THUMBS DOWN to the situation in the town of Anson, where the tax collector, Claudia Viles, continues in her position even after the discovery that more than $400,000 in tax money has gone missing over the last four years.

The problem in Anson, and a dispute in the Somerset County office, shows why in many cases the election of government officials to administrative positions is an antiquated notion.

Viles, the elected tax collector in Anson for 42 years, has been under suspicion since an audit discovered the missing money.

The town has recovered some of the money through its insurance carrier, and now a civil lawsuit has been filed against Viles alleging that she purposely misappropriated the money.

There also has been a monthslong investigation by state police, but no formal charges have been made. And, because she is elected, and there are no charges, the town is limited in the action it can take against her.

In Somerset County, there has been a protracted dispute between county commissioners and Diane Godin, the registrar of deeds.

After Godin was re-elected last November, county officials accused her of being rude to customers, and bullying and intimidating employees. She also frequently did not show up for work, commissioners said.

Commissioners have reduced her work hours, but cannot do much more, again, because she is elected.

In some cases, it may be possible to recall elected officials. But that is a long and cumbersome process, and it shouldn’t be necessary in these cases.

Electing residents to posts such as tax collector, town clerk and registrar of deeds is a practice left over from the state’s beginnings, when duties were relatively simple and straightforward, and all residents were expected to contribute to town business.

That business has grown in complexity. And unlike selectmen and commissioners, clerks, registrars and tax collectors are not political, but administrative. Competency matters, not personal politics.

Voters on the whole do a good job of selecting people for these positions, but when disputes such as the recent ones arise, it makes it clear that the positions should be appointed, not elected. They are government employees, and must be fully under the oversight of the top elected officials.

THUMBS UP to the U.S. Army for allowing women into its famed Ranger School, leaving open the possibility that women will be considered for the elite 75th Ranger Regiment.

And kudos also to the women who have taken advantage of the opportunity.

There is no need to hold back women from these positions just because of their gender. The notoriously difficult standards for these units are themselves a sufficient screening process.

And they are non-discriminatory — if a soldier, man or woman, can make the grade, then they can do the job, and should be allowed to serve.

Right now, in the swamps of Florida, two women are engaged alongside men in the last field event for Ranger School. The final test is a 10-day mission through the brush carrying 70 pounds of equipment. If the women finish, they will have endured more than 120 days of brutal training.

About 4,000 students start Ranger School each year, but only about 1,600 graduate. The two remaining women are among the 20 women who qualified for the Ranger School class that began in April, joining 380 men. Those who finish receive the coveted Ranger Tab. Men then can try to qualify for the 75th Regiment, an elite Special Operations unit.

Women were only allowed into combat-arms roles starting in 2013, and until now no woman has made it to the final phase of Ranger School. If even one of the remaining women graduates, the Pentagon will have to confront its ban on women in the 75th Ranger Regiment.

The Army is making sure that the women are being held to the same standards as the men. It figures, then, that if they are successful in meeting those standards, they should have the same opportunities.


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