Lincoln County TEA-GOP Commissioners Overtax Citizens by $2.2 Million
No one will argue that TEA party excels at conspiracy mongering and angry rallies, but when it comes to actual governing, not so much. If you thought the disaster that continues to unfold in Ravalli County was an anomaly, think again.
The Western News reported this week that Lincoln County officials have been overtaxing residents to the tune of $2.2 million. The county is home to less than 20,000 people.
The screw-up means nearly one fourth of the county’s income has been collected in error – and so the county is in the hole by more than $2 million.
The debacle was discovered after an investigation by The Western News last month which raised questions about how the county was raising tax income.
In December, for example, The Western News reported that taxes or “mills” were raised in four special taxing districts without asking permission from the people who live in those districts. The county officials didn’t even know that this is not allowed – the local newspaper says it had to explain this to the commissioners.
As the The Western News wrote, presiding Commissioner Tony Berget “reluctantly admitted that the county commissioners were responsible for some vague portion of the mistakes – but only after members of the media repeatedly asked him whether the commissioners should have caught the error before it grew to such mammoth proportions.”
The local paper says “the county lacks responsible supervision.” Lincoln County Commissioners include Ron Downey, Tony Berget the county commission’s presiding officer, and Mike Cole. Cole does not appear to be a TEA Partier. Berget is an Agenda 21, anti-environmentalist TEA Party type who formerly served as Libby’s mayor. Berget once famously bragged about “taking a piece of the mine’s asbestos-contaminated vermiculite with him on a high school wrestling trip to Europe, delighting his companions when he set fire to it and caused a loud ‘pop.'”
In 2001, the Spokesman-Review reported that the asbestos mining company, W.R. Grace, was giving a building worth $250,000 to then-Mayor Berget–which some residents thought was a conflict of interest, according to the article, since Berget was supposed to be making sure the company did a good job with the clean-up.
And so, like in Ravalli, right-wing county commissioners were elected to run the show here, but it doesn’t sound like they’ve been doing their job. They have, however, managed to declare Libby the “City of Eagles”–though what good that’s done the town besides attracting hilarious mockery is not exactly clear.
Probably it is also a complete coincidence that Commissioner Berget’s brother is the artist who makes scrap metal eagles and plans to build the world’s largest scrap metal eagle somewhere in Libby because, “Well there’s a lot of eagle fanatics in the United States. You go to any knick knack store and you can get an eagle t-shirt or an eagle statue or things like that.”
In Lincoln County, like in Ravalli, more is sure to unfold, so stay tuned. The sheriff and a bunch of his deputies are facing charges in federal district court ranging from alleged tampering with evidence to alleged obstruction of justice. That the case is moving forward in federal court even though the guy bringing the lawsuit doesn’t have a lawyer and is representing himself is also interesting.
And so, when you next hear the TEA Party going on about how the county government should be the supreme law of the land, remind them that what’s going on in Lincoln and Ravalli County shows what a terrible idea that is.