News and Tribune

October 18, 2012

HARBESON: M*A*S*H, Clark County style

By DEBBIE HARBESON
Local columnist

— I have to admit that I’m having trouble following the latest episode in the ongoing saga that is Clark County government. Was property improperly sold to a commissioner’s daughter? Did her father know about it? Did Erika’s long lost twin-sister’s deceased ex-husband come back from the dead?

Oh sorry, I think that one is from another soap opera. Maybe what I should do for now is see if I can just sort out the cast of characters.

To help put all of this together, I’m going to match them to characters in the television show M*A*S*H. The inspiration for this idea came from Clark County Commissioner Les “Col. Potter” Young. When asked about details surrounding his signing over deeds to a fellow commissioner’s daughter, he introduced M*A*S*H into this controversy by claiming that he may be the victim of the “Radar Treatment.”

He was apparently referring to County Attorney Greg “Radar” Fifer, since he was the person who presented the deeds to Young for his signature. “Radar” Fifer agrees that “Col. Potter” Young may not have completely understood the “significance of the deeds he was signing.”

Fifer has an even bigger part to play in this particular episode. The commissioners say they were following his specific recommendation to handle the sale of some of the private properties that did not receive bids during a 2010 tax sale.

According to the News and Tribune report, there were a total of 182 properties left over and Fifer recommended that the commissioners use a company called SRI Inc. which specializes in tax sales. However for some as of yet unknown reason, Fifer recommended they use this option for 130 of the properties. For the other properties, he recommended using a local law firm, one where he just happens to be a partner.

In addition, he may have made mistakes in following government regulations for advertising the properties. In the article, Fifer said, “I’m not perfect. Maybe I made a mistake, I don’t know.”

This is not a problem though because if he did make any mistakes that may end up costing the county money, surely he’ll step up, say he’s accountable for his actions, and take responsibility. After all, that’s exactly what he thinks Attorney Jack Vissing should do in regards to mistakes Fifer says Vissing made concerning the fiasco over property purchased for the Clark County airport.

But enough about “Radar,” next up in our cast of Clark County characters is Commissioner Ed “Maj. Frank Burns” Meyer. On the television show, Maj. Burns often hurled confusing comments at people who confronted him with questions about his actions. Similarly, when Meyer was asked to give his daughter’s contact information during a commissioner’s meeting, he said, “Don’t mess with my family.”

Meyer certainly is under no obligation to give out anyone’s contact information, but what is that comment supposed to mean? How is asking for contact information messing with someone’s family?

Meyer says that his daughter has the same right as any other adult citizen to bid on property. That’s true, and just like any other individual who wants to try to make a buck by taking advantage of tax sales on property claimed by government, she moves out into the public realm. Meyer cannot possibly be surprised that there might be increased scrutiny when a government entity makes property transactions with a close relative of a county executive, particularly if regulations on handling the sale may not have been followed properly.

To complete the cast, I should mention the third county commissioner, John Perkins. However I don’t think Perkins can be thought of as a major character, considering how he got the part of county commissioner. Since he was chosen by a tiny caucus to fill a vacated seat, he may be more like one of those characters who only play bit part and then go away, never to return again.

In addition, Perkins can’t be a main character in this episode because he says he has “no specific knowledge” about this deal. I believe him. After all, he’s been pretty busy handing out his own special benefits by ordering the county highway department to do work on his neighbor’s private property.

I don’t know, maybe Perkins should get higher billing because the more I think about it, he’s right there with the rest of them playing out the consistent underlying theme of any government show: Taking advantage of the power that comes with the monopoly on force.

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson has noticed that even when the cast of characters change, the government show is still predictable re-runs. Write to her at Debbie@debbieharbeson.com