Press Talk: 'I am Ed Barnes!'

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian editor

Published:

 

The Donald is at it again. No, not the East Coast bully with power. Our very own West Coast bully with power.

Of course, we’re talking about state Sen. Don Benton. Or is that Clark County Environmental Services Director Don Benton? Either way, he’s a bully.

His latest strong-arm tactic was to get one of his attorneys to send a threatening letter to a citizen who has been complaining about him. I'm not kidding!

Quick background:

Sen. Benton has been squeezing taxpayers forever to make sure he keeps living the good life. You know, free meals, free dry cleaning, the works. Then the $100,000 county environmental job comes open and Benton figures, what the heck, that job can’t be brain surgery. I’m in!

Now let’s be honest here. Benton couldn’t tell the difference between emissions and Eggplant Parmesan. But … who cares about his qualifications?

And changing the job description to “fit” Benton doesn’t work, either. That’s like saying you can change a brain surgeon’s job description to read, “must pick up garbage well” and presto, your friendly garbage man is now your brain surgeon.

Certainly, qualifications didn’t matter to the M&M boys. Yes, that’s Commissioner David Madore and Commissioner Tom Mielke.

So Benton says, “Hey, hire me!” and the M&M boys say, “Sure, why not.”

No process, no vetting, no nuttin’. Just come on in the back door.

The odd man out, Commissioner Steve Stuart, calls “bullshit” (that’s not me saying it, it’s a direct quote from Stuart). But no matter, Benton got the job.

Now, this didn’t sit well with lots of folks. So the M&M boys have gotten an earful from residents. And one such resident is Ed Barnes.

Ed is a good guy. Actually, he’s a great guy. He’s a retired labor leader and even if you believe unions will lead to the destruction of the Earth as we know it, you’d like Ed.

Lately, Ed has been banging on the M&M boys over the Benton hire, every chance he gets. And Benton says he’s had enough. So he hired an attorney to send Barnes a threatening letter. Benton will sue ya if you don’t shut up, Ed!

Now, Benton should know that all is fair in love and politics. He should know. But Benton is pretty much clueless. You can tell this from a quote he gave us:

“I believe I would win (in court) hands down. I’ve spoken to four attorneys on this and they all (agreed).”

Huh?

Don, could you give me the names of those four attorneys? I’d like to give them some good counsel. Because they’ve given you some bad counsel. Not only would you not win, you’d end up with Eggplant Parmesan on your face.

Benton seems to be relying on the idea that as an elected official, he has to put up with grief, but as a private citizen (county worker), he does not.

But what Benton and his cadre of attorneys don’t get is, that’s not the way it works. You see, once Benton, the county worker, got involved in his hiring controversy, he became a public figure. So “elected official” isn’t the legal test. “Public figure” is the legal test. And he is now a public figure in his role as an environmental director. Capiche?

(No need to send me a check for this counsel, Don. It’s on me!)

Spartacus

Of course, Benton the politician should know it was silly to threaten the voice of a citizen. It just resurfaces the entire hiring issue again. But he’s sort of clueless that way. (Did I already say that?) Worse for Benton and the M&M boys, there’s a county commission meeting at 6 tonight at the Public Service Center downtown. I urge folks to show up! Give the commissioners an earful!

There’s a great scene in the classic movie “Spartacus,” where Spartacus and many of his men were captured. They were told all would live if they would only point out Spartacus. As Spartacus was about to give himself up, one of his men stood and said, “I’m Spartacus!” Then another. And another. “I’m Spartacus!” They all rose. “I’m Spartacus!” they yelled together.

Wouldn’t it be great if those at the county meeting all stood up and shouted, “I’m Ed Barnes!” Because in a way, we all are Ed Barnes. A little guy being pushed around by a few bullies.

Sure, they all would be gaveled down, but it would be worth it.

Yes, “I am Ed Barnes!”

Spartacus clip

I'm Spartacus
Spartacus — MOVIECLIPS.com