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Commissioners remove Bennett from jail committee

Staff writer

Marion County Commissioners unanimously voted Monday to remove Harry Bennett from Marion County Law Enforcement and Public Safety Center Committee. The vote followed Bennett’s refusal to resign.

In a Sept. 9 meeting, members of the volunteer committee voted unanimously to ask for Bennett’s resignation. The committee’s request came after Bennett spoke independently with a property owner about land the county might wish to use as a site for a new jail without the committee’s prior knowledge, Commission Chairman Dan Holub said.

Bennett said he had spoken with the property owner without mentioning a jail, but he said the property owner could probably infer the reason.

The committee met behind closed doors to discuss his actions and a request for his resignation.

“If somebody is going to impugn my integrity, I’d rather have it in the papers,” Bennett said.

It would be easier to respond publicly if the discussion was in an open meeting. He was upset the committee discussed it without him present, because he was unable to share his reasons.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said Bennett lost the trust of other committee members with his actions.

Holub said it also went beyond the task the commission gave the committee. The committee was never asked to consider property acquisition.

Bennett said he was concerned the committee was trying to rewrite county tax policy with a plan for a flat per-dwelling assessment. He said he preferred sales, property, and income taxes because they are well established with legal precedent.

In other business:

  • Scot Loyd of the accounting firm Swindoll, Janzen, Hawk & Loyd, of McPherson, presented the 2008 audit report. The audit found many departments, because of small staffs, are unable to fully separate the authority to approve purchases from the responsibility to account for purchases.
  • Cook, Flat, & Strobel Engineers, P.A., will inspect 10 critical bridges for the county in return for $4,320. Dallke asked if the county has any “bridges to nowhere” that could be closed to save inspection costs. Road and Bridge Superintendent John Summerville said one bridge along the Dickinson County line could be closed.
  • The county will seek to fill vacancies for a sanitarian and a planning and zoning director with one person. It would be costly to pay two people for the jobs.
  • Commission met in closed session with County Attorney Susan Robson for 15 minutes to discuss attorney-client matters. Commissioners took no action on return to open session.
  • Marion County Sheriff’s Department will install digital cameras in two department vehicles, at a cost of $4,295 each. Such cameras can protect law enforcement officers from false claims of abuse, Undersheriff David Huntley told commissioners.
  • Holub requested a 20-minute closed session to discuss personnel matters. There was no action when the commission returned to open session.

The next commission meeting will be Monday.

Last modified Sept. 24, 2009

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