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To the Editor:
Gregory Smith has a poker player’s dilemma with the $100,000 per year contract he signed with the Malheur County Court to do economic development work. If he folds his bad hand, admitting that he did not perform parts of the written contract, it is an embarrassing admission of failure. Instead, Greg chose to bluff, dodging and delaying answers to legitimate questions from the public, hoping that his weak hand goes undiscovered. Fortunately, Malheur Enterprise called Greg’s bluff.
In the nine years that Greg has contracted with the county, the only written records of his performance are the 100 county checks he has signed and pocketed. For the roughly $1 million spent on achieving the 12 contracted objectives, we have no data, no documents to assess whether this investment of tax dollars was successful. Giving each man, woman, and child in Malheur County $33 to spend as they see fit would cost the same $1 million. Would this create more economic activity and jobs than Greg’s performance? Without data and reports, who knows?
On the other side of this contract is the Malheur County Court. I am sure they are conservative folks who have been elected to spend precious tax dollars to benefit all our lives. As such, it surprised me how disconnected the Court appeared to be in overlooking Greg’s lack of compliance. In fairness to the Court, they have bigger fish to fry…reading their 83-page budget is an eye-opener. They administer vastly larger programs for public health, public safety, and roads—which deservedly require more money and Court oversight. Nevertheless, $100,000 per year is real money to most of us, and deserves more active oversight than just “…never had a complaint.”
• Greg’s contract expires in June; don’t renew it. He has made costly errors on the reload project, has failed to fulfill his County contract, and is openly hostile to the public’s legal right to know how he is (or isn’t) doing.
• Consider contracting with nearby agencies that specialize in economic development, and that have track records that can be vetted.
• Update the contract. The deliverables need to be more specific. The reporting requirements need to be improved, including quarterly interim reports in writing. Making mid-course corrections every few months is more effective than waiting a year (or 9 years).
• If the Court is too burdened to do oversight, delegate this to a qualified county employee, or get a local CPA or law office to do it.
– Jim Bishop