It's debatable whether probation before judgment, a hefty fine and community service are sufficient penalties for Mayor Sheila Dixon's crimes of embezzlement and perjury, particularly given that the deal she struck with prosecutors allows her to keep her pension of more than $80,000 a year and, theoretically, run for office again. The fact that taxpayers will be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars for someone who disgraced the office of mayor is particularly galling.
However, the important thing is that Mayor Dixon has agreed to resign from office as of Feb. 4. If not for this arrangement, she might well have dragged the city through legal limbo for months, and that would have been profoundly harmful. As it is, Ms. Dixon has taken her first relatively graceful step since the investigation into her affairs began. She can now begin an orderly transition of power to City Council President Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake (preparations for which had not been taking place despite Ms. Dixon's legal jeopardy), and the city can emerge from the taint of corrupt leadership.
The point of the case against Ms. Dixon was never the relative seriousness of the criminal charges she faced. It didn't matter whether it was embezzlement of $600 or $6 million. The point was that she had abused a position of public trust. By that same token, the point of the penalty Ms. Dixon should face is not the size of the fine, the number of hours of community service or whether she ever sees the inside of a jail cell. It is to remove her from that position of public trust. Her pension is an ugly price to pay to ensure that bit of justice is done promptly and smoothly, but the benefit of immediately restoring honest leadership outweighs that cost.