The “cloud” that remains over the city of Joseph is starting to take on the appearance of smoke. And where there is smoke, there is fire.

All popular adages aside, there truly is a mess in the city of Joseph, and it seems to be getting worse.

The good news of the council appointing Brock Eckstein as its interim administrator to get through budget season was overshadowed by a second accusation of harassment by a city employee, who is on leave currently and may not return to work.

The news of Dennis Welch’s accusation was announced by Councilwoman Lisa Collier at the City Council meeting Thursday, May 6, and came after the council was already dressed down in a letter by the Joseph Chamber of Commerce and by members of the community who were in attendance.

One accusation of harassment — that by former city Administrator Larry Braden last month — should have been enough for an immediate call for an investigation. This second charge ups the ante.

We already wrote in this space two weeks ago that it was concerning the council kept silent on whether there would be an investigation.

Now, any answer other than “yes” to that question should send up a massive red flag.

Any accusation of harassment is a matter that must be looked into, and the reasons are pretty simple.

Suppose Councilman Matt Soots is correct in his opining last week that this may be a case of individuals being thin-skinned. If what has been claimed as harassment doesn’t rise to that severity after all, the community of Joseph — and the council — needs to know that as soon as possible.

But if these accusations are, in fact, valid, then a thorough investigation must be done, and quickly. The chamber, in its letter that was read to the council last week, called for the individual or individuals responsible — if this is indeed a valid charge — to resign.

We agree, as we called for the same move in this space recently.

We also know, though, that the process must be allowed to play out, and we don’t want to point an accusatory finger until we know for certain where it must be directed.

Which is why the investigation must begin. Immediately.

Residents of the city of Joseph are starting to lose trust in their government. Accountability is the only thing that can begin to restore order and put out this fire before it turns from a manageable blaze into a raging inferno.

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