I encourage everyone to take a look at an article in the Bitterroot Star recently by Michael Howell, about Terry Nelson [pdf].
It reveals that Nelson is not only the Ravalli county GOP chairman, but is also a county government employee of great significance: He is County Planner, overseeing matters of land use, zoning and the like. And wouldn’t you know it, he has a third job: as a licensed surveyor, which means he makes money charging property owners to make precise measurements of their holdings.
Lately he is under fire because he was caught “rounding up” some of his calculations, rounding the size of a property that he surveyed for an owner, from 19.83 acres to 20 acres, before bringing the paperwork to the county office so that the property could be recorded. The county recorder refused to accept the filing. Why? Because at 20 acres, the property is taxed at a lower rate. Thus do Montanans, and especially those who live in the Bitterroot, find our coffers slightly less full when a surveyor says a property is 20 acres, rather than 19 and change. The unpaid tax amount goes into the property owner’s pocket, with Nelson profiting indirectly (at a minimum). And this doesn’t factor in irregular circumstance that Nelson effectively regulates aspects of his own profession. Nelson claims the rounding move is legal. Based on the Star article, that seems to be a murky assertion at best. The Department of Revenue has a different opinion, as does the woman who is in charge of property filings in Ravalli, and told Nelson to go sharpen his pencil and try again.
Nelson and people like him are a classic breed that decries “too much regulation,” “lower taxes,” and “less spending,” all with the caveat that none of these creeds should get in the way of an opportunity to suck off the government nipple, and take a government job for the purpose of marketing your own private sector business.
Previously Nelson has teamed up with embattled GOP County Commissioner Suzy Foss to found a group called Voters Opportunity to Educate (VOTE), to gin up local support for the takeover of public lands by invoking the classic anti-government belief in “county supremacy.” The group is now defunct. Previously, it was Foss who made the local Republican Party Chair the head of the county planning board. Nelson was appointed quietly in a meeting that didn’t follow public notice laws.
And Nelson has one more job I haven’t mentioned: he is the strawman who is running against Greg Gianforte in the GOP primary so that Gianforte can raise twice the campaign contributions. Having a strawman is not a strategy that is specific to Republicans. Many races have them. But one could assume that Nelson has a relationship with Gianforte and/or his people–a crowd that is a bit secretive and refuses to answer questions basic about who they are, who they associate with, and what they believe. They should be known by the company they keep.