2012-10-04 / Editorial Page

Fighting for your rights is not selfish

TO THE EDITOR

As a Lincoln County taxpayer, I read with great interest the letter written by Mrs. Sublet in last week’s “Letter to the Editor” section of your newspaper. Although I agree that the county attorneys are not “salaried employees” in the way that most county employees are, they do indeed get paid for services rendered, and are most likely, on a retainer for the county.

In fact, their work is so important and is obviously used so frequently, they have their own line-item budget amount included in the General Fund County Budget. For FY 2012, that amount was $50,552. That amount is more than many of the other important departments within the county. It is more than Planning and Zoning, the Coroner, Cherokee Park, The Lincoln Center and the Volunteer Fire Department received in the budget so it is obvious that the law office is used frequently and the work they do is considered important.

Even more telling is the FY2013 budget for the county attorney of $64,552, an increase of 27.7% over last year’s budget. Although I do not have access to previous years’ budgets, my question would be: In years past, how much was budgeted to the county attorney and how much of that was subsequently billed to the county? If I were a betting person, I would bet that very few years have passed that the entire amount budgeted was not billed to the county for services rendered. If that is true, then there is plenty allotted to have them work for that money.

I, for one, am glad I live in a country where I can question the government entities when I feel I am not being treated equally and fairly. Because I am an American, I can choose to file a lawsuit to fight for my rights, if I feel they are being infringed upon. If the county officials feel they cannot defend themselves within the law, I am happy they have the county attorneys to assist them in their defense. Yes, as taxpayers, we do pay the retainers of those attorneys, but I am thinking it is money well spent when taxpayers’ rights need to be addressed. I am sure no one who has filed a lawsuit is fighting because they have nothing better to do. They are fighting for their rights, as United States citizens have every right to do.

As a taxpayer, I take my responsibility to pay for services seriously. I want and expect good services within our county. I know those have to be funded and I don’t mind paying my fair share. However, when anyone believes they are not being treated equally and fairly by the taxing authority, they have the right to appeal the county decisions through the court system.

I do not consider that to be “frivolous” as Mrs. Sublet stated. I consider that my right as a U.S. citizen and taxpayer.

Although I am not privy to the information that prompted it, concerning the February/March Performance Review conducted by the state: The report did state their significant findings and they were not as Mrs. Sublet stated, “no laws broken and a clear review.” The panel found there was a “lack of complete documentation explaining the methods employed when appraising property” and they specifically gave 26 recommendations to make the office more efficient within the county and transparent to the taxpayers.

In today’s economy, everyone is suffering and most of the departments within the county are no exception. I am sure most departments’ budgets have been cut as much as the county attorney’s budget has increased. I personally think it is an indication that the county sees the “writing on the wall” and needs to make sure enough money is budgeted to cover the cost of litigation, as people become more and more aware of what is going on. People who question the actions within the various departments and work within the law to protect their rights are not selfish, as Mrs. Sublet claims. They are doing the prudent and right thing in the appropriate way.

BETTY JO BOYD

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