Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

Candidates who fake credentials try to steal our votes

I recently wrote about a county commission candidate who committed one of the gravest sins in American politics, and now a new controversy has sprung up over a man who has been active in city of Palmetto and Manatee County politics for years.

In the previous instance, the debate was over whether a candidate who had been to Iraq as a civilian employee of the U.S. Army was qualified to describe her experience as having served “two tours” in Iraq.

The notion of serving a tour in a combat zone has always been reserved for someone who has served in the military. In many wars, people have served in a civilian capacity and have been careful to specify that fact, setting them apart from those in the military who “served tours.” The attempt to play fast and loose with the truth bothers me a great deal. Although I don’t use my military service to define myself as a person, the title “veteran” is one that is reserved for those who have submitted themselves for a time to military orders and discipline, and needs to be respected. More on this later, especially the title “veteran.”

But in the case of seat 2 on the Manatee County Commission, we have a case involving a candidate named Charles B. Smith who, it has been found, appears to have lied on his resume about having a degree from the University of Central Florida, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

The university has been going through its records and its latest revelation was of a person with Smith’s name attending the college in 1984-85 and enrolled as a criminal justice major, but not graduating. According to the story, it is going through records that “predate(e) current databases.”

If the accusation is true, it’s again a sign that when it comes to credentials people are eager to cheat and grab what isn’t theirs, even if those who have worked and qualified are denied opportunities.

The sad thing is that I knew, respected and interviewed Smith a few times for stories I wrote. He came across as a decent person who really cared about the community. The trouble is that in this day and age, having an inaccurate resume will come back to haunt you. Claiming an unearned degree is a lousy way to advance yourself.

It’s upsetting to me because I had to work hard for my degree, which took me six years because I was working nights and weekends. I didn’t get to experience much of the college life because I was trying to overcome an unecouraging workplace environment where the pursuit of higher education was disdained as a “waste of time” and disrespected at all levels of authority. Many of my bosses in the Postal Service had lied on their own resumes about their qualifications for their jobs. It was considered an accepted way to move yourself up.

I did the work and put in the time, and walked across the stage on graduation day. I don’t have to hem and haw and worry about what’s in the records at Florida Atlantic University because I know what’s there, and that I haven’t lied to get where I am today.

It’s frustrating to see this happening again.

In regard to veteran status, an interesting case is the one of David Santiago, a Republican running for re-election in District 27. According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Santiago has claimed veterans status and even defeated a Vietnam veteran for his office.

His service consisted of basic training (when he was considered to be on active duty) followed by about seven years in the Army Reserves. He served out his Reserve commitment, and received an honorable discharge and a DD-214, which he provided to get a V designation on his driver license.

It’s complicated, but based on a variety of rules, the state considers Santiago to be a veteran, but the federal government does not.

Personally, I think he is qualified to have veteran status. He may not qualify for VA benefits because of his reserve status, but so long as attended his drills and was discharged – and his discharge certificate and DD-214 are in order – then he is a veteran. As to whether a campaign should be the battle of who is or isn’t a veteran, that’s for another time.

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November 1, 2014 - Posted by | Education, Politics | , , , , , , ,

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