Circle the Wagons (for Mr. Deeds)

Fellow blogger and newly elected Register of Deeds, Jeff Thigpen, is being harangued on his blog by one of his own employees, who refuses to reveal their identity.

The issue is a new-hire put in place at the last moment in a secretive manner by the outgoing Register of Deeds, Katherine Lee Payne. Jeff asked Payne not to proceed with filling this position at the last moment without his participation in the process. She did so anyway. Jeff cautioned Payne that the results of this action might be that someone would leave their current job to take one in the ROD office that was not guaranteed, as Payne was leaving and Jeff wanted to be in charge of hiring his own staff on his own timetable. It was a reasonable request; Payne did not act reasonably.

The result was predictable. Jeff let the new staff member go during his first week. Payne had extended an offer of employment that she, having lost the election, could not possibly honor.

The comments poster has hurled many epithets at Jeff, including calling him "a spoiled little boy who had the red licked off his candy", and accusing him of discrimination against the new hire "because she was African-American or a Woman."

This last troubles me more than any other wild, paranoid rant I have read on a blog. It is libelous and irresponsible language, and it is grossly off the mark.

How do I know?

I have known Jeff for 14 years. His first campaign for public office (county commissioner) was the subject of my masters thesis at UNCG. I spent days interviewing him about why he wanted to be in public service, what he would do to ward off the demons of power and corruption once there, and what he hoped to accomplish. I have met his family, know his friends, and have seen him throw his arm around people of all colors, backgrounds, genders, and political parties. Quite simply, Jeff is not a hater. He treats everyone as his equal or better. He struggles with how to be a better person, citizen, and elected official. For him to discriminate on the basis of race or sex is about as likely as Bin Laden converting to Christianity. As I stated previously, Jeff is a man of integrity.

Of additional interest, the news here is that it isn't news; it's unfolding on a blog. This is perhaps the capstone argument in the debate over what traditional news outlets cannot do that blogs can, and how the world is changing as we type. The Rhino Times' profile of Jeff touches lightly on the controversy, but doesn't delve into what is actually happening. Unless you are a blog reader, you are not getting the story.

Now that you have it, Jeff could use your support.

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