All Politics is Local

In defense of Don Benton

benton

Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver

I’ve never seen Councilor David Madore lose his cool, but he seemed to come dangerously close to it at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Lee Jensen, a vocal Democrat and oft-seen face at Clark County meetings, accused the council of “picking and choosing” what parts of government they want open, specifically with regard to the hiring of Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, to lead the Department of Environmental Services.

“There were, and still are, a lot of us that would like more information about that hiring,” Jensen said.

Jensen spoke for about two minutes. Madore’s flustered response to Jensen, meanwhile, carried on for about four. It became very clear as he invoked the Constitution, discussed the difference between a leader and a specialist and quoted his grandfather that this is a man who is sick of answering these questions two years after the council hired Benton.

Here are some of the more interesting points from that impromptu speech:

On free speech

“I’ve had several people speak negatively toward our department of environmental services in a way that exercises freedom of speech. But remember, freedom of speech comes with responsibility. Each one is responsible for their own words. It’s that kind of speaking to me, it’s unhealthy, it sows division, and this particular one comes from a false premise. It’s a fallacy.”

On leaders

“There’s confusion between a specialist and a leader, a manager, a director. We did not want an environmental specialist to lead an environmental department, because if you do that, what you’re going to get are impractical, one focus. Environment, environment, environment, and the jobs, the economy, the impact on people’s lives will suffer.”

On his grandpa

“If Mr. Benton was not qualified, my grandpa used to say ‘It would all come out in the wash.’ It’s been two years. That department is doing excellent.”

Madore’s ultimate point, however? “Let it go.”

“You can continue to hammer and harm the reputation of an honorable man, but know it’s not based on fact and it’s in violation of history and it’s based on a false premise,” Madore said.

Kaitlin Gillespie

Kaitlin Gillespie

I'm the education reporter at The Columbian. Get in touch at kaitlin.gillespie@columbian.com or 360-735-4517.