The editor’s opinion from Marketplace, Northeast Wisconsin’s business magazine. (Obligatory disclaimer: Most hyperlinks go to outside sites, and we’re not responsible for their content. And like fresh watermelon, peaches, pineapple, grapefruit, tomatoes and sweet corn, hyperlinks can go bad after a while.)

July 1, 2008

One of these things IS like the other

The Superior Daily Telegram reports that a majority of respondents to a statewide Midwest Democracy Network poll trust state government to do the right thing either “some of the time” or “almost never.”

A group of politicians in the “almost never” category would be the 15 Brown County supervisors, led by board chair Guy Zima, who refuse to tell the Green Bay Press–Gazette — and, by extension, Brown County taxpayers — whether they get taxpayer-paid health and dental benefits. (The eight who did deserve credit for doing their duty as public servants. Four of those — Tony Theisen, Patrick Wetzel, Rich Langan and Patty Hoeft — deserve even more credit for not forcing taxpayers to pay for their health or dental insurance.)

It is improper for elected officials to receive taxpayer-paid benefits, period. (The benefits in question cost Brown County taxpayers $126,000 yearly, according to the Press–Gazette.) It is extremely improper for part-time elected officials to get those benefits. That must be why Zima and the other 14 supervisors are hiding behind the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act in refusing to say whether or not they get county health benefits; why otherwise would a supervisor oppose telling the public that the supervisor doesn’t get health benefits? When politicians receive taxpayer-funded goodies, they should have absolutely no expectation of privacy.

This subterfuge led by Zima is yet another example of why you really cannot be too cynical about politicians.

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