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Loot or legacy?

There's no place better suited for deep reflection than a parting tribute for a person whose life left an indelible legacy prompting admiration and praise.

So it was the other day in a pew at Harrison's First Presbyterian Church along with 200 or so others who were there to pay final respects to the remarkable legacy of Harrison's Thelma Reeves. You may recall I've written previously of the woman's selfless gifts to this world.

Listening to pastor D.C. Adams speak about deeper purposes, I was impressed by his advice about choosing whether we set our goals on acquiring "loot" or establishing a "legacy."

While such goals aren't mutually exclusive, we each invariably set priorities for how we choose our life's fundamental direction across a lifetime.

Thelma's choice for leaving a positive legacy was obvious from the way she lived her 95 years in service to others. The result was evident in her packed funeral service on an afternoon when snow was falling and the Razorbacks were playing an SEC tournament game. She had impacted so many lives in positive ways, as evidenced by the overwhelming turnout.

I walked out under the gray sky and drifting flakes, still thinking of Thelma and how she'd left the world and hundreds of lives in a better place because she lived.

As it is with many funerals nowadays, I was prompted to reflect on my priorities. How about you?

Official charged

Speaking of choosing loot (I prefer lucre) over legacy, the affliction of elected public servants being charged with criminal activities is by no means limited to legislators, as further evidenced by charges filed against the longtime Newton County assessor.

Sheila McCutcheon, already facing one charge of theft filed last June, was working the other day in the courthouse office she's occupied since 1997 (with the exception of about six months last year) when police arrived to place her in handcuffs for the drive 19 miles north to the Harrison Police Department.

This time the charge, filed in Boone County, was perjury, alleged to have happened in connection with an ongoing civil case involving her late mother's estate. The news account by ace reporter Bill Bowden said McCutcheon swore under oath on Feb. 11, 2016, that she'd never signed or forged her mother's name to checks or documents.

But Deputy Prosecutor Brad Brown of the 14th Judicial Circuit claims McCutcheon did commit felony perjury since she said she hadn't forged the signature but an expert document examiner determined that she'd signed her mother's name on dozens of checks and other documents.

Frances L. Smith was 82 when she died June 22, 2014.

Meanwhile, McCutcheon's court date on the theft charge is set for April. She is alleged to have used a county credit card to purchase about $11,000 in personal items. McCutcheon still holds office since she's not been convicted of a crime.

Yet she's already repaid the county more than $10,000 after police reported she and her daughter admitted last May to misusing county credit cards to purchase various personal items including groceries, according to the news story. Neither McCutcheon not her attorney were returning phone calls related to the cases as of last week. Can't say as I fault them. What's any defense attorney got to say except "my client is innocent"?

Interestingly enough, McCutcheon did resign after the theft arrest. But since she'd already filed for re-election with no opponent, she resumed her duties in January. Obviously, there was no doubt she won.

Such alleged behavior provides yet another sad and cautionary tale that unfolds when greed overwhelms common sense even among our elected public servants.

Fruitless suspense

The suspense was palpable the other day as a locksmith drilled into a safe that was believed to have sat unopened for at least 40 years in a corner of the District Court at Harrison.

Since no one knew the combination, officials decided the time had arrived to learn what the 600-pound box held. Hence cometh locksmith John Villines.

Speculations were the safe might hold anything from guns to important federal documents. There were even concerns it possibly had been safeguarded with tear gas. Villines drilled. People watched. Authorities were summoned. Tensions mounted. After nearly three hours several holes and some skilled manipulations, the door swung open to reveal, wait for it ... waaait now.

A small sign reading "open," another that said "closed," and the elusive combination to opening the safe (clearly stored in a safe place, sorry).

I couldn't help but recall Geraldo Rivera's mega-hyped, live 1986 TV event opening Al Capone's supposedly secret vault to discover nothing but an empty bottle.

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Mike Masterson's column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

Editorial on 03/18/2017

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