Benton backer: Audience packed with “Portland shills”

At Tuesday’s marathon commissioner meeting, it was easy to track the five people who testified in favor of hiring Don Benton to be the county’s director of environmental services.

There was Chuck Miller, whose wife was hired by Commissioner David Madore to be Madore’s personal assistant at the county. Then there were Carolyn Crain and Debbie Peterson, both of whom received money from Madore, Commissioner Tom Mielke and Benton for their failed legislative campaigns last year. Then there were Christian Berrigan and Dick Sohn, who are operations executive and assistant office manager/photographer, respectively, for the Clark County Republican Party.

But wait. Who were these 45 or so people testifying against the decision to hire Benton? Who could possibly be there to criticize Mielke and Madore?

Sohn had a theory he shared, much to the delight of the audience.

Sohn noted that Commissioner Steve Stuart told speakers at the start of the meeting they only had to give their name, not their address. Now, that’s something Stuart has been saying since he became chairman, but don’t let a thing like facts get in the way of a conspiracy theory.

Sohn said at first he thought it was a time-saving move.

“Then I found out there were a lot of Portland shills in the audience, and I figured, ‘Wow, that’s why Steve didn’t want anybody to know where they are from,’” Sohn said.

After the meeting, I received the sign-up sheets for both the fee waiver public hearing and for general (Benton) comment. The sign-up sheets for the waiver had a space for addresses, the other sheets did not. Many people signed both sheets, and I found all the names in the Clark County voter database. The last version of the database available to me was from February 2012.

The results of my fact-checking? It wasn’t “Portland shills” who were testifying against the decision to hire Benton, but Clark County voters.

Here’s Sohn at Tuesday’s meeting:




Stephanie Rice

Stephanie Rice

I cover Vancouver city government. Reach me at or 360-735-4508.

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