All Politics is Local

Sen. Don Benton seeks second county director gig

benton first day

Could Sen. Don Benton, pictured here on his first day of work at the county in 2013, be on his way back? Only time will tell.

Don Benton applied to lead Clark County’s Human Resources Department, a move dripping with irony given how Councilors David Madore and Tom Mielke trod on county HR policies to hand the Vancouver senator his job as the director of the Environmental Services Department.

Benton, who once called Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, a “trashy, trampy-mouthed little girl,” sent an email Saturday to Clark County Human Resources Manager Ron Zito asking when he could report to work to lead the county’s HR department.

The previous HR director, Francine Reis, is in a new role at Clark County as a performance analyst. The county is recruiting for a replacement.

Benton, who was ousted from his job as Environmental Services director when County Manager Mark McCauley dissolved the department last month, said in the email that, per HR policy, “I am eligible to be offered the director of the Human Resources Department position now that it is vacant.”

“I am clearly well qualified for this position,” Benton said. “I am available and ready for immediate work. Please notify me as to when I should report for work as the Director of Human Resources.”

Not so simple.

Zito responded by saying employees facing layoffs can be considered for vacant positions as long as they possess the requisite qualifications for the position.

“To be clear, the policy does not mandate reassignment for (non-union) employees facing layoff,” Zito said, advising Benton to apply online if he believes he meets the minimum qualifications.

That’s something Benton isn’t used to doing. In 2013, he was appointed to lead the Environmental Services Department by Madore and Mielke without applying. Then-County Administrator Bill Barron protested the hiring, saying doing so would “(obliterate) every process we’ve had for 14 years.”

“Just so you know,” Barron said at that now infamous board time. “My interpretation, this will devastate the organization … This is bypassing every human-resource process we have for hiring department heads.”

The hiring ultimately resulted in the county paying a $250,000 settlement plus attorney’s fees to Anita Largent, who served as the interim director, after she sued the county alleging unlawful hiring practices and discrimination.

So it makes sense that Benton continues to be a man not brushed off onto an online application like most of us are when looking for work.

“I have reviewed the posting carefully and am clearly fully qualified both in experience and training for the position,” Benton told Zito. “I am attaching my resume and am hoping for an interview if not the appointment.”

Benton’s resume, unfortunately, was not provided to me by the county pursuant to exceptions allowed under the Public Records Act, so we can’t analyze it to see if he’s as qualified for this job as he was the Environmental Services Department.

But it doesn’t matter. Zito wasn’t taking it anyway.

“As stated in the job announcement, a resume and cover letter is required and you will need to register for iRecruitment, fill in your personal information, attach your resume and cover letter, and apply for the job,” Zito responded, wishing Benton luck.

The entire email exchange is attached.

Kaitlin Gillespie

I'm the education reporter at The Columbian. Get in touch at or 360-735-4517.