young, broke and naive, and unaware of the laws that were being violated in an attempt to elect as sheriff a person he characterized as a friend.

He said he had planned to make a full confession in a letter, presumably to be published in this newspaper, to the public.

Thirty years is a long time, and Meekins appears to have used it well. He is a successful businessman and has taken a seat on local civic boards. If elected, he has promised to take the loot that our county commissioners honor themselves with through pay and stipend and spread it around the community instead of depositing it into his bank account.

That will certainly win a few votes.

People tend to be forgiving, and our guess is that not too many people will hold Meekins’ actions from 30 years ago against him when they go to vote; others surely will.

That’s the point — the information is now yours to use as you see fit.