Bisbee, Brummett, and a bit of Baker
Benton County Judge David Bisbee made the news again. This time the issue is that he used his own company, Valley Homes, to remodel the County Assessor’s and County Collector’s Offices. The job cost the county $15,433, a thousand dollars less than the only other bid we know of. Bisbee claims that he’s handing that particular remodeling company off to an employee and won’t see any of the money from the deal. Columnist John Brummett seems quite eager to excuse the episode as not a problem of Bisbee’s ethics, but rather his tendency to be “bossy”.
It amazes me the things that John Brummett can get worked up about and the things he attempts to excuse or write off. Judge Bisbee may be bossy, but lots of county judges are bossy without self-dealing, which is exactly what this is. When Bisbee hires his own company to renovate county offices using taxpayer dollars he is self-dealing, plain and simple. Brummett’s efforts to change the charge to the less-serious offense of “being bossy” is a poor attempt at a white-wash. This is not a personality issue, it’s a criminal issue. It’s a corruption issue, and this is not the first time Bisbee has been faced with such issues.
The fact that they got another bid that was a little higher before the self-dealing began is little more than a fig-leaf. This county is full of builders, remodelers, and sub-contractors hungry for work. Contractor supply centers are closing down because things are so bad in the building business right now. I know what I am talking about because I work at one of them myself (National Home Center Bentonville, Furniture Dept.) Does anyone expect us to believe that the County Judge made a serious effort to get someone else to bid the job before finding that his own firm offered the lowest price? Such a fairy tale is an insult to the intelligence of the voters in this county.
Also Dead on Arrival is Bisbee’s excuse that he is in the process of handing the firm over to an employee and “won’t see a penny” from the job. Poppycock. Whenever that firm get’s “handed over” there will be an exchange for value. The value of that firm just went up because it has a county remodel job on its books at a time when many remodel firms have to let people go and close down. Unless the “employee” is his son, I am confident that Bisbee will see many pennies from the deal. They will simply be from monies that his employee gives for the firm rather than directly from the monies that the county will give that firm for the job.
There is no way to justify what Dave Bisbee has done, but Brummett does try mightily to redirect attention. He even gets into the feud Bisbee has with now U.S. Senate Candidate Gilbert Baker. Baker is one of a host of Republicans running for the chance to replace the exceedingly unpopular Blanche Lincoln. Baker, though head of the Republican Party at the time, split the central Arkansas state senators off from the NWA senators to deny Bisbee a chance to be President Pro Tem of the Senate. The job went to the Democrat Baker cut a deal with rather than fellow Republican Bisbee. For his role in that bit of treachery (and perhaps some other episodes where Senator Baker has displayed some trickery) Brummett calls Baker a “back-stabbing little runt”.
Character aside, Brummett’s comment about Baker’s build is uncalled for. So is the unequal treatment of bad behavior.