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Thursday, June 1, 2023
June 1, 2023

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Ex-state senator Benton denied interview for vacant Clark County Council seat

By , Columbian staff writer

The initial list of candidates seeking to replace outgoing county Councilor Eileen Quiring O’Brien included some familiar names, including former state senator and county environmental health director Don Benton.

Benton’s name was on a list of seven applicants for the position, along with Ed Hamilton Rosales, Rick Torres, Myrna Leija, and the three candidates selected by council Chair Karen Bowerman to be interviewed: Thomas Schenk, Dick Rylander and Peter Silliman.

Benton is arguably the most controversial in the list of candidates. Only last year, he shared in a $1.4 million settlement with two other former county employees, program coordinator Christopher Clifford and administrative assistant Susan Rice.

The settlement came less than four months after a jury awarded the three $693,998 in a wrongful-termination lawsuit. The county also paid a $250,000 settlement to former environmental services director Anita Largent, who filed suit against the county after Benton was hired.

Benton was former President Donald Trump’s state campaign manager and briefly served as White House adviser to the Environmental Protection Agency before being named head of the U.S. Selective Service. That job ended with the election of President Joe Biden.

In a telephone interview Monday, Benton said he decided to throw his hat in the ring because he “wants taxpayers and citizens in Clark County to be well represented by somebody who understands them and what they need.”

He said what county residents need is an efficient local government that will provide needed government services at the best possible rate.

“I think that’s what we’re all looking for in our government,” Benton added.

While he couldn’t say whether his history with the county played a role in not being selected for an interview, he said he hasn’t held on to any resentments or grievances.

“I’ve always been the kind of person that will not allow wrongdoing to occur under my watch. When I point it out and nothing gets done by elected officials, the only place you have left to go to save the citizens is the courts. That’s what I did,” he said. “I don’t hold a grudge over that.”

The remaining applicants also had a wealth of experience. Rosales is president of the League of United Latin American Citizens in Southwest Washington and sits on the Vancouver Police Department’s police accountability committee.

Torres is a former U.S. Marine and was employed with the Vancouver Police Department from 1999 to 2006. He is now a sergeant with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.

Leija ran for a seat on the La Center City Council in 2021 but lost in the August primary. She worked for the Clark County Sheriff’s Office for 21 years.

The Clark County Council is expected to begin interviewing candidates this week to replace Quiring O’Brien, but has yet to set a date for the interviews. Her last day on the council is today.