Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

FROM THE PUBLISHER >>Is Villines trying to hide more disgrace ?

It’s hard to figure out why Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines has opposed the release of emails written by a disgraced former employee — unless Villines thinks they will make his office look bad and raise questions about what his workers are doing when they’re on the clock.

Taxpayers have long suspected that many public agencies are overstaffed, wasteful and unproductive, and the case of Ron Quillen — the former county comptroller and director of administrative services who now faces criminal charges for pocketing some $42,000 in public funds — may prove them right.

What if half the public employees were laid off today — would we lose anything as far as the level of services go?

Pulaski County would have hefty reserves without Quillens on the payroll. Not only would the county reduce overhead, but characters like Quillen shouldn’t goof off on county time and line their pockets at the expense of taxpayers.

The county would have money to expand its inadequate jail and hire more deputies, instead of wasting money on Quillen and his ilk who expect sexual favors in return for valuable contracts. Maybe that’s why Villines doesn’t want the steamy emails Quillen sent to a lady contractor out in the open.

The media have gone after Quillen’s emails through Freedom of Information Act requests, despite Villines’ stalling, but why not go further and ask for all official documents — time sheets, productivity, emails — and find out how much time public employees are putting into their jobs?

That should all be public information, and it would be interesting to know who is earning their pay: These employees are working for us, not Villines, so let’s find out if we’re getting good value for our buck.

If you think your taxes are too high, it’s people like Quillen who should get much of the blame.

Pulaski Circuit Judge Mary Ann McGowan is our nominee for public servant of the year because she has gone to bat in behalf of the public, which doesn’t happen often: She has defended the state’s Freedom of Information Act to the letter, ruling that Pulaski County must release just about every email between Quillen and his girlfriend who did a lot of business with the county.

The state Supreme Court had blocked Judge McGowan’s decision, but she will eventually release most of the material, drip by drip.

The public interest is crucial here, because as the judge has noted, “The personal relationship may have influenced Quillin in expenditures of funds of Pulaski County. Further, there are more instances in which, if the public were not allowed to know, information concerning public money may not come to light.”

Not to mention jewelry and clothing Quillen had given his lady friend which “may or may not have come from a county account” — that is, out of your pocketbook.

It’s a mess, but no amount of stalling will keep the truth from the public. The Freedom of Information Act was passed to let the sunshine into government, and as long as the media keep poking around, we’ll keep the light on for you.