The Ocean View Town Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to lift the five-year censure of former councilman Bill Wichmann, and that sounds about right to us.
For those of you who either don’t remember, or weren’t living here at the time, Wichmann was censured in 2006 over violations of town procurement codes, organizing a cover-up and allegedly threatening a town employee. Much of the complaint made against Wichmann at that time focused on his unauthorized purchase of a generator for the town’s new police station and a comment reportedly made to a high-ranking town official.
That original vote was 3-2 against Wichmann, and former mayor Gary Meredith, who voted to censure Wichmann at that time, has since come out in favor of lifting the censure. Several comments made Tuesday night were very strong statements against lifting the censure, but the current council decided to lift Wichmann’s punishment.
What Wichmann did was wrong. Though we don’t think he intended any malice when he purchased the generator, he certainly was not authorized to do so, and the comment he allegedly made to the town official, if he really made it, was not acceptable.
However, he was not stealing town money for his own financial benefit when he purchased the generator, and we find that to be a significant factor when deciding how long a punishment should last. It’s been five years.
Wichmann has continued to volunteer his time and energy to the town through his work at the police department, and he has stayed away from making public comments against those who opposed him years ago, and that should count for something in a town that has seen people on all sides use both local newspapers on a regular basis to promote their personal agendas.
We are not excusing Wichmann’s alleged actions in the least. He should have been punished by the town for violating rules and his alleged threatening comment, and he was.
But people get the right in this country to redeem themselves, and Wichmann should be no different.