John Cassidy, a writer for The New Yorker, has called America “a nation that prides itself on granting second chances.” And we saw that here last week, when 34-year-old Megan Marsteller was promoted to chief assistant in the Washington County coroner’s office.
As we reported in the Wednesday edition, Marsteller was hired in the county’s probation office two years ago at the recommendation of her uncle, former state Sen. Barry Stout, at the same time she was apparently violating the terms of her probation in Texas for fraudulently possessing painkillers.
In the Lone Star State, Marsteller was subject to arrest after she twice failed to turn up for a four-day sentence in a Fort Worth-area lockup. Upon learning of the parole violation, her appointment to the probation department was withdrawn by President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca.
Stout disavowed any knowledge of his niece’s brush with the law in Texas, and her probation was later transferred to Pennsylvania. She was then hired in the coroner’s office, where, according to Coroner Timothy Warco, Marsteller has demonstrated “good behavior” and has developed a website for the office.
“Everybody deserves a second chance in life,” Warco said after her $34,875 annual paycheck for the chief assistant’s job was approved by the Washington County Salary Board.
We agree that individuals who have run afoul of the law deserve a second chance. Some of the most renowned figures in American life, from Bill Gates to Johnny Cash, had minor scrapes with the authorities and went on to great achievement. And, in fairness, employers are not allowed to have policies that would turn away anyone ever convicted of a crime, though they can turn away prospective employees from positions directly related to what got them in trouble in the first place – it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense to hire an accountant fresh from serving time for embezzlement, for instance.
But we wonder – and people struggling to right their own ships after being charged with similar offenses must also wonder – if Marsteller would have received a soft landing on the Washington County payroll if she hadn’t been a niece of Stout, still an influential power player in the county, and, as it turns out, the sister-in-law of Warco’s son.
Yes, we are a country that prides itself on second chances. But those second chances would appear to come easier to the well-connected.