In Suing County, Three Mens' Campaign Stunt Is Failing Miserably - The Missourian: Opinion

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In Suing County, Three Mens' Campaign Stunt Is Failing Miserably

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Posted: Wednesday, May 9, 2012 12:00 pm | Updated: 12:48 pm, Wed May 9, 2012.

In a bizarre campaign stunt, three men sued the Franklin County Commission last week to prevent it from refinancing millions of dollars of leasehold bonds to save taxpayers some money.

It was an incomprehensible move by three men who claim to be champions of commonsense government and watchdogs for county residents’ best interests.

The petition for an injunction was filed by critics of the commission who regularly attend meetings to question and often berate commissioners on an array of issues.

They have referred to themselves as “The Triad” and they make no bones about their disdain for the current commissioners, or for getting one of their members — Ron Keeven — elected to the commission.

They have become the commission’s chief tormentors on a wide range of issues. Sometimes they muster a cogent point. More often, they obfuscate, misinterpret and misrepresent facts, law and the commission’s policies and decisions in a blatant attempt to antagonize them.

Most recently the group has taken aim at the county’s issuance of $39 million in leasehold bonds called certificates of participation (COPs). The county issued the COPs in three series in 2005, 2007 and 2008 to finance construction of a new government center, judicial center and for an extensive road paving project among other things.

Members of The Triad have, at various times, suggested the COPs are illegal — they are not — said the commission didn’t inform the voters about their intentions to use them — they did — and that the debt could bankrupt the county — doubtful, although it has caused some operational stress on county departments in a lingering recession.

The COPs have been in the news recently after a county official acknowledged that mistakes were made in the road paving program that caused some roads to have to be repaved. Critics, including The Triad, can reasonably criticize the county for the way this program was managed.

Taxpayers should be concerned about the county’s debt. Higher debt levels burden taxpayers and governments alike and reduce options on how the county can spend current and future resources.

But it is hard to fathom why these critics would try to block an attempt to reduce that debt level which is exactly what the county is trying to accomplish by refinancing.

The Triad has a right to criticize county government. They have a right to work for what they believe in. They have a right to campaign for one of their own to be elected to the commission.

They are entitled to all of that. But they are not entitled to their own facts. And they have been flat wrong about many of the facts and figures surrounding the COPs and the refinancing. Do they really believe the county is trying to incur more debt by refinancing? Do they really believe the commission doesn’t have the legal authority to designate the presiding commissioner with the authority to sign documents on behalf of the commission?

Someone’s rights end at the point they begin to infringe upon the rights of others — in this case the Franklin County taxpayers who deserve the best interest rate they can get on debt legally incurred.

The Triad may disapprove of the county’s use of COPs as a financing instrument, but it has gone overboard by filing a frivolous lawsuit to prevent the county from taking advantage of lower interest rates on the debt.

It’s disingenuous for these people to pretend they are doing some act of virtuous public service. The lawsuit is nothing more than a political ploy designed to call attention to one of its own. It is the political equivalent of crashing someone’s wedding.

If The Triad wants us to believe they are acting in the taxpayers’ best interest, they are failing miserably.