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« Household hints | Main | IFYI »

May 11, 2012


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Joe Killian

This is actually a more complicated question than it seems.

It's difficult to have sympathy for politicians who don't look very closely at what they're voting on. But at the same time, the sheer volume of things -- and attachments to things -- that get dumped on the consent agenda week in and week out would make it literally impossible for every commissioner (even if they were full time, even if they had a staff) to read, vet and fully understand everything on which they're asked to vote in the time allotted them.

Which is why some commissioners who argue against the practice of having a consent agenda but can't get a majority to stop it just consistently vote no on the consent agenda.

Bill Bencini, the newest commissioner as he took Steve Arnold's old seat, says he just doesn't think anything that needs more than a cursory look should be put on the consent agenda. He's consistently complained about complex things being placed there since he took office.

Any commissioner can pull anything they like off of it -- but you have to know what you're looking for in order to do that. Even if you're a reporter who knows what you're looking for, it can be difficult to figure out everything's significance quickly (certainly a peril in daily reporting on some of this stuff). That and some misdirection from Fox led to our having the wrong number when we initially reported her bonus.

And on some things, for whatever reason, no one goes out of their way to point out the significance of some of this stuff so that the commissioners so that they can more closely examine these things.

A consistent complaint about Fox throughout my tenure as the county reporter has been that her bosses have repeatedly learned of something she did without telling them, buried on a consent agenda laden with other things or simply proceeded too far into without a "by your leave" -- some of which has cost the county money, some of which the commissioners have simply had to spend time unraveling and then voting to undo.

Mad Dog

Can the commissioners "undo" this outrageous bonus?


Ed Cone

Not to put words in your mouth, Joe, but that appears to be a vote for Fox as chief culprit.

Or at least to support that argument.

Joe Killian

The commissioners can reconsider their vote for this and it seems that they're going to at least discuss it.

Six votes will be needed. At least three have been declared -- Yow, Bencini and Gibson.

I try not to take sides when the commissioners mix it up with Fox. It happens not infrequently.

I think there's more than enough blame to go around on the larger issue -- whether things so complicated they can't be quickly and easily understood by a majority of the commissioners should appear on the consent agenda.

If this is a consistent problem -- it is certainly a consistent complaint -- then it would only take six votes to do away with or to re-examine the way so much of this stuff on the consent agenda. Where are those six votes? That's on the commissioners.

At the same time, a number of commissioners consistently complain that when it is to her political or personal advantage, Fox doesn't find it necessary to pipe up and explain to them some of what they're being asked to do. I've repeatedly reported on commissioners -- even wary commissioners who try to look carefully at what could be happening behind the scenes -- finding out that they voted for something they didn't entirely understand or that Fox has taken the initiative to move forward on some very important thing they then have to reverse, because it isn't the will of the board.

One thinks of this, of course.

This quote from Fox in that story is indicative of a lot of the problems commissioners have had with her the last four years:

“I think what I did, I had the authority to do and was appropriate,” Fox said. “But in hindsight, maybe I should have announced to the world that this was being done.

“But also, it also begs the question: How do you determine when you should do that and when you don’t have to do that?” Fox said.

Part of the manager's job is to inform the board of what she's doing, make sure they know what they're being asked to do and to explain to them some of the complexities of how county government is being run so that they can make informed decisions and be sure the county is making decisions and taking actions in accordance with the will of the elected board as direct representatives of the people.

Billy Jones

We vote for politicians so that they may keep a watchful eye on government workers and others who work to steal from the people. Who was it that said, "The buck stops here?"

Commissioners get my vote for the office of culprit. If consent agendas are a problem for Commissioners then it's the commissioners job to fix the problem or hire people who can.

If I were on the Commission I would vote to fire her today and see how she likes loosing a year's wages so she can collect 4 months wages. If commissioners played hard ball those who work under them would be less likely to ply their fouls. As it stands, Brenda Fox Jones has been playing ball without umpires and making rules between bases.


Interesting facts, context and understanding in a blog thread. What would happen if the N&R just turned Joe Killian loose and didn't strap him down with assignments and deadlines? I'm sure it would make a few editors obsolete, but it would also probably produce a more interesting, informative and prolific product.


A decade ago or more, I considered running for a minor office. Then I talked to a current holder of that office and realized I didn't have the time to (a) run a business and (b) hold that office & do a decent job. (All presupposing I won, not a small presuppose.) But for the very little money and the huge amount of time required, I don't see how working people can do the job a commish or councilperson needs to do to do it well. No staff, reading GOBS of stuff, being a lawyer sometimes to understand every nuance... it goes on and on. That's why I never ran - it's appearing that only retired lawyers can do this sort of thing and they need staff.

I don't always agree with council or commish decisions, but I do respect the time it takes to be even "sufficient," let alone stellar. Having someone trying to sneak something by you would be, IMO, easy. How many hours/week does it really take to do a great job and who's got those hours, that ability to read it all, comprehend legal language, look for tricks or slide-by language and understand every potential implication?

It just appears when Ms. Fox's shenanigans hit the light of day, there's lots of them. Maybe council/commishes should hire someone independent to read and summarize the stuff and an attorney should include summaries so they can spot trouble by reading concise and interpreted reports. It's how big business works, isn't it? (and our city & county budgets makes this big business, no?)

Billy Jones

Sue, I can't say that I disagree with hiring an independent 3rd party to bring commissioners up to speed. Bur whatever it takes it's the commissioners' job to fix it.

Andrew Brod

Hire another person to make sure the manager isn't slipping stuff by the commissioners? Seems inefficient.

Instead, why not hire a manager the commissioners can trust, someone who doesn't try to slip stuff by them?


@Andrew, sure, of course. An honest, transparent manager with no personal motives is a wonderful idea. You know what they say about (absolute) power, right? When "political" is involved, like political appointee, then, well, trust tends to fly out the window. At least, in my experience...

Billy Jones

Sue wrote: "@Andrew, sure, of course. An honest, transparent manager with no personal motives is a wonderful idea. You know what they say about (absolute) power, right? When "political" is involved, like political appointee, then, well, trust tends to fly out the window. At least, in my experience..."

Now you're coming around to my way of thinking. Before you know it you'll be throwing barbs at the Bobblehead.


No, Billy. I don't set up a straw man, hurl insults at him, and repeat that he is the cause of everything wrong in this burg.

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