Sunday, February 18, 2001

Fiscal court snoops out of line

        I bought a van last week and signed more paperwork than Kenton County officials did when they bought a $1.5 million building with taxpayers' money.

        But maybe I shouldn't reveal that. I don't want some hired goons from the Kenton County Fiscal Court picking through my file out at Toyota Towne.

        That's what happened to a Fort Mitchell Democrat named Nathan Smith, who had the audacity to question the purchase price of the Covington building that taxpayers of Kenton County now own.

        Mr. Smith asked for information from the county via the state's Open Records Law, which reporters and others use to glean documents from public bodies.

        Was Mr. Smith, an active member of the Kenton County Democratic party, on a political fishing trip with his search for paperwork documenting the building purchase?

        Does the pope wear a big hat?

        But does that give fiscal court hired hands the right to dig into records on the purchase of Mr. Smith's private home and then use that information to make a comparison between a public building and a taxpayer's residence?

        I thought Republicans didn't like Big Government, with bureaucrats probing into citizens' lives.

        The fiscal court has taken some heat for paying $1.5 million for a building that just four years ago was on the tax rolls for about half that.

        To make a valid point — that the actual value of a property is rarely the assessed value — Deputy Judge-executive Scott Kimmich looked up the tax rolls on the home Mr. Smith purchased on West Maple Avenue last year.

        Sure enough, Mr. Kimmich found that Mr. Smith's home was assessed at $85,000 in 1998 and purchased for $144,000 in 1999.

        Good point. Bad move.

        The Kenton County Fiscal Court needs another public relations headache like Bill Clinton needs some more of
the furniture he lifted on his way out of the White House.

        Since being elected in the fall of 1998, the all-Republican fiscal court is finding it hard to focus on what little has gone well for it.

        The court gave the appearance of caving in to political pressure when members ditched a proposed site for a new county jail because constituents in the heavy-GOP turf of Edgewood moaned.

        They looked ill-suited to lead when they decided to build a county jail on the same site as the existing jail, which their own jail advisory commission — including county jailer Terry Carl — said is a bad idea.

        They've raised taxes so many times they look like a bunch of East-Coast Democrats.

        And now they've rushed through the purchase of a building where they will be competing with private landlords, because the court will be leasing space to the businesses already inside. That, by the way, is another no-no for hard-core Republicans — government should not compete with private business.

        The court can holler about partisan politics when it's questioned and criticized for these and other moves, and certainly some of the jabs coming from the Dems are politically motivated.

        But maybe instead of complaining, they need to start listening.

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