Race to the Bottom

Right-wing Republicans elected to county offices have been much in the news lately, providing frightening examples of what happens when you put TEA party Republicans in charge of, well, anything.

It’s hard to say which Republican county officials have exhibited the most incompetence and bad behavior recently. Let’s look at the evidence.

Yellowstone County

The Republican County Treasurer and School Superintendent Max Lenington is back in the Billings Gazette after he was caught plagiarizing yet another letter, this time from a white supremacist website. In his own defense, Lenington told the Gazette that, “Most white supremacists believe in politics pretty much the same way as the Tea Party, as conservatives. Conservatism is what it is.”

It seems that sending racist emails and engaging in plagiarism from your work computer do not rise to the level of “official misconduct, incompetence or felony offense” needed to boot a county official, based on past legal precedents. Lenington has refused to resign. The Republican has been under fire in the past for writing things like this. In August he made national news after he was caught plagiarizing a racist rant about the Obamas. He has also accused the president of committing “treason.”

Ravalli County

Ravalli County appointed a Republican party leader as county treasurer, then seemed shocked when nearly a million dollars in undeposited county funds were found stuffed around the county office–while schools, libraries, cities, and fire departments never got the funds the county owed them.

Ravalli County Commissioners also shuttered the women’s health center that had operated in the county for more than 40 years by refusing to accept state and federal funds to operate the clinic. The clinic did not perform abortions, and the federal funding the county refused could not be used for abortion care.

Lincoln County

While Ravalli County declared war on women, Lincoln County has decided to through children and babies out with the bathwater. While Ravalli was busy eliminating breast and cervical cancer testing and family planning for hundreds of county residents, Lincoln County did went a step further.

In April, Lincoln County Commissioners refused to allow the health department to pursue funding for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting program. The program helps with school readiness and child academic achievement, family and economic self-sufficiency, child preventive healthcare and reducing domestic violence.

Lincoln County was funded by a series of grants last year that totaled about $400,000. The 2014 grant application would have been for about $200,000. To put this in perspective, consider that when Ravalli County refused federal funding for cancer screening and family planning, the amount in question was $50,000.

Children and babies aren’t the only targets of Lincoln County’s poor decision making.  County Commissioners are trying to get rid of the woman who is the Eureka Justice of the Peace by saying the county can’t pay for the position. The county has two justices of the peace. One is a woman, and the other is Jay Sheffield.  You might remember the name Sheffield from my last post about Lincoln County.  The federal lawsuit against the Lincoln County sheriff and others is Hubbard v. Sheffield.  You guessed it, the county decided they would ax not Sheffield, but the woman JP.

To be sure, Lincoln County has failed abysmally to manage its finances.  County officials were found to be overtaxing residents to the tune of $2.2 million,  The Western News reported.

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3 Comments on "Race to the Bottom"

  1. Ravalli.
    More money in Lincoln but what’s happening in Ravalli is simply unbelievable.
    As far as Lenington goes he’s been a chair-filler for 40 years. Tea Party just gave a voice to a long-simmering ugliness.

  2. Definitely Ravalli – closing a public health clinic on purpose, knowinglu (albeit even if you lack the processing power of the an early homunculus) is worse. Yellowstone County asked Lenington to resign, which Ravalli County didn’t – their treasurer is still on the payroll. Today, as I write this. Lincoln County didn’t intend to overtax their citizens, they were just not smart enough to know how to do their own jobs.

  3. I’m surprised Flathead County isn’t on the list – the County Commissioners in Flathead have been doing dumb things since before the TEA Party was a gleam in Karl Rove’s eye. Most recently, they decided that only property owners could have an official say in the county’s business, but they’ve been making bad decisions for decades, anti-planning, anti-responsible growth, anti-conservation, pro-corporate, pandering to Ray Thompson and Rick Blake.

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