More courthouse shenanigans

CommentarySeptember 7, 2012 

People always talk about what gambles they might make if they were a betting man (or not a betting man).

What about the betting women? Specificially, those at the Cass County Courthouse?

Would anyone bet that things will finally settle down over there after the Nov. 6 general election?

I’ve been known to throw a few bucks down in the name of gaming, and even I wouldn’t get near that bet.

First, Cass County Clerk Janet Burlingame came under fire from Auditor Ron Johnson on issues of nepotism. While that assertion seemed to have some legs, things are stalled on where that might go. Burlingame is still in office, still working every day, just as she has been for many, many years.

This week, Johnson announced another target – Collector Pam Shipley, who has a relative on county payroll.

The difference is, this relative has been on since before Shipley was elected to her Cass County office and seems to have gotten an across-the-board raise just like everyone else in that office when extra duties were divvied out.

The envelope of nepotism is really being pushed here. And Johnson has to be asking himself if this is really a battle he wants to fight.

Commissioner Brian Baker spent many months in skirmishes with Johnson over broadband and other financial issues. And both of them are Republicans.

Shipley and Burlingame are Democrats. And while this latest issue shouldn’t feel partisan, it is almost impossible to avoid that notion in an election year.

I get that as auditor, Johnson has a duty to watch and protect the county coffers. But soon, and maybe it’s already happening, people are going to start to suggest he’s taking the fight to a different level, an ugly one that will further divide this courthouse.

The commission will change this November and the courthouse could be in for other modifications, depending on who is elected, the state of the county and other factors.

So I have to wonder, who is betting on being next on Johnson’s list?

On the other hand, individual departments have to make sure their own homes are clean and therefore wouldn’t be subject to any scrutiny by a department that can clearly find it if it looks.

New candidates in Cass County are going to be beating the drum of transparency in our government.

Incumbents will have to fight that tide.

And the question remains, how far should Johnson go in looking into these allegations, and, if he’s gone too far, who is going to call him on it?

Shipley says he’s flat wrong on this one. We’ll see how the legal team weighs in.

John Beaudoin is the publisher of the Cass County Democrat Missourian. To comment, call 816-380-3228 or e-mail

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