We don’t know whether Don Benton and two other plaintiffs were wronged by Clark County officials in 2016. A jury will decide on that.
But we do know that the county has paid dearly for hiring Benton as director of the now-defunct Department of Environmental Services. And that the hiring was indefensible. And that the trial currently underway is part of a recurring nightmare for local residents, harkening back to when county business was grossly mismanaged.
Benton, then a state senator, was picked for the job in 2013 by county councilors David Madore and Tom Mielke despite having no qualifications and despite a lack of standard hiring procedures.
Steve Stuart, the lone reasonable member of the then-three-person council, said: “This is disgusting. It really is. … You gotta honor the organization, you gotta actually honor the integrity of the organization and the process to find the right people for the job. If after that process you find that he is the right person, God bless. Then you choose him. And you choose him with pride. But to choose him without even going through a process is diminishing and demeaning to him. It’s demeaning to Don Benton because it smacks of political cronyism that you would appoint him without a process. It is saying that he couldn’t make it through the process on his own accord with his own merits.”
All of which is true and memorable and a defining moment in the reign of Madore and Mielke. All of which helped inspire voters to pass a county charter the next year to reconfigure local government. A few years later, Benton lost his job when county officials eliminated the Department of Environmental Services, folding its duties into other departments.