Welcome back to Wrong Side of the Mountain, my column about what makes life in Boone County good or bad, depending on your perspective.
Wow. Just wow. It has been an exciting several weeks in county government and it was highlighted by a visit to the Boone County Clerk's office from West Virginia Auditor JB McCuskey on Thursday.
I want to thank each and every person from the community, the media, law enforcement and all levels of government who have reached out to me with encouragement over the last several months. Investigative journalism is fueled by citizens who want change. It is inspired by good people who want to know the truth about where their tax money is going and what decisions elected officials (and employees) are making on our behalf.
Newspapers have always been described as the fourth branch of the government, but I have always thought of them as the first branch of the people. After all, we're in this together.
I was disappointed that none of our county commissioners attended the gathering in Roger Toney's office Thursday. With that said, all of our county commissioners are educators and Brett Kuhn was preparing for a sectional baseball game for the Skyhawks. I'm just saying that SOMEONE should have represented the Boone County Commission's office. They were invited and in my opinion, it was a bad look for the county and a disrespectful nod to the spirit of this site and what it represents for someone not to represent the office of the commission.
Commissioner Craig Bratcher has been the loudest supporter of the site and transparency in general. I want to commend him for his support for it from day one. I don't have to ask Craig about the importance of transparency, he will openly engage you about it.
To view the site, go to boonecountyclerkwv.com and click on the "links" tab. You'll see it as the very first link on the page.
Don't let the site intimidate you. At first, drag your mouse over items and learn the delicate nature of what is at your fingertips before you start clicking. This site goes back five years of checks and balances and in the last two days, I have been exploring it like some crazed, sugar addicted kid in a pastry shop.
I want our readers to understand that I will continue my series on "What They Make," where I compare the salaries of Boone County employees to those in counties of similar size and to those in neighboring counties. These stories take time to develop as there are Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests involved and sometimes people don't play nice but they always come through in the end. I want to thank those counties that have been helpful in this process.
What I have found through doing this series of stories is that our county is a bit top-heavy in terms of salaries and I can only presume that we are underpaid at the bottom because in the end, everything rolls downhill in government. Our recycling department is losing $70-80k per year, but we are laying off custodians in the courthouse. This juxtaposition is what eats at me.
In future stories, I'll question more vendors that we do questionable business with, both current and past and we'll learn what some county offices have ACTUALLY done to meet their mandated 8 percent cut in budget, not what (some) stand in front
of commissioners and say they are going to do.
In reference to the "What We Pay" series and the vendors I highlight, I am not accusing these vendors of dishonesty, I am merely putting the numbers out there and letting the taxpayer be the judge.
I've been accused of having a political agenda behind my work.
We live in the era of social media. At its best, it gives everyone a voice. At its worst, it gives every mouth breathing troglodyte with a real political agenda the ability to attach "journalist" to their name and espouse their political ideas under the guise of reporting the facts.
With that said, I don't have a political agenda. I don't associate with a party. I don't play for a team. You won't see me rubbing elbows at party meetings in the county or going to barbecues held by elected officials because I simply don't care about your politics. I'd rather be waterboarded than talk politics.
But for 10-12 hours per day, it is a small part of my gig.
If I vote for you it is because I've done my research and I think that you have our (citizens) best interest at heart. I don't get hung up on social issues. I have no desire to tell you who/what to worship or who to love. Just try to be a good person. We all fail at that sometimes. Life is hard.
As my good friend and bandmate Johnny Compton always says, "Don't forget to hug the ones you love."
Until next time.
Reach reporter Phil Perry at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @philipdperry.