Ron in Wonderland – Wrong on All Counts

24 Mar

Arnold Mayor Ron Counts’ response to one of the questions in the Leader voter guide is like something out of Alice in Wonderland, or maybe 1984. The question was: “Assess your opponent’s performance during the current term. What would you have done differently?”

My opponent’s performance during her last term was extremely expensive for our city. She wasted excessive time of our administrator and legal counsel. This cost our taxpayers through lost production as well as legal expenses. I respect her desire to do what is right. However, there is a difference between leading the community and micromanaging the system. It is our responsibility to watchdog taxpayer money. It is also our responsibility to set policy that prepares us for the next decade. In doing things differently, I would have asked more professional questions, instead of the ones that only belittled our public servants. I believe and support our fine Arnold employees and the excellent work that they do for us.

The first part of this answer, about opponent Doris Borgelt being expensive for the city, is the political equivalent of grabbing someone’s arm, swinging it at the person’s own face, and saying “why are you hitting yourself?” It wasn’t Borgelt that turned a simple request to view city hall visitor logs into a fight that required the intercession of the state Attorney General (who sided with Borgelt, by the way). It wasn’t Borgelt who has created a system where city employees can’t lift a finger without consulting city attorney Bob Sweeney. It wasn’t Borgelt who voted to award a completely unwarranted $55,000 payout to Susie Boone (speaking of preparing for the next decade, Boone will be here for a good chunk of it, since she effectively has immunity from oversight or from being fired as part of the settlement).

As for Counts being a watchdog of taxpayer money, Borgelt destroys that claim in her response to the question:

There was a $1.5 million error in accounting [ed. – the year Counts entered office], a $75,000 grant to improve North Jeffco Boulevard was allowed to expire, $70,000 was given to our former city administrator who resigned and there was a $1 million overage on the CVS project. We are bleeding money!

In his Patch profile, Counts said one of his priorities for a second term is to “hire the best qualified person as the City’s Administrator through the use of a research committee.” Do we trust him to make this decision? Counts is the man who reversed the one courageous move he made during his first term – supporting the replacement of Sweeney as city attorney – by letting a new council push him into rehiring the man. Counts also selected Bob Shockey to be interim city administrator despite the fact that he is the subject of an active sex discrimination lawsuit. So I can’t imagine who his committee will put forward to replace Shockey. The fact that Counts put councilman Phil Amato and Shockey on the committee does not bode well, and is further evidence of bad judgment. Keep in mind, too, that a replacement has to be appointed for Ward 1 councilwoman Cricky Lang, who passed away in February. I’d rather have Borgelt make that choice.

Finally, a word on leadership, since Counts claims to exercise it. At meetings, he usually sits on the fence, refusing to weigh in on the big issues. Only when rebuking Borgelt or people speaking from the floor does he get animated. The ballotgate scandal provides a textbook example. In order to remove Shaun Missey from the city council ballot, Sweeney and City Clerk Diane Waller had to completely change their policies from 2011. Then, tax-delinquent candidates were allowed to remain on the ballot, and the clerk was not to attempt to investigate tax status. But in 2013, delinquency was a grave offense, and the clerk became Chief Tax Investigator for the city. Did Counts approve of, or know of, these policy changes? The thin reed that Sweeney used to justify this illegal act was to say that some of the personal property tax money from residents of Arnold comes back to the city. Arnold Patch, which did a pretty good job of picking up the ball that the Leader completely dropped on this issue, talked to the city finance director, who refuted Sweeney’s claim. Why did this have to be hashed out by Patch? The mayor should be coordinating the actions of city staff, or at least ensuring that the city administrator is doing so. That apparently did not happen here, and from what we can tell, this whole fiasco was Sweeney’s idea and handiwork. Not once in all of my posts on ballotgate did I mention the mayor, because he abdicated his responsibility here. We need a mayor that will keep city employees in line, not merely praise them while ignoring their mistakes.

This mayoral election is huge for Arnold. Doris Borgelt is the right choice. Ron is wrong on all Counts (ha ha, like that?).

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