By TOM HENRY as published in the January 7, 2016 Blytheville Courier News
“Why does a junior grade with six months experience and a track record for plea bargaining get assigned a murder case? Would it be so that it never sees the inside of a courtroom?” Lt. Daniel Kaffee, from the movie “A Few Good Men”.
This quote comes as Lt. Daniel Kaffee, played by Tom Cruise, realizes that he was appointed by brigade command, not because of his talents and abilities as he had supposed, but rather because they wanted to avoid a scandal by protecting their own Colonel Nathan Jessup, played by Jack Nicholson. Jessup’s “star was on the rise” and he was expected to be appointed to the National Security Council by the President very soon. Brigade officials appointed Kaffee because they expected him to do what he always did, avoid doing his job and simply “cop a plea”.
That quote is the first thing that came to my mind when I read the Mississippi County Landfill Committee appointments made by County Judge Randy Carney on Sunday.
Why do two junior members- Justices Jo Ann Henton and Aaron Fleeman – who never have served a single day on the court – get appointed to the committee that provides oversight to the undisputed number one hemorrhaging problem the county faces today?
Why does a third member, though well-educated and absolutely nice as can be in Justice Alvin Clay, get appointed to the committee, when I have only ever heard him ask one question in all the meetings that I have covered?
Was it done so that all the experience that Justices Michael White and Barry Ball possess can be gutted from the committee and so that justices that are less qualified, perhaps through no fault of their own, to provide informed oversight are put into place? Is it because the former members asked too many questions or disagreed too much? Is it because if the new members have too steep a learning curve, they won’t catch sneaky wheeling and dealings?
Carney said that it was because the committee needed new blood and that he had perhaps overworked White in the past. He also said that to underestimate this new committee is to underestimate its new chairman, Justice Neil Burge.
I am extremely skeptical, but I hope that he is right and that I am wrong.
I have full faith in Burge. I have seen how he asks questions, is a man of integrity, works hard and has the best interests of the county at heart. I am not concerned about his chairmanship, even though he admits that he is not the best qualified of all QC members that could have been chosen for that position.
I am concerned however, and I hope everyone understands my heart on this matter, about Justice Jo Ann Henton’s ability to grasp the complexities of the landfill. I am extremely concerned about the extremely young Justice Aaron Fleeman’s ability to not only understand the complexities, but also bring down enough force and true authority to provide adequate oversight. I am also very concerned about the passive Justice Alvin Clay being willing to stand in the way of the force of nature known as Wil Allen (the Landfill Director), if need be.
It is important to remind you that I personally like almost all of the people that I have mentioned in this column, but despite how loveable someone can be, despite whether they are someone that I’d like to hang out with and have a cup of coffee with, that does not mean that they are without flaw or the best person for the job.
The Landfill is the county’s number one challenge and the largest drain on county funds. No one disputes that. Also, Allen can be very imposing and explosive. And regarding the landfill, Carney has been either very naive, very incompetent or very corrupt (at least one of the three) at times.
That is why the Arkansas State Police and the F.B.I. have been investigating the landfill. For those reasons alone, strong oversight is absolutely essential for the Landfill.
Fortunately though, not all hope is lost. Here is how we can get through this successfully.
First, the Landfill Committee members that were announced, all of them, including the three I have expressed concern about, can determine themselves to do 110 percent, ask lots of questions, trust and verify everything and prove my concerns wrong.
Secondly, even if the committee is unable to do an adequate job, the Finance Committee can stop excessive spending dead in its tracks.
Thirdly, the current committee can obtain advice and cross-pollinate ideas with those that were removed from the committee and other well-seasoned justices.
And lastly, if those all fail, the full Quorum Court can intervene both at the committee meetings (even though they all won’t have a vote) or in the meetings of the full court.
I am calling on and expecting the Landfill Committee that Carney announced to absolutely clamp down on the department and demand, come what may, that the issues get fixed immediately. We must not allow, even the appearance of impropriety. We must also not do any more deficient spending.
I just hope they all surprise me (in a good way).