Antelope County Commissioners denied the request from “a concerned taxpayer” to address the board at their regular meeting on Tuesday morning.
Regina Krebs of Clearwater, a certified public accountant, expressed concerns about information that has been circulated regarding county finances.
A postcard was recently mailed out to Antelope County voters residing in Tom Borer and Allan Bentley’s commissioner districts, urging them to vote “no” in their upcoming recall election. Cash disbursements by the road department and law enforcement were listed for 2015 and 2019, alleging an $825,600.68 increase in the latter.
Before speaking on the figures, Krebs noted that she resides in one of the recall districts; however, she did not sign the recall petition.
“In educating myself in the issues at hand before I vote, I have read almost everything that has publicly been brought forward,” she said. “However, that being said, I’m not necessarily your average constituent. I have actually audited counties for nearly a decade, and Antelope County was included in several of those years. Imagine my surprise when I get this postcard in the mail…”
Krebs was interrupted by Bentley before she could continue.
“Point of order, Mr. Chairman,” he said. “Um, if I may, um, beings this is a polling place, and this is a recall issue, I don’t know if we can discuss issues in the board regarding any kind of election persuading anybody on either side of this issue.”
Antelope County Attorney Joe Abler was called to the meeting for legal advice on the matter. County Clerk Lisa Payne explained to him that Krebs was on the agenda “for taxpayer concerns and general comment.”
“She wants to talk about a campaign postcard, and I don’t believe as a board that we can talk about a campaign or ongoing election issue,” Borer added.
Krebs said she wanted to discuss “facts on the county finances.”
“I don’t think it’s fair to have you stand up on one side of this issue and not have the other people stand up here,” Bentley said. “Then we turn this place into a debate, which as Charlie stated the last time we were here, ‘This is for board business.’ And this is an election recall issue, and it has nothing to do with this board, well, except two of us.”
Krebs stated that she didn’t intend to speak “for or against” the recall.
“But this was not a postcard that was sent out by the county board, this is a political statement,” Dean Smith said.
Charlie Henery asked if the postcard lists who sent the mailing. Krebs replied, “No, it does not.”
“So isn’t that in violation of the law?” Henery questioned. Abler said he would have to look into it.
Krebs said the postcard shows “departments that are inaccurately portrayed for budgetary numbers and actual disbursements” and asked to clarify the numbers.
Smith, Bentley and Borer continued to question whether the topic should be brought up at a polling place amidst a recall election.
“On the side of safety, we need to drop it,” Borer said. “If you want to come back after the 15th, I think it’s okay then.”
Bethany Miller of Elgin protested that clarification of the numbers should be allowed.
“It came from two of your board members who are supposed to be spreading factual statements and it was very inaccurate,” Miller argued.
Bentley said he didn’t “see any point of this, except to somehow bring up the recall campaign either for or against it.” He made a motion to table the discussion until after the recall election, Smith seconded the motion and it passed on a 5-0 vote.
In other matters, the commissioners:
•Voted 5-0 to purchase an 11-foot Road Groom machine for a $2,500 down payment and the balance of $12,900 by the end of July 2020;
•Discussed a TransCanada haul route agreement, utility crossing permits and road access permits to potentially implement prior to the construction of a pipeline in the area;
•Approved several permits, including a driveway access permit for John Thiele, a 7,200-volt line for Elkhorn Rural Public Power District and an underground water line for Kevin Rittscher; and
•Voted to approve an administrative plat for a 5.240 acre tract for the Miller property at W1/2, SW1/4, NW1/4.