Historian appreciated

Peter Betz has provided a great service as Fulton County historian. The former Fulton-Montgomery Community College educator is highly respected and appreciated.

Unfortunately, he now faces a charge of petit larceny involving the alleged theft of a coffee maker at the county office building, where he works part time as historian. Regardless of whether the charges have merit, we hope this bizarre case doesn’t force him to quit his county post or be fired.

Betz, 70, also a Perth town councilman, was charged with the misdemeanor after police received a complaint from the Fulton County district attorney’s office. Police allege Betz took the coffee maker – valued at $125 – from the county grand jury room in the basement of the office building in Johnstown on April 9. Police also allege Betz replaced the coffee maker with a different one. After his arrest, the county suspended Betz from his position.

We are puzzled how the case of the missing coffee maker rose to the level of having to file charges against a county employee. The arrest was an odd turn of events.

Betz – who writes history columns for this newspaper – has shown great ability in researching local history since he became county historian in January 2006. He has a passion for the subject and has spent countless hours gathering information. Many local groups and individuals have turned to Betz for help, and he’s responded by doing the research requested. The county pays him a little more than $6,000 a year for all this.

Since the media reported on Betz’s arrest, we’ve published letters testifying to his competency and good character. There’s no question he’s accused of a petty crime, but some public officials have been accused of worse and continued to serve.

Good people are working at every level of government to make our country, state and localities better places to live in. Betz is one of those people. We hope, once his legal issue is resolved, he’ll be able to move beyond it and continue in his capacity as historian until he decides to leave for his own reasons on his own terms.