Press Conference: Is Don Benton a Genius?
Our good friend Don Benton’s name made headlines – once again – after mistaking taxpayers for another wad of cash.
This time it was a settlement payment following a jury prize.
And right now, I suspect a few loyal readers of this column are thinking, “Oh my God, Benton is about to be taken behind the hangar to introduce himself to Mr. Switch.”
Well, my loyal readers, you would be wrong. It’s time to give Benton his due.
This man is a genius. There, I said it. And I really mean it.
Now, before I build my genius case for Benton, I should update the new readers. Benton is a former state senator. Benton is the former director of the county’s environmental services department. And Benton is the former director of the US Selective Service System, under former President Donald Trump. I’m sure it has a bunch of other “old” titles lying around as well, but you see the picture. The only constant here is that Benton made a living in and around our bureaucratic government.
And Benton’s genius revolves around his recognition of the weak points in the system. So if there’s any blame to blame – you guessed it – it’s not on Benton. It’s about our government. Alright, let’s get started.
Two for one
When Benton was doing his job as a state senator, an opening appeared in the county’s environmental services department. Look, Benton probably couldn’t tell the difference between hydrogeology and a ham sandwich, but he thought he could do both tasks simultaneously. So he convinced a few county commissioners that he was the guy… and just like that, he was the guy!
Genius! Score one for Benton. Zero government.
In the beginning, county work was set up, so whenever Benton was in Olympia doing Senate stuff, he had to take time off (like a vacation or something) from his work in the county. But this condition has sort of disappeared. Just gone. And then he was able to do both jobs – and get paid for both jobs. There would be days when he would be in Olympia, working hard for those who elected him and – AND – he was also able to run an entire department here in Clark County.
Genius! Score two for Benton. Government still null.
Enter Mark McCauley. McCauley had been in the county government for several years. And a few months after Benton was hired in 2013, McCauley was named county manager. McCauley – it’s fair to say it (and he’s said it several times) – was not a Benton fan to get the job of Director of Environmental Services. In fact, he wasn’t a fan of the department either.
In 2009, environmental services were separated from other departments. When that happened, taxpayers were pretty sure it wouldn’t cost any extra money. You know how it goes. But McCauley said he saw immediately – long before he became county manager – that there was no way the costs wouldn’t go up. I spoke to McCauley a few days ago about all of this.
“I didn’t think it should have been created in the first place. Part of my role as a public servant is to maximize value to the taxpayer and eliminate this department and put things back where they came from, where they used to work great, and save $ 500,000 every year. in the process made sense to me.
So that’s what he did in 2016. And that’s about now that my astute readers are starting to do the math. Less a department also means less a Don Benton.
McCauley insists he didn’t do it to fire Benton.
“Getting rid of Don Benton was a side benefit of my removal from the department.”
I happen to believe it, but the human brain is a beautiful and complicated thing. Could we have been so engrossed in Benton that the elimination of the department was the main reason but Benton was the impetus? Who knows.
Oh, there was a whistleblower case filed by Benton somewhere there, and then a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by Benton and two others. When all was said and done, a jury decided that Benton was an aggrieved party.
Genius once again! Benton three. Government still null.
A zero bonus
As an addendum, I think the government gets a zero bonus for the creation of the ministry of environmental services. There was simply no need to do it. It was the expansion of government with little profit. If it had not been created, there would not have been a managerial position to be filled by Benton. Can I prove that the creation of the department was a waste of time? Not really. But if he was so critical, why didn’t anyone bring him back? It has been gone for five years.
Genius or not?
I ran my genius label Benton through McCauley – who left Clark County years ago and took on another job – to see if he agreed with me. “Snakes are like that,” he replied.
But I needed another opinion. So I found County Councilor Temple Lentz. She wasn’t in government for most of this Benton entertainment, but I consider her the second brightest person in Clark County. And she was there for the county executive session to try to sort out Benton’s mess. That’s when county leaders went behind closed doors to determine their next steps after losing the case. Temple couldn’t talk about it. But hey, I’m good enough to speculate – that’s when the county said, “No mas, pay everybody and let’s move on without that Benton thing.”
So – Temple Lentz – is Benton a genius to be able to make the system work?
“I will say it is disgustingly impressive.”
I texted Benton asking to be interviewed for this column, but never got a response from him. Fair enough. But sir, I repeat, you are a brain! You are a genius!
Listen, when business computer systems get hacked, what do they do? They go out and hire one of the culprits to help them figure out how to protect themselves from future hackers. So what should our county do? You guessed it. Hire Don Benton to help them figure out how not to be fooled.
It would be worth every penny. I’m pretty sure he would charge a reasonable rate.