Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Benton County Foibles

Benton County Judge and former State Senator Dave Bisbee.
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News from county government in Benton County continues to be disturbing. This is the premier Republican county in the state. If they can't manage their home turf well then it speaks pretty poorly about their chances of offering a competent alternative to the Democrats in 2010. Most of the controversy swirls around County Judge Dave Bisbee, a former State Senator.

First, one of his top managers announced her resignation when Bisbee appointed one of his former primary opponents to a newly created post. The primary opponent had endorsed Bisbee in the run-off for the Republican nomination, a critical factor in Bisbee's victory in that run-off election. Accusations of Quid Pro Quo abounded.

Then there was the ice-storm cleanup controversy. When the ice storm hit Bisbee rounded up every tree service the county did business with and sent them to work. Amazingly, the contracts under which they worked had a high per-tree rate and no volume discounts or caps. The contracts were written for situations where they had to take their whole crew out to cut down one tree, and that was it!

Come on. There have been ice storms in Benton County before. Couldn't they foresee such a situation? Didn't anybody read the contracts before they sent the crews out? Bisbee "renegotiated" the contracts after the fact, using the leverage that if the firms ever wanted to work for the county again they would give back the millions the contracts said they were owed for a few days work. One small service in Decatur said they could live with that, they wanted the 1.4 million dollars they got for cutting the trees. The feds will pay most of it, but of course the feds get it from us.

Now comes accusations that Bisbee's appointments to the planning commission have been done on the sly and have been drawn from one narrow group. This might be more quid-pro quo, as another former primary opponent who endorsed Bisbee for the run-off would have an interest in this matter.

Here is the letter to the editor from RJ Kossieck:

I think Judge Bisbee's "Do Right Rule" has been bent out of shape before the paint was dry. I am referring to the appointment of Lane Gurel as a member of the planning board. Although procedurally legal, the method was unethical if not downright sneaky. It was not on the published agenda and was brought up under "Other Business." Under existing Quorum Court rules, the public had no opportunity to comment on Mr. Gurel's nomination. Smart move, Judge.

I am also disappointed in the majority of the members of the Quorum Court for not recognizing this and insisting the public have input. Both new planning board members are members of ABLE and both were part of the lawsuit against the Condos. Polarized? You better believe it. Planning board activities affect everyone therefore the public should be entitled to input on the nominees.

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