On the last day of 2015, Bruce King, Democrat former elected public administrator for Jefferson County who was defeated for re-election in 2012, filed a lawsuit in Jefferson County court against the county, alleging that the county charter had been misinterpreted and that he was not paid as much money as he should have been. The lawsuit demanded back pay and retroactive credits towards retirement.
At the time, observers including me speculated that King was merely a front man, one who no longer had a political career to protect, who was filing the suit on behalf of other greedy incumbent elected officials. Well that belief has been affirmed, because a slew of current and former county elected officials added their names to the suit in January of this year. Most notable, I would say, is county executive Ken Waller, a Republican, who I hear is actively pursuing another job at this time, with two years left in his term. Here is the rest of the list of new plaintiffs:
- Mark Abel – Democrat deceased former treasurer. His wife is also on the suit, presumably to collect his posthumous windfall.
- Chuck Banks – Democrat former county commissioner.
- Marlene Castle – Democrat former recorder of deeds.
- Randy Holman – Democrat former assessor and current appointed county clerk (put in place by Waller).
- Pat Lamping – Democrat former county commissioner.
- Beth Mahn – Democrat current collector.
- Linda Nees – Democrat former treasurer.
- Terry Roesch – Democrat outgoing assessor.
- Dorothy Stafford – Democrat former auditor.
- Wes Wagner – Democrat former county clerk, who left in the middle of his term for a private sector job.
- Steve Farmer – Republican current public administrator.
We must condemn the above officials, all of whom are/were making $70-85,000, who knew when they took their jobs what they would be paid, but are now going to the courts to attempt to extract money from taxpayers, in many cases well after they left office. But let us praise those elected officials (who served prior to 2017) who have apparently chosen not to join this lawsuit (let me know if I missed someone):
- Richard Carter – Republican current assessor.
- Debbie Dunnegan – Republican current recorder of deeds.
- Forrest Wegge – Democrat current prosecutor.
- Michael Reuter – Republican current circuit court clerk.
- Howard Wagner – Democrat former circuit court clerk.
- Glenn Boyer – Democrat former sheriff.
- Survivors of Ed Kemp, Democrat deceased former county commissioner.
The plaintiffs are citing section 126.96.36.199 of the county charter (page 38), which says that “the annual salary of every elected County Officer is not to be less than the annual salary of the holder of the equivalent office in a first-class non-charter county.” The suit then goes on the cite the salaries of elected officeholders in Boone County (which is where Columbia is). Never mind that there are 13 other first-class non-charter counties they could have chosen to compare with JeffCo.The lawsuit says:
“The clear intent also was to provide that…salaries would be adjusted upward to match those of office holders of the highest paying first class non-charter county.”
Doesn’t sound clear to me at all. In general, this seems like a poorly thought out and drafted provision.
All told, this lawsuit could cost the county over $600,000, according to the Leader. This is in addition to the legal costs, as the county has hired an outside law firm to deal with this case (see page 22).
Speaking of lawyers, local attorney and JeffCo GOP apparatchik Derrick Good is one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys in this case. He even helped write the damn county charter that he is trying to exploit via loophole in true lawyerly fashion. Did he help draft the provision in question? It is sad (sad!) to see several supposed conservatives joining in on this effort to divert taxpayer money to their bank accounts.