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Big decision

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Councilman-elect should step aside after his arrest

By The Staff

No one is perfect.

We all make mistakes. We don't always use the best judgment and, occasionally, we act before we think.

We are human, after all.

But, when you're a public official, you should be held to a higher standard and any lack of judgment you might have or mistake you might make usually ends up in the news. Such is the case with a recent incident involving councilman-elect Jerry Abell. Abell was arrested Saturday, Nov. 27, on charges of alcohol intoxication in a public place, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Abell was arrested after he came to his daughter's residence around the time she was arrested in connection with an accident that knocked over a utility pole in front of the Lebanon Police Department. 

Since the incident occurred, many people have been wondering what Abell's future will be on the Lebanon City Council.

To be frank, we believe Abell should decline his seat on the council.

In light of the arrest, Abell now has a definite conflict of interest with the Lebanon Police Department, and we question how he could effectively make decisions for the city, specifically its police department. Whenever Abell votes on a matter involving the police department, people will question why and how he is making his decisions. Will he vote for things as a way to make amends with the department and its officers? Will he vote against things to retaliate against the local police? Either way, people have a reason to be skeptical of his motives.

Now, we are aware that an arrest is not a conviction, and we've seen enough court cases through our own public records to know that there is a good chance some of the charges may be dismissed, pled down or diverted. Even if he is convicted of every charge he is facing, legally, he would not be required to step down. 

Nevertheless, Abell's arrest has already created perception issues, in part, because he also works as a corrections officer. 

We aren't saying that Abell should lose his livelihood over a mistake, but we also know there are many in the community who are questioning how effective he can be overseeing inmates who may be facing accusations similar to his own.

Abell's arrest unfortunately came on the heels of another incident involving alcohol. Marion County boys basketball coach Anthony Epps was arrested for DUI in October. His case is still pending, but he has received a short suspension as a result of the incident. (Whether or not anything else happens will likely depend on how the case is resolved.)

As a councilman-elect, Abell doesn't have a boss to evaluate the situation and decide if any action should be taken. His bosses are the people of Lebanon and normally, they only get to weigh-in once every two years regarding who should hold the council seats.

That means Abell will make the decision about his own fate. Publicly, Abell has not commented on the incident on the advice of his attorney. If he decides to step aside, people will understand, but if he decides to stay, he'll need to offer some explanation for his decision.

 Abell has a few weeks to consider his options, and during that time, we hope he considers what is best both for him and for the city.