In the January 17, 2010 Longmont Times-Call there was a guest opinion by Election Committee member Strider Benston that had some outright incorrect statements that need to be corrected. Keep in mind, this is a member of the committee that just cost the city tens of thousands of dollars. You’d think he’d at least want to check his facts before making such statements.
- 1) He said “this local group, led by Mr. Chris Rodriguez, sued the city in U.S. District Court.” Actually, I didn’t lead this group, I was asked to join it after it had already begun organizing.
- 2) He said “a $68,500 settlement going to Mr. Rodriguez and his associates…which rests now in the pockets of the very people who brought the lawsuit…” Another lie, I did not get a penny of that money, nor did any of the plaintiffs as far as I’m aware of. If anything, I spent my own money on this lawsuit. We knew we would not personally financially benefit from this lawsuit, that wasn’t the point. As usual, the attorneys are the only people who make out in these situations.
- 3) He questioned my statement about being “the only member of the public who has attended every single Election Committee meeting.” At the time I wrote that, that statement was 100% completely true. Then they started scheduling meetings on Fridays instead of the normal Monday nights, which I couldn’t attend. I seem to recall Mr. Benston coming in late on occasion, and there were meetings I was at that regular members were not. It appears Mr. Benston took this statement as meaning it wasn’t open to the public, which I never even hinted at. He said he wants me to substantiate my claim, I recorded every single meeting and took notes. That, and I’m on record publicly speaking at just about every meeting. Also, I spoke to him personally at every single meeting. I can’t help it if they guys memory is scattered – mine isn’t.
- 4) He claims I received only 1 vote to be on this committee – actually I received 3, one less than a majority. For someone who has a lot to say, you’d think he’d have at least 1 suggestion in the recent “Items for discussion and potential revision to the LFCPA“, but he had ZERO. By comparison I had 6.
- 5) He said nothing in the LFCPA has been “formally ruled upon at all.” There was this thing the federal judge did called a Preliminary Injunction, it was actually pretty big news and lead to the city having to settle as it was a clear indication they would eventually lose in court. How could someone in Mr. Benston’s position overlook that very important development?
For someone who we are trusting on an important committee, one that can levy large fines against individuals and organizations, and who cost the taxpayers $40,000 in a blink of the eye – Mr. Benston shows frightening ignorance or at least a cavalier attitude towards speaking without knowing the facts. This coincides with his endless bloviating during EC meetings, calling everything he disagrees with “spurious”, while the attorney meter is running at $200-$400 an hour.
Mr. Benston and others on the committee took this lawsuit personally, and said as much, and many times in Mr. Benston’s case. They then coincidentally went after one of the plaintiffs (Longmont Leadership Committee) and fined no other entity. I stand by every word I wrote and reiterate, based on actual events and not faulty memory, that some members of this group showed blatant bias and political favoritism. It appears he still doesn’t get the point of the lawsuit, which is sad and troubling for someone who is in such a position, that forced speech still goes against the First Amendment. A federal judge agreed. No judge has agreed with any statement Mr. Benston or anyone with his same opinion has made. The city voted to change those 19 words – apparently they agree as well.
This is all the more reason to seriously gut the responsibilities of the Election Committee. It should become an advisory board no more powerful or important than any other. It should have no business as a quasi-judicial body, as has been clearly shown that they can’t control themselves – to the detriment of taxpayers. The only reasonable, objective, and non-blatant bias and favoritism I witnessed was displayed by Mrs. Champion, Mr. Tiger, and Mr. Bernard. The others showed varying levels of spite, emotion that’s not acceptable in a quasi-judicial setting, vengeful attitudes towards those of differing politics, and plain old ignorance of the ordinance.
If this committee continues in any kind of quasi-judicial role, it’s pretty clear Mr. Benston doesn’t deserve to be anywhere near it based on his guest editorial. And in case you’re wondering if his rants that have nothing to do with Longmont that he makes during Public Invited To Be Heard appear in his comments from his EC seat – yes they do.