We live in era in which people deliberately engage in all sorts of illegal conduct and then get off with a slap on the wrist.
Plea bargaining reduces serious offenses to minor misdemeanors, and then sentences is suspended on the misdemeanor. The average citizen is left to wonder what has happened to the old-fashioned relationship between crime and punishment.
The case against Sterling Tucker is remarkable because it is so completely defferent.
Tucker is charged with having accepted a part-time job as a lecturer at Howard University although the home rule charter says the chairman of the city Council is not supposed to accept other employment for pay. The punishment that Corporation Counsel John R.Risher Jr.proposes to inflict is removal from office.
To form an opinion on the case, one must consider two points. The first is the matter of guilt or innocence. Risher says that the case is open and shut: Tucker did what he was specifically forbidden to do and is therefore guilty of a crime that disqualifies him from office. Tucker points out that he didn't accept the lecture assignment until he had been assured on Capitol Hill that it would be legal. After he began to lecture, he never made any secret of his activity nor of the income it produced for him. Everything was out in the open. Yet nobody from the Corporation Counsel's office or the Mayor's office ever came forward to suggest that Tucker should resign his moonlighting job.
The first objection came in the form of a demand that Tucker be thrown out of office. And this brings us to the second point that must be considered: If Tucker is deemed guilty of a transgression, is eviction from office a suitable punishment for the thing he did?.
It seems to me that good lawyers could differ on whether Tucker was guilty of an offense, but men of good will would have to agree that he didn't engage in conduct that would bring the City Council into disrepute nor did he try to hide his affiliation with the university. Whether or not he made an error of judgement in accepting the lecture assignment, his actions were those of a responsible and dignified member of the community not a criminal. What's more, he resigned his lecturejob before Risher filed charges against him for holding it, which puts a clear light on the Corporation Counsel's continuing prosecution of the case. Is is not an attempt to remedy a wrong; it is punitive.
Is it, then, appropriate to speak of throwing Tucker outof office for the crime of lecturing at a university? I doubt it.
Tucker is part of the top management of a billion-dollar business. His pay is $35,000 a year - a good salary by some standards, but less than the $52,500 that Major Washington gets,and far less than the six-figure salaries paid to top executives of billion-dollar companies in the private sector. When I think of how much of a $35,000 income must be paid out in taxes and how much it costs to support a family these days, I can't get too incensed about a man who is willing to give up some of his spare time to earn additional income. Can you