EDITORIAL: Lawsuit fallout breeds other county issues

-A A +A
By The Staff

Rather than dip our editorial keyboard back into the septic tank and rehash yet again the sordid details of the sexual harassment lawsuit pending against county government, let’s instead look this week at the apparent fallout it has caused.

A pair of articles in this week’s paper examine problems within county government, both directly related to employees failing to focus on the tasks at hand.

One involves uncertified employees spraying weed killer in the county park; the other is yet another addition to the long list of financial management issues that seemingly never end.

Both can be passed off as mere mistakes, and individually that’s probably what they are. But when mistakes breed like unspayed rabbits, they quickly become endemic to that office and are serious issues that need to be addressed.

News that a retired employee’s health care benefits continue to be paid months after the person retired is far from an isolated mistake. County government has for the past couple of years demonstrated its inability to keep its financial ship in shape, so much so that it was chided in last year’s state audit for not paying its bills on time.

Examples of that problem are numerous, and include receiving a cancellation notice for its employees’ life insurance policy; having crucial Internet connections cut off for lack of payment; and forcing taxpayers to cover overdraft and late payment fees on a county credit card.

And, with an election year brewing, let’s not forget the revelation last fall that the county overspent by $100,000 its paving budget, which was summarily dismissed as no big deal.

As for weed killer spraying, that problem surfaced just a week earlier when it was revealed that a highway employee’s certification had lapsed, yet he sprayed weed killer anyway.

That low-pressure front metastasized into a full-blown hurricane in short order. But instead of focusing on the big picture to discern if employees in other county departments were doing the same thing, our leaders — and one hoping to be our leader — instead sought out the highest yardarm from which to hang the admittedly guilty party.

In the meantime, it was business as usual in the county park, where God knows how many uncertified employees, and perhaps jail inmates, sprayed weed killer around drainage ditches and areas where children play.

So what are the underlying factors driving these mistakes? Given that those responsible for them aren’t apparently considered by their employer as inept — otherwise why would they remain employed? — we’re left to assume that they have been distracted from their duties.

Given the testimony surrounding the sexual harassment lawsuit, it’s fairly clear that, at times, folks in the county government’s nerve center certainly had more on their minds than getting the bills paid on time and checking to see if park and highway employees had required certifications.

It’s also certain that since we began reporting about that lawsuit last October — coincidentally the exact time the employee whose health insurance is still being paid retired — folks in that office have been distracted not by vibrators, pornographic videos and sexually explicit discussions, but by the very fallout their alleged actions have wrought.

When employees in private business become distracted from their jobs and perform poorly, they are generally the ones who pay for mistakes either with their jobs or by reimbursing the company for which they work.

But when public employees do the same, paying for their mistakes is the province of the taxpayer, and that has to stop.

Comment at news@theandersonnews.com.