Sunday, December 25, 2011

Posse Comitatus


One thing about writing this column is that It doesn’t leave much margin for error. Even though it is the Holiday season and we thankfully celebrate the birth of our Christ, this column isn’t always a joyful one. Fun for me to write; not always fun to read.

There was action taken last week by the United States Government that really bothers me, and that is that the Congress AND the President has given authority for the United States Military to detain United States citizens believed to be involved in terrorist activities. This is tantamount to a phrase I thought I would only read about in books; called Posse Comitatus.

Posse Comitatus was a law passed back in the late 1800’s that forbids the federal military forces from intervening in maintaining law and order in the civilian community. It derives its name from the old west when the sheriff would round up a “posse” to hunt down the bad guys.

President Eisenhower used the Posse Comitatus act to enforce desegregation in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1958. He brought in the federal troops to maintain order in Little Rock (George Wallace).

The closest I ever saw this law being used was during the Watts riots in 1964. I was stationed in the Air Force at March AFB, in Riverside California. When the people in Watts (a suburb of Los Angeles) went nuts and started looting and burning, the National Guard was called into service to assist the police in controlling the carnage in Los Angeles. Needless to say we were briefed about being called into assist if needed, and the Posse Comitatus was pounded into our heads that we had to be very careful about our role in this.

Under the current laws and administration, the department of Homeland Security, which includes the Coast Guard, is exempt from this law. This is fine, but here is the problem. Congress and the President has authorized the Army to detain United States citizens accused or believed to be involved in terrorist acts to be detained at GITMO. They can be held indefinitely and there is no deadline on bringing them to trial or into the legal process. This is the first step to a police state and quite frankly, scares the hell out of me. Can you imagine being picked up; whisked away and nobody explaining to you what or why this is being done?

To even talk about this coming into being is abhorring to me. What is this country coming to? To even have such a scenario on the books is absolutely nutty. The old saying that “Hello, I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.” Phrase is a distinct reality. This is a situation that, if it were to get out of hand, could have devastating effects on the people of this country.

Well, enough of the bad stuff, let’s get to my favorite subject – The commissioners. At their meeting back in the end of November, commissioner Karpen made the statement that Mr. Roggow needs to look at all county property and see if there is any property out there that could be leased or put up for auction. “We need to get these properties back on the tax rolls.” I just about cracked up when I read this. That statement is coming from a commission that purchased a lot across the street from the court house for $64,000 and turned it into a parking lot which they subsequently lease to Thermo bond for the ungodly price of $100 a month. Now is that getting a good return on your money or what? Why, they will have the lot paid for in another 63 years at this rate. I will be kind and stop talking about the commissioners now; my Christmas present to them.

Julie Madden had an article in the “hometowner” a few weeks ago about Tony Heisterkamp (The Barn) and his nursery farm over by Big Springs Church. That article was intriguing and I called Tony and he gave me a tour of his farm. He has grapes, 1,500 apple trees, gardens and most curious of all, 3,500 Aronia Berry bushes. The Aronia berry is very high in antioxidants. They are even higher in antioxidants than blueberries. Curiosity got the best of me and I bought a quart of the berries to give them a try, and hopefully they will be as healthy for me as Tony claims. Some people say these are wild chokecherries, but these are a berry, not a cherry. They are very tart and bitter tasting, but if you add a sweetener like apple cider or apple juice, they are really good, and good for you. I hope they do the job and really make me healthy, wealthy and wiser than I already am. (a little play on words there!) Google them on the internet and Tony will be more than happy part with this precious berry. (For a price that is….)

Merry Christmas everyone and have a blessed new year 2012. See you after new years.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

cookin the books

<$BlogMetaData$>It is nice to be writing articles once again. I really missed it. My articles are written under “Doug Sez”. I would really like to label it “The truth hurts doesn’t it.” Let’s get it on.

I was casually reading the unofficial minutes of the county commissioners for the 29th of November on the Union County website the other day and everything was going along just fine until the last paragraph when “up jumps the snake.” Just before adjournment, the commissioners voted new pay raises for next year for the county employees. The county employees overall will receive a pay raise of 2.1%. (Here comes the good part) in addition to the 2.1% pay raise, some department heads will receive an additional raise in their salary. Additional

Increases were included for the following department heads: Auditor-$3,640; Treasurer-$1,300; Sheriff-$1,300; Emergency Manager- $5,200.

Now, I don’t call this a real and honest pay raise, I call it cookin the books. If we list the actual percentage of pay raise that these department heads got it paints a whole new picture. I won’t go into a lot of facts and figures on this, I’ll just give you the quick and dirty of what this actually is, and you make up your own mind just how big these pay raises are. The auditors base salary went from $41160 to $45,664, so she really got a pay raise of 9%. Sounds a bit different now doesn’t it. The sheriff went from $52,188 to $54,584 for a 9.5% raise, the treasurer went from $39,384 to $41,511 for 9% and the Emergency Manager went from $12096 to $17,550 for a whopping 68% pay raise. Granted, the Highway administrator and the Emergency manager are one in the same, but his paycheck is split according to what hat he happens to be wearing at the time. Up until now, the Emergency Managers job was what I would consider “additional duty”, because he didn’t really devote that much time to ‘disasters’ other than making sure the county conformed to FEMA’s standards and also hold training sessions for the volunteer EMT’s around the area. But suddenly, here come ‘da flood. And everything changes. The Emergency Manager’s salary went from $12,096 to $17,550. WHOO-HOO!

I called my district commissioner (milt Ustad) and asked him about these raises, and his response is somewhat surprising. He told me the raise for the auditor was because she opted out of the retirement system and this is money that would have normally been given to the state for her retirement but since she opted out they voted to give the money directly to her instead. (Are you kidding me here?) Now that is what I call a really good deal because just a year ago the auditor asked for the same thing because she had opted out of the system, but the commissioners voted no. I wonder what happened in the course of a year that changed their minds. Hum-m-m-m.

Anyway, the sheriff and the treasurer both got $1300. No big deal - except – what have they done to deserve this. If it is because of merit, then instead of the 2.1 percent they actually got 9%. Why beat around the bush.

Now here is the kicker. The Highway administrator wears 2 hats. He is the highway administrator and the county Emergency Manager. The emergency manager gets a $5,200 raise. It all goes to the Highway Administrator but to be given a $5,200 is a humongous raise (68%)any way you look at it.

I asked my district representative if this was kosher and he told me that Mr. Roggow put in a lot of hours down at the dunes because of the flood and he is not an hourly employee but salaried. I didn’t dispute that, but did he receive any additional monies or compensation for his work at the flood site. Mr. Ustad would not respond other than to say he doesn’t get overtime. I asked if he got comp time. Again he didn’t respond. I commented that I couldn’t believe someone could or would work many hours beyond the normal 40 hour week for almost 5 months and not receive compensation of some kind. I asked him if this was a reward for his work during the flood. He didn’t respond. Then I asked if Mr. Roggow’s assistant received overtime pay for filling in while doing his job and Ray’s job while Mr. Roggow was gone. He didn’t know.

Now then, there are 6 elected positions in the county besides the commissioners, so why didn’t the Union County State’s attorney and the Register of deeds get pay raises along with the other department heads? Is it because they both just happen to be Republicans? Naw that couldn’t be it. Could it be cronyism? Hum-m-m. It just so happens that the treasurer and the sheriff are Republican and got the $1,300 raises and the Auditor and Highway Superintendant are Democrats and got the big money. The chairman of the commissioners is a staunch Democrat and controls the purse strings regardless of what anyone else says. What he says goes, and don’t you forget it. Ask the commissioners why the disparity and Mr. Karpen will give probably give you the proverbial answer. “They are the commissioners and it is their prerogative as the county commission as to who gets what.” But, to quote Mr. Karpen, “it isn’t their job to micromanage each department.” So how did they arrive at these figures for the department head raises?

I think we need some new blood in that room.