Editorial: Committee’s tactics truly reprehensible

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 16, 2002

The courthouse battle in Freeborn County has hit a new low, and not surprisingly, we’ve reached this new depth courtesy of the &uot;Freeborn County Committee for Fairness.&uot;

The committee’s shaky lawsuit against the county and three commissioners who were just doing their jobs was bad enough on its own. Now it turns out that lawsuit has scared off all the potential bidders for courthouse bonds. That’s not only an inconvenience for the county, but possibly a delay that will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars because of rising interest rates, delays in construction and legal costs.

This group claims that because commissioners changed their minds about whether to vote on the project, and went ahead after much of the audience had left, the vote is void and the county is breaking the law by going forward. We’ve agreed before that the board made a mistake by handling the vote as it did &045; mainly because it opened itself up to this kind of criticism. But there’s no evidence they purposely deceived anyone or attempted to defraud the residents of the county, as the lawsuit charges.

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Now, based on bad blood over this relatively trivial procedural detail, the very committee that has so loudly complained of the cost to taxpayers is now likely to needlessly cost those taxpayers more money.

This committee, whose members aren’t even sure enough of themselves to make their names public in the lawsuit, says it wants &uot;fairness.&uot; They claim they’re fighting for democratic principles. But whatever happened to majority rules? The board voted 3-2 to proceed with this project. Anybody who doesn’t like a decision made by the county board or city council is certainly free to complain, and free to lobby representatives in hopes of changing their minds. Ultimately, the people’s best defense is to elect representatives who they think will serve them faithfully.

But this committee is using obstructionist tactics in what smells like an attempt to put off the start of the project until after the election, at which time they hope to have one of their friends, Truman Thrond, on the county board to undo all the progress that’s been made on the courthouse issue. For a group that claims to have the interests of democracy at heart, that’s a hypocritical attempt to circumvent the representative democracy we have in place.