By LINDON DODD
Local Column —
“I ain’t sayin’ I did and I ain’t sayin’ I didn’t” — anonymous
When I was a 4-H program assistant, I used to teach an educational course called “Landfill Pie.”
In that lesson we learned all about how landfills were constructed and why it was important to recycle, because once they fill up we have to find another huge hole to dig to construct another one. And nobody wants a landfill in their backyard.
At the end of the class, I would make a dessert out of pudding, graham cracker crust and whipped cream to visually show the layers of construction. After that, each kid got a large spoonful of landfill pie to eat at the end of the class.
Our own little landfill located in Clark County has been in the news lately. As usual, it’s not good news. Landfills rarely get much respect. I would actually refer to a landfill as the Rodney Dangerfield of all of the county operations.
The thing is we all take landfills for granted until they get stuck right in the middle of another political mess. When that does happen, certain political types back up quicker than a clogged sewer pipe in your basement. People’s memories seem to get clogged and the facts are as harder to locate than Donald Trump’s natural hairline.
Apparently, according to a report in the News and Tribune, there is no disputing that the Clark County Council refused to allow a pay rise for a county employee so the commissioners — or at least some of them, depending on who you ask — simply paid him the amount of the raise that was declined from another fund — the poor old landfill fund. Another way to put it is that Peter was robbed to pay Paul. Paul was happy. Peter came up a bit short.
According to the article, one ex-commissioner said he was never informed of the arrangement.
Another commissioner at the time the deal was made agrees that funds were transferred from the fund but says it was all legal and all of the commissioners discussed it.
The third commissioner could not be reached for comment for the article.
The current commissioners are all about investigating the actions of the old commissioners. Now whenever one set of political officeholders wants to investigate another set of political officeholders leading into an election year, the hairs on the back of my political head stand straight up. Somehow, I think taxpayer dollars are going to be spent on a lot of lawyers and in the end not much will come of the investigation.
On the Clark County Chatter forums, some local irate taxpayers — and these days does there really seem to be any other kind — are all excited and saying things like they hope somebody will get in trouble and go to jail and pay for their sins.
I remember when I used to get irate at such things as taxpayer fund borrowing and transferring tax funds and such. I used to get so mad I couldn’t sleep and was going to write all about it can change the world. Well, in the end all I really accomplished was fatigue and insomnia.
So for all of my well meaning and anxiety-filled local watchdogs, I am going to save you a lot of sleepless nights. Nobody is going to be convicted of anything and nobody will be going to jail. You can put away your tar, feathers and pitchforks.
There is not enough room at the jail to even think about putting local politicians in it. And let me ask you this one rhetorical question: When was the last time you actually saw a politician go to jail for anything? And let me remind you — no money seems to be missing and unaccounted for; it was simply transferred from one fund to another for services that were performed.
Now when you start calling anything in politics illegal, you are using some high-fallutin’ word. More appropriate might be words such as unethical, immoral, back-handed, indefensible and just plain downright skullduggery. Nobody ever went to jail as a result of one of those actions.
From a legal defense standpoint, there are all kinds of governmental immunity statutes.
One long-time, politically active person with whom I had a private conversation this week explained it to me best: These kinds of things happen when you have amateurs running local government. Any person who is elected to office for the first time is an amateur. Many claim they are going to change the way it’s done and clean up Dodge City. Nobody has in my 57 years of living in Dodge City.
This whole discussion brings me back to define the terms “politician” and “public servant.” I refer to my friend Dickie Jones as a public servant, unless he refers to me as “John Gilkey Junior.” Then I call him a politician.
By the way, the State Board of Accounts is not an agency that determines what’s illegal and not illegal. It’s more of an advisory overseeing type of organization. That would ultimately be decided in a courtroom with a judge and a lot of lawyers being paid by your tax dollars.
In the end it, all reminds me a lot of my old elementary school class digging in for a large spoonful of old landfill pie. Except with mine, nobody ever complained of an aftertaste.
— Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org