Saturday, November 21, 2009

Of dogs, political agendas and the rule of law

I've written briefly about the latest issue regarding the Lucas County Dog Warden. Now, Tom Skeldon has announced his retirement and that should end the discussion.

But it hasn't.

People are very emotional over the issue of euthanasia of animals - and they should be. It's not a pleasant subject, but a necessary one. Individuals who have not been responsible with their own pets, combined with various state and city laws, put the county in a position of making hard choices, including the decision to put dogs down.

Many of Skeldon's opponents have actually accused him of 'liking' the killing of dogs. How absurd - and outrageous! To even remotely suggest that the dog warden kills animals in his care because he enjoys it tells you all you need to know about the people who are criticizing these actions.

When you confront such individuals with the starkness of pointing out what they are actually suggesting, they quickly back down. But only from saying Skeldon 'likes' it...they continue to maintain that dogs shouldn't be killed - regardless of many other factors.

These opponents have found a target in the dog warden and they are taking out their frustrations with the law on this individual charged with following and enforcing those laws.

Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop - always the first to jump on a band wagon - now wants Skeldon fired because getting rid of the man just isn't enough. From WTOL:

"I'm not comfortable with him as our dog warden for even another day. On Tuesday at our next commissioners meeting, I'll make a motion to terminate Mr. Skeldon," Konop said.

Yet when Konop was running for mayor, do you remember him ever addressing the subject of Toledo's laws that the dog warden has to follow, including the definition of pit bulls?

It may have happened, but I don't remember it.

As the mayor, he would have been able to submit legislation to city council to address many of the concerns animal advocates have about the dog laws. But instead of doing that, Konop has, months later, suddenly decided that Skeldon can't stay on for "even another day."

Of course, that's not the end of it. Today's paper has the story of Konop trying to vindictively prohibit one county employee from participating in a county-wide program. Konop has an early buy-out program he wants to offer to all county employees - but not Skeldon, even though he'd be eligible.

Mr. Konop said he doesn’t want to scrap the buyout plan and is inquiring with the county prosecutors’ office to see if a mechanism can be inserted that would exclude Mr. Skeldon.

“I don’t see why we would want the dog warden to get this lump sum as he walks out the door,” Mr. Konop said.

So why is it in Toledo that some want the rules to only apply to people they like? You may not like a person, but if they're eligible for certain programs or payments, they're eligible. End of story.

However, in Toledo and Lucas County, the politicians, the editorial board of the paper and many groups believe that rules should apply only to certain people and not others.

Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, "Rules are not necessarily sacred, principles are." And that is very pertinent to this discussion.

If you don't like the rules, that's one thing. There are certainly provisions regarding the payout of unused vacation and sick time for public employees that I don't like. But the solution is not to prevent some eligible people from getting them - the solution is to change the rules, and continue to apply them equally to all.

But that's not the way it works in this political world - and that's just wrong. The principle is the rule of law - that our rules, laws and policies apply equally to all, and not just to those we want to favor.

Public employees (and voters) should know what the rules are and that they are applied consistently, without bias. Rules that are not in the best interest of the taxpayers should be changed, especially when they are costly and provide a better benefit than what the taxpayers, themselves, have.

To allow certain groups, special interests and the politicians to tailor the rules based upon their personal feelings about an individual negates one of the very core values of our nation - the rule of law. It violates the principle of equal treatment - and it does so to satisfy a political agenda.

Even when we don't like the outcome of a rule or law, we should insist it is followed (at least until we change it).

Skeldon - no matter what your opinions of him - is eligible for vacation and sick time payouts based upon county policies and state law. If Konop is successful in implementing a buy-out program and Skeldon is eligible, he should be allowed to participate as well.

You may not like it, but you must insist that the principle of 'rule of law' is applied ... otherwise, you may find yourself on the receiving end of such bias one day.


navyvet said...

As we know all too well...Young Ben is not the brightest bulb in the forest.

He is; however, a fanastic puppet for the "vertically challenged" emperor in Pittsburgh.

Boo.....Boo Ben Konop....Boo..

BTW, how is his free Tarta Shuttle
idea (COSI..ZOO..TMOA) working out?

2Bn11FA said...

and people wonder why Toledo and Lucas County are in decline! Why can't the politicians just let people live their lives and get the heck out of the way???? at the local, state and national level, this is all "we the people" want!

Hooda Thunkit (Dave Zawodny) said...

Max Reddish would agree with creating a rule that would allow one single person in the entire state to benefit (unfairly, I might add) from such legislation.

This however, is just the reverse, and on a county level; so shenanigans like this have been done before.

"Young Ben" should learn to understand the law of unintended consequences, before it bites him in the ass some day.

I firmly believe that bad karma always comes back around though, so all that we have to do is wait for "Old Ben" to reap his reward.

Tim Higgins said...

"All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others." - George Orwell in his book, Animal Farm.

Evidently in the world according to Ben, some are less equal as well.

But let's consider Mr. Konop's positions as a whole:
- Let's give taxpayer money to county employees to stop from giving them taxpayer money in salaries.
- Let's fire an employee who has already resigned.
- (and today in the Blade) Let's force businesses to give people with the flu paid sick leave in spite of the fact that they currently have no legal right to.

It is this feel good, self-esteemed based politics that Commissioner Konop has always espoused. In spite of being a lawyer, he often ignores the rule of law (and that of unintended consequences), he ignores the inconsistency in his own thinking, and he ignores common sense.

In fact, ignoring things and ignorance appear to be the only common theme of Mr. Konop's term in office in Lucas County. Let us hope that voters will choose treat his next re-election bid in the same way that they treated his bid for Mayor, by ignoring it.

Lisa Renee said...

Well written Maggie, I couldn't agree more.

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