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Commissioner responds to letter

A few days ago several of the county’s commissioners received a letter from an anonymous author and I feel it would be appropriate to share its contents with the reading public. The unaltered letter was written as follows:

“Dear County Commissioner,

I am a citizen of Johnson County and I am concerned about issues I have been reading about in the Tomahawk.

1. Why is more not being done to collect back court fines/fees? I realize that some of the fees are rather old. Why not outsource the old receivable to a collection agency that withholds a fee? Even after the fee is withheld you are in a better position than before when nothing was being done to collect. What good is imposing fines and fees if you have no intention of collecting? I understand Ms. Hawkins office is busy, but guess what so are most offices. Being busy is an excuse. The commission and the office need to sit down and address the problem and find a solution.

2. Regarding the county insurance issue I have a couple of concerns. I realize insurance is high, it’s high for everyone. Why should the county pay for family insurance on any employee? Is one employee more valuable than another? The county should pay the same amount on every employee. Family insurance should be a family responsibility, not mine. I don’t know the numbers but if the additional cost to cover families over the employee cap, but for example if it is $6,000 multiply that by 10 employees that’s $60,000, which is significant.

3. Why would requiring all employees be subject to a drug test to save on workers compensation even be an issue? The majority of business requires it. Who cares if they are clerical or a county deputy? If they are doping why would you not want to know. It would seem you wouldn’t want them handling taxpayer money or driving our car. If the county can receive a discount for opting into a drug free workplace why not?

4. County embezzlement issue- I have not read anything lately about this issue. It would seem that restitution if convicted would be a no brainer. Stealing is wrong on any level. Should the county commission not demand restitution if the employee is convicted or opts for a plea deal?

5. Has each county office head presented cost saving ideas for their department? My family budget is not a county budget but let’s face facts we all have to make cuts and sacrifices. Have they really looked for ways to save?

I do not oppose an increase in wheel or property tax if all other options have been exhausted. I want our county to be safe and continue to operate effectively and efficiently. I want our children to have good schools to go too. My main issues are fairness. Is it fair for some to pay fines and others not? Is it fair for some employee to receive free or significantly reduced family insurance? Is it fair that county employees aren’t required to take a drug test when the vast number of workplaces require it? Is it fair for the assessor’s office to be asked to eliminate a position but no other offices? We as citizens elect commissioners to protect the best interest of ALL the citizens of Johnson County. Are you doing that?

Concerned Citizen

cc: County Mayor
cc: The Tomahawk”

While not expressing my specific opinions concerning the various items the author listed in his or her letter, I do wish to express my encouragement in the fact that the people of this county still care about the way their local government operates, and have a keen interest in ensuring that their voice is heard. Afterall, it was Thomas Jefferson who wrote in the Declaration of Independence, while discussing the natural freedoms of all people, that “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
It is true that the county is faced with problems, thankfully no where near as big as those addressed by the state or more importantly, nation, but serious issues are still there. The decisions that county officials make can ultimately affect the daily lives of the people, and because of that they should never be taken lightly. A big part of the process, and one I feel has diminished over the past few decades, is citizen participation. Letters, opinions, and outpourings of concern like the one above really can help define and express the feelings of the people to the ones who make the decisions.

No one position in the county government is all encompassing. The commission and those elected to operate the county’s various departments are ultimately interdependent on one another. The commission cannot dictate a department head’s daily duties any more than they can force the outcome of a vote. As a result conflicts must naturally occur. Even more difficult are the decisions that have multiple solutions, each with their own sets of pros and cons.

Although Johnson County is not exempt from these in-house struggles I do feel we have the capacity and capability to overcome. What is most important is that the voice of the people doesn’t get shut out. It must never be forgotten that the government only exists for the common good. Speaking only for myself, I encourage everyone to let your views be known, express your ideas, and let the local leadership know where you stand. Even though every decision might not go exactly the way you hope it will, you can still make a big difference in the way actions are taken and decisions made.

By Jonathan Pleasant
Johnson County Commissioner