Even before he was elected to a second term as Jefferson County Executive, Ken Waller started shaking up the county planning and zoning commission by replacing two members. Two more members have stepped down. One of the board members replaced was Mike Price, an obvious target for removal since his “dress up as a clown” stunt at a council meeting in December 2013.
But his replacement is a troubling choice. Waller appointed Arnold-area Republican Dan Smith, who served on the Fox C-6 School Board from 2008-2014. As anyone at all familiar with recent events knows, that was the time period during which disgraced former superintendent Dianne Critchlow unleashed her reign of terror on the district. Smith was even president of the board for a time, though everyone seems to get a turn with that title. Anybody who has served on the Fox school board over the past six years is, in my mind, automatically disqualified for any elected or appointed office, because it was the board that allowed all of this to happen, through a combination of neglect, naivete, or coziness with Critchlow.
Let’s look at what went on while Smith was on the board:
- Critchlow’s salary increased from about $192,000 to about $256,000. Of course, it was already too high by the time Smith took office, but it only got higher.
- Kelly Nash, the daughter-in-law of board president Linda Nash, was hired to the food services director position. Smith voted to approve the hire. This is only one example of nepotism at Fox.
- The district refused to put credit card statements in the board packets for public release. It was the administration that was running interference on this, but the board abetted the lack of transparency by inaction. It does not appear that Smith and others read the statements themselves, either.
- Smith did not respond to emails from Fox Watchdog Rich Simpson, and even deleted some of his emails without reading them.
- In February of this year, the board allowed – by inaction or inattention – the 10-year service requirement for the Voluntary Early Separation Incentive Program to be removed. This allowed Andy Arbeitman to walk away with $66,000 after working at Fox for two years. The hire of Arbeitman, who left De Soto under a dark cloud, was approved unanimously by Smith and the board.
- Critchlow was allowed to mislead and blow smoke at the board while doing (and spending) what she wanted unchecked.
When he ran for re-election to the board in 2011, Smith said “Fortunately, the previous and current Fox C-6 school board members and administrators have been very fiscally responsible.” LOL. He also said “Our experienced, well-trained Board of Education and administrators will continue to keep a close eye on our budget and continue to be fiscally responsible with our taxpayer’s dollars.” Sure you will. These statements are reminiscent of Baghdad Bob, given what we know what happening at the time, and given recent multimillion dollar budget shortfalls at the district.
I have no problem with Waller making changes to county boards. That is part of his prerogative as executive. Of course, the council also has a role to play in approving (or not) his appointments (Smith was approved unanimously). However, with the Fox scandal still unfolding, it is troubling to see a major player in it get appointed to an important county board.
Postscript: The other P&Z board member to be replaced was Paul Kopp, who I noted in a previous post was “philosophically opposed to the continued expansion of the nation’s cell phone network.”