As Virginia’s state and local election season enters its last frenzied weeks, expect to see the op-ed pages of our local papers filled with letters supporting favored candidates.
Like the endorsements of Sheriff Ashland Fortune, coming from “the usual suspects” like; American’s for Prosperity … I mean Republican Senator Reeves, and former Louisa Commonwealth Attorney, now Republican Senator Garrett, along with letters from many former and current county employees.
I would particularly like to point out how all these recent letters have made liberal use of a collection of “factoids,” layering existing details on top of each other in order to make their claims seem more far more significant than they really are.
Like their “examples” of how Sheriff Fortune …. I mean Donnie Lowe is an excellent steward of the taxpayers’ money. When if fact, they are predicated more on personal beliefs, and not relevant information.
Half truths which pointedly ignore the fact that over the past few years, the LCSO has been coming before the Board of Supervisors asking for supplemental appropriations to cover their “unexpected” costs.
With Donnie, I mean Sheriff Fortune expecting the people of Louisa County to believe that these annual $ 250 – 300 thousand dollar supplemental appropriations should never be questioned.
Like his supporters, Sheriff Fortune…. I mean Donnie manages to avoid addressing the relevant issues, along with answering basic questions like; what’s keeping the LCSO from implementing a budget that takes the previous year’s unexpected costs into account?
Speaking of appropriations, did you know that during last years supplemental request that Sheriff Fortune asked for a $ 10K raise? And after the Board turned that request down, he turned around and reallocated departmental funds to give himself a raise.
According our County Administrator, Christian Goodwin, and Louisa District Supervisor Troy Wade this is a common practice in many county departments, with Wade claiming that several other constitutional officers are also making more than the minimum amount dictated by state law.
However, after making calls to several current County constitutional offices, those claims don’t appear to be entirely accurate. With both Nancy Pleasants and Henry Wash stating for the record that they are currently making the state mandated minimum salary, and they have never asked for any raises for themselves while in office.
And stating that any merit raises they deem necessary for their employees are brought to the County Administrator, who then takes it to the board as a “courtesy,” even though they have the necessary funds in their budget.
Of course, the Board is free to vote to raise the salaries of any of their constitutional officers as they see fit. Beyond there being absolutely no record of their having ever done so, the biggest problem is that apparently neither they nor the new County attorney see this as a potential legal or ethical concern.
In fact, they seem more concerned with sweeping this issue under the rug until after the election is over. Despite the fact that it puts the County at odds with existing state statutes, where constitutional officers, such as Sheriff, Treasurer, Clerk of the Court etc., base salary is proscribed by law
And when someone like Supervisor Wade goes out of his way to claim how “open and transparent” the Board is in it’s dealings with the public, he’s being deliberately disingenuous. That fundamental lack of honesty has been the Republican Parties MO from state candidates all the way to local elections.
Just look at what took place at the Republican’s mass call for candidates this past April, where any doubts that it wasn’t “rigged” process should have been removed by the fact that the votes were counted by none other than Mr. Wade and Graven Craig, the new chair of the Louisa Republicans.
And make no mistake, this same dynamic of unaccountability and a desire to get re-elected by doing and saying as little as possible that is driving most of the candidates running in this year’s elections.
Even when local elections are being contested, most of the general public will never get a chance to hear those candidates speak, or debate each other even if they are willing to pony up money at the Farm Bureau or NAACP dinners, the best they can hope for are scripted presentations.
The biggest indication of the incumbent’s non-participation in the electoral process is the fact that there will be absolutely no debates between the candidates in any of these contested elections, particularly the Sheriffs race.
Allowing incumbents like Donnie Lowe… I mean Sheriff Fortune to enact their agendas with minimal public commentary or opposition once they have been re-elected.
In that regard, Mr. Wade’s comment’s last year the CV about the upcoming 2016-17 FY budget were likely the most honest assessmentthat we will ever hear from any of the Board members about long term state of the County’s finances, “it’s “naïve” to think that the county could fund the county’s projects without a dramatic increase funding such as an increase in property taxes somewhere on the order of 13 cents per $ 100 of assessed value.”
And sure enough, the Board approved an increase of 4 cents for this fiscal year, along with increasing the tax on vehicles, knowing full well that another increase will likely be coming in the next fiscal year.
And with 2 of the 3 Board members (including Mr. Wade) running unopposed for re-election any public reaction to those tax increases will become the problem of the other 4 Board members running for re-election in 2017.
Editor’s note: This lack of accessibility and accountability by our elected officials starts with the soft bigotry of low expectations by the people of Louisa County, who have grown accustomed to “not asking any questions, as long as their public officials won’t tell them any lies … or truths,” actions which in turn allow the Board to continue avoiding dealing with pressing community issues.
Like bringing high speed internet into the county, completing the James River pipeline project, along with kicking the entire question about the ethics or even the legality of a constitutionally elected officer like Sheriff Fortune giving himself a raise without their approval down the road until after the election, all the while telling us there’s nothing to be concerned about.