The Cass County Candidate Forum met last night at the Harrisonville Community Center. The democrats weren’t present. Their party strictly controls their primary—there isn’t one. They don’t allow contested races.
The only ones at the forum were ‘Pubs for three contested races between the county GOP conservatives and members of the Oligarchy who created the mess that plunged the county deeply in debt. The current office holders are working and making progress against that debt by returning the county to its principle areas of responsibilities.
The races covered was the Presiding Commissioner, Associate Circuit Judge, County Auditor and Circuit Clerk. Amy Bell, Kim York’s opponent for Cass County Circuit Clerk, withdrew a week or so ago as part of an agreement with the judicial system ending her service as Circuit Clerk. Kim York is now unopposed and will take office at the beginning of the new term. Regardless, she appeared alone and answered question as did the rest of the candidates.
The forum began at 6:30pm with introductions by each candidate. I noted a couple of…interesting items. All the candidates had two minutes for their responses and answers to questions with a one minute closing statement.
Dave Morris, who ran for state senator against Scot Largent and Ed Emery in the last general election, learned a few things since then. I took him to task then when he appeared at a GOP ‘meet the candidates’ meeting wearing shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops when Messrs Emery and Largent wore suits. I said at that time, Dave Morris wasn’t ready for prime time, i.e., his lack of experience in public office and the professionalism needed for state office. I’m sorry to say, he still isn’t ready for prime time.
In a subsequent question, Dave Morris was first to be asked, “What is the most positive act by the County Commission in the last ten years?” After a minute or so of stammering, he admitted he couldn’t think of anything. Jeff Cox, when asked the same question, immediately answered with killing the TriGen and Broadband projects that were pushing the county into bankruptcy.
The comparisons between Judges Meryl Lange and Stacey Lett were distinctive as well. Ms Lange has been practicing law for well over twenty years. Ms Lett for eleven years if I heard her correctly. Stacey Lett said that she has managed her own law office, and had experience with the local US Attorney’s office and other similar offices. It was unclear if Meryl Lange had ever done so, although she said she was once a lawclerk for a Supreme Court Judge. I didn’t recognize which judge that was so it must have been a state supreme court justice.
The important difference between the two was that Stacey Lett, younger and with only ten years practicing law, had twice the experience as a judge. Ms Lett has been the Raymore Municipal Judge for the last three or four years and has personally handled over 9,000 cases. Ms Lange was appointed to fill a vacancy as an Associate Circuit Judge a little over a year ago.
I did notice that Ms Lett answered the questions given her while Ms Lange did not, using the excuse of maintaining her impartiality prohibited her response to some general answers. I suppose that is one method of not making a statement on her views of being a judge. One statement that struck me, when Ms Lange actually answered a question, was her claim to have “handled 100 cases in less than an hour.” That means each case had only 36 seconds of her attention. It does make one wonder how she could do so and give each decision the necessary scrutiny any judicial case deserves.
The questions to Ron Johnson and Ryan Wescoat was fiery as expected. To call this race for Cass County Auditor a grudge match would be a great understatement. Ron Johnson was elected in 2010 ending decades of auditorial neglect by a string of democrat office holders who did not perform a single audit since the 1970s. During that time, the county auditor, “was an accounts payable office,” said Ron Johnson. Ryan Wescoat was an employee in Johnson’s auditor office when that office uncovered the fiasco of the TriGen and Broadband projects. I’ve written about his discovery in a post some years ago.
Mr. Wescoat wasn’t an employee for long. He was fired for insubordination and, without authorization, releasing documents and approving payments to UAM, the company being sued by the county for non-performance on the TriGen and Broadband projects. Since Wescoat’s political backers are the same former commissioners under investigation, Brian Baker and Bill Cook, one may suspect Wescoat’s motives running against his former boss.
Mr. Wescoat, during the initial introduction, went into great detail about his education and teaching experience. It brought to mind the saying, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” I made mention of that phrase in a Facebook posting last night. My wife, a professor in a local bible college, was not amused by the allegory.
When questions about the future of the county, both Dave Morris and Ryan Wescoat spoke at length about the need for economic development and taking advantage of the conversion of US 71 highway to Interstate Highway 49. At one point I had to wonder if Ryan Wescoat was running for Auditor or for the office of Director for Economic Development. I forget who responded, Jeff Cox or Ron Johnson, that unrestrained spending by the prior commission to push two economic development projects, nearly bankrupted the county.
Returning to the County Auditor’s race, one question clearly displayed the difference between Ron Johnson and Ryan Wescoat. The question, “What would you do if you found an office holder who was not complying with procedures demanded by law?”
Johnson used his discovery of apparent nepotism by the Cass County Clerk, Janet Burlingame as an example. He reported the discovery to the County Clerk and asked her to change her practice to be compliant with the state’s nepotism law. When, after six months, she had done nothing, he reported the case to the county prosecutor. The case was referred to the circuit court where a judge dismissed the charge because it had occurred during a previous term of the county clerk.
Ryan Wescoat’s answer was similar except for one step. After working with the office holder and not getting compliance, he would go to the County Commission, then the prosecutor. The problem with Wescoat’s process is that elected county officeholders are NOT subservient to the County Commission. The commissioners and officeholders are elected peers. One office is not subordinate to the other. The only point of contact is their budget. The Commission, working with the officeholders, creates a budget for the county and the offices. The Commission, after review with the officeholders, approves the budget. I suppose the power of the budget could be a device to use to insure compliance by an officeholder, but it would be a messy and long drawn-out affair, with, I suspect, lawyers involved in the end. Apparently, Mr. Wescoat’s view of the office of Auditor is more inline with the auditors before Mr. Johnson, an accounts payable office who rubber-stamps the decisions of the Commission without question. The concept of the Auditor being the ‘Check and Balance’ of the Commission and the elected officeholders appears to be foreign to Mr. Wescoat’s thinking.
Overall, the distinction between the two political groups, the GOP conservatives and the Oligarchy seeking return of the old, corrupt methods of governance, was readily apparent last night. I make no apology for wishing the conservatives a win next week. Else…we can greet a return to unrestrained spending, debt, and the return of the county to the path of bankruptcy.