By Isabelle Spohn
We should all have paid attention when Okanogan County Commissioner DeTro announced plans by the commissioners and the other “Quad Counties” to the press (May 27, 2014). We didn’t realize that county taxpayers would be financing their personal dreams and agendas. We blew it off, and now we are paying the price.
DeTro stated that Okanogan and three other counties were considering a “state of emergency declaration” to give local governments authority to manage all public lands within the county, “including those currently managed by Bonneville Power.” We marveled at the thought of our commissioners managing U.S. Forest Service firefighting aircraft or BPA facilities connected with Grand Coulee Dam on top of numerous other responsibilities (such as assuring a county emergency reserve of $2 million). However, the subject evaporated in the fogs of time.
But on Feb. 16, 2016, another wave of the public lands takeover theme arose with DeTro’s Facebook tirade against the government “assassination” of LaVoy Finnicum in the attempted Bundy takeover of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. DeTro suggested that a similar emergency could occur in our county, including the “murdering” of public officials. Local Washington legislative candidate Jon Wyss responded with praise for Detro’s post.
The Bundy family subscribed to the American Lands Council (ALC) agenda of federal public land takeover by states, supported by County Resolution 28-2014. Our board of commissioners added “county” to “states.”
A recent Public Disclosure Act request by citizens supporting Represent Okanogan County revealed that county taxpayers paid not only dues of at least $2,000 to the ALC by the end of 2015, but also a total of $3,192.84 for travel expense to ALC events plus $800 personal membership fees for commissioners Campbell and DeTro. (Note that all three commissioners endorse claims for expenses, including Kennedy.)
In the same Facebook post, Mr. Detro announced his intention to attend the National Association of Counties (NACo) conference this May at Snow King Resort in Jackson, Wyoming, to lobby for an investigation into the death of Finnicum. According to county records, taxpayers have already paid $1,457 toward commissioners DeTro’s and Campbell’s attendance. Since our county has a cash flow emergency, will the commissioners cancel, reach into their own pockets, or go ahead and spend our tax dollars to lobby for their cause?
I am all in favor of educating our commissioners. Attending events that include experts’ presentations describing varying perspectives and guidance or debate on important county issues would be legitimate within amounts our county can afford. But when the emphasis is continually upon “education” by controversial nationwide groups and upon our commissioners lobbying rather than educating themselves, should the taxpayers of Okanogan County fork over the cash?
A few findings resulting from Disclosure Act requests follow:
- Resolution 102- 2013 directed county staff to hold public hearings and develop a budget in coordination with Fred Kelley Grant surrounding county expenditures on related issues of federal lands, coordination, and so forth. But according to the county this past week, no such public hearing or budgeting has ever occurred — yet taxpayer dollars and staff time flow forth.
- County revenues paid to NACo (whose Western Interstate Regional subdivision listed transfer of federal public lands as one of three legislative priorities for 2015 and 2016) total $11,607.07 since 2013 for commissioners Campbell’s and DeTro’s attendance at NACo conferences in Kauai, Hawaii, Washington, D.C., Charlotte, North Carolina, Anchorage, Alaska, and now Jackson, Wyoming.
- County expenditures in support of just five of the local and nationwide groups on record for their heavy emphasis upon public land transfers and related federal issues (ALC, NACo, Quad Counties, Eastern Washington COG and Liberty Summit/ALC) were at least $21,382.68.
Isn’t it time for taxpayers to wake up?
Isabelle Spohn lives in Twisp and enjoys spending time on public lands.