Much to the delight of some and consternation of others, this past week saw the abrupt dissolution of the Clark County Department of Environmental Services.
What made it so pleasurable to some is of course, much hated Sen. Don Benton (R 17) was effectively fired from the position he was hired to lead the department and that caused so much controversy, fueled by a near lynch mob mentality led by the local newspaper, the Lazy C.
The firestorm lit off back then has simmered and burned ever since from the left as well as editors and writers employed by the Lazy C, even though none has ever supplied any actual evidence of managerial incompetence, just allegations of not being qualified and of course, the ongoing, decades long hate fest against Benton.
At one time the Department must have been seen as very necessary as it was just a few years ago it was formed when two-thirds of the County Commission consisted of commissioners the Lazy C and the left still gush all over.
The Department of Environmental Services was brought into being back in January 2010 when the County Council consisted of Marc Boldt, Steve Stuart and Tom Mielke, the lone conservative leaning commissioner. The claim was, “Clark County combined seven existing county environmental programs to form the new Department of Environmental Services (DES). This consolidation of services increases the county’s efficiency and effectiveness through greater coordination and collaboration, ultimately strengthening the protection and enhancement Clark County’s natural environment” from the DES.
Of course there is that little matter of the County losing the suit over noncompliance with state stormwater regulations as well as claims Benton negotiated settlement of the claim down considerably and kept the fines to be paid remaining within the county.
Forgotten in all of that is it was the refusal of the former commissioners to comply with state regulations, led by environmentalist then Commissioner Stuart, which led to the suit in the first place.
Some allege Benton had little to do with negotiating the fine and I will leave that to others to debate.
Suffice it to say that the DES seems to have been a much needed Department, until former temporary County Commissioner Ed Barnes floated the notion of dissolving the department in November 2014. Barnes denied it had anything to do with his personal dislike of Benton and was a suggestion to increase efficiency.
Mike Dalesandro, when a candidate for County Council chair made the same suggestion of dissolving the department saying then, “If you look back at why this department was created, it was created during a time when the county was going through some stormwater issues and challenges and there was this whole battle going on. That was one of the primary reasons this department was created. Those issues have been resolved. This is not a new discussion.’’
“By dissolving the DES and rolling those duties into our existing organizational structure, we can save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars annually while continuing to provide the same services. The county has operated this way before and we can certainly do it again.”
The now floated notion of the dissolution of the DES coming out of the blue and completely unexpected seems odd given efforts over the last year and a half in suggestions.
I also can’t honestly say there were no personal considerations or dislikes involved either, but other than circumstantial evidence and creative “connecting the dots,” how could anybody ever actually prove such a claim?
I will also add I find it highly irregular that the four people losing their jobs, Don Benton, Susan Rice, Chris Clifford and Nick Cimmiyotti being escorted out by Sheriff’s Deputies and that such an act fuels claims of a personal vendetta.
Acting County Manager, Mark McCauley claims, “We have budget pressures. My goal is to make the county as efficient as it can be. I think this reorganization will.
He also said the decision is “strictly to do with overhead” and “has nothing to do with performance, nothing to do with personalities.”
Needless to say, embattled County Councilor Madore disagrees.
Also rather odd since Madore claims to lead the struggle to streamline county government into a more efficient and less costly system.
Prior to the dissolution of the DES, Benton did file a “Whistleblower” complaint against Mark McCauley and the County that remains pending.
Little doubt that feeds into allegations of McCauley’s reasons for dissolving the Department being “bald-faced lies” and “revenge.”
Cutting through all of the smoke & mirrors coming from both sides now reveals a small fact many are ignoring.
Back when Benton was hired, the County Commissioners had every legal right to hire Benton as they did, even admitted to by former Lazy C writer, Stephanie Rice, buried deep within a May 2, 2013 article, “While the county typically publicly advertises job openings, commissioners, or other elected county officials, do have discretion to bypass the regular process and appoint department heads.”
Likewise, since we are now under a Home Rule Charter, McCauley has the authority under Article 3, Section 3.2, B. Powers and Duties in the charter to “Determine the organizational structure of and assign duties to administrative departments which are not specifically assigned by this charter or ordinance.”
In other words, even though he is still just the “acting” County Manager, not selected as permanent just yet, he has full authority to act just as he did, not unlike when Don Benton was hired.
Controversy and baseless allegations aside, Mark McCauley acted within his authority and other than rattle gums and stir up more contentions, little can be done, notwithstanding final determination of the before mentioned Whistleblower complaint.
Maybe we all would be better served if all of the backbiting and throwing of darts at each other ceased and elected officials learned how to put their differences aside and worked on behalf of the people of Clark County.
But I have little hope of that happening as fringe elements from across the spectrum seem to live to stir up contentions.
As for Don Benton, once all of the dust settles from this, I have no doubt he will land on his feet. He has shown he is quite resilient.
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