franktalk (2007-47)

Circus Maximus

Frank Talk

Ragsdale avoids a full-scale investigation

by Frank Cagle

So you really think postponing the selection of new County Commissioners was all about letting the voters have input? Yeah, right. County Mayor Mike Ragsdale marshaled his forces Monday night to stave off an investigation of financial mismanagement in his office. The circus continues.

The full Commission, before eight members were removed in the wake of the Sunshine lawsuit, had voted to investigate wrongdoing in Ragsdaleâ’s office and to have Ragsdale and his staff answer questions about audits under oath. The investigation has been stymied by the removal of several votes in favor of continuing the inquiry.

The Commission had been prepared to hold public forums in each Commission district for nine consecutive business days and then fill the seats. Given that most challengers for the seats declined to seek an appointment, there was a likelihood that many of the removed Commissioners would be put back. Ragsdale could not allow it to happen. His hope is that the people wanting to investigate his office will not win their primary election and thus he will escape being held accountable.

He wants more than anything to prevent the re-appointment of Lee Tramel. Tramel, who is a sheriffâ’s department administrator, was involved in the investigation of Tyler Harber, the Ragsdale aide who admitted doing no work for the county but instead ran political campaigns for Ragsdale. Tramel was one of the most vocal advocates for holding Ragsdale accountable for his financial sins.

When you go to the polls to choose a property tax assessor next year, remember that Commissioner Phil Ballard cast the deciding vote to leave the 4th District without representation and four county officesâ"including sheriffâ"empty. Ballard, who is counting on the political support of Ragsdale to get elected to the assessor job, made a crass political decision of which he ought to be ashamed.

The state Supreme Court told the Commission to replace term-limited office holders. They bungled it. Then a chancellor told them to do it again, but make the appointments properly. It is their job under the constitution and state law. The decision by Commission to evade its responsibility to do its duty is more egregious than the Sunshine law violations.

What had been a difficult job will now be even more political, subjective, and subject to nefarious politicking. When primaries for the Democrats and Republicans have been held in February the Commission will then do what? Pick one of the winners? Which one? The Democrat or the Republican? Well, theyâ’ll just pick a Democrat in the Democratic districts and the Republican in the Republican districts. Really?

Up until last year the 2nd District had Republican David Collins as a Commissioner. But the district often votes Democratic, including long-time Commissioner Billy Tindell. Democrat Mark Harmon beat Collins, who was term-limited. If you assume a Democrat should be appointed, then you are saying there is no reason for a Republican to even run in that district.

What about the 6th District? It has long been split between a Republican and Democratic veteran Commissioner Mark Cawood. Is it a Republican district or a Democratic district?

Do you see what a mess Ragsdale and the Commission have created?

Ruthie Kuhlman, a candidate for Commission from the 4th District, made an impassioned plea Monday night for County Commission to do its job. She had no plans to seek an appointment, but is running for the seat. But she called on Commission to appoint a Commissioner to represent her district. The 4th has no representation at present. In making her argument for the good of her district, even creating an incumbent in her race, she demonstrated more political courage and intelligence than has been apparent among most of those in the big chairs behind the microphones.

(CORRECTION: Amy Broyles took strong exception to my reference last week to her seeking the appointment for 2nd District Commissioner. I take her at her word that she hasnâ’t been.)

Frank Cagle is a political analyst . You can reach him at .


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