Uproar as Clark Co. hires ex-GOP head as enviro director

Uproar as Clark Co. hires ex-GOP head as enviro director
In this Jan 14, 2013 photo, Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, shakes hands on the opening day of the 2013 legislative session.
VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) - A crowd at the Tuesday night Clark County Commission meeting stayed past midnight to criticize two Republican commissioners who hired GOP state Sen. Don Benton as the county's director of environmental services.

The former head of the state Republican Party was selected last week over the objection of the commission's lone Democrat, who called it political cronyism.

When the meeting ended at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, Democrat Commissioner Steve Stuart said he will ask the board to reconsider the appointment. He said it broke a rule to allow the county administrator to take lead on all hiring, The Columbian reported.

Several speakers at the meeting called Benton's hiring unethical and called for a recall of Republican commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke.

Former Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard said he believed the two Republican commissioners had met beforehand to discuss the hiring.

"Today I still support Clark County, but I am ashamed of you and you," Pollard said, pointing at Madore and Mielke.

Lehman Holder, a chairman of a local Sierra Club chapter, said Benton is "no friend of our environment."

Benton opposes including a light rail line to Portland on the planned new Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River.

A few people supported Benton. Carolyn Crain and Christian Berrigan both told the commissioners the hire was a positive one.

The new job could triple Benton's state pension when he retires, The Columbian also reported.

If the 56-year-old remained only a senator until 65, he would receive nearly $23,000 a year, according to estimates by the newspaper with assistance from county and state officials. But Benton's new county job, coupled with his legislative job, could increase his estimated retirement benefit to nearly $70,000 a year.