By Ralph Schwartz
I like graft and corruption as much as the next guy, but I’m having difficulty getting excited about the latest controversy in the Whatcom County Council.
Council member Barbara Brenner accused the former executive (Not to name names, but wouldn’t that be Pete Kremen?) of misappropriating a $1.5 million state grant that was supposed to go to the county conservation futures fund by putting it in the parks improvement fund.
The grant covered the cost of the county’s purchase in 2010 of land that became Lily Point Marine Park in Point Roberts. The county paid for the land up front with money from the conservation futures fund — a fund dedicated to the purchase of land in the county for conservation. The futures fund is built up with property tax revenues.
So taxpayers’ money wasn’t returned to the futures fund after the state grant came in. It went instead to the parks improvement fund, which has fewer strings attached.
County Executive Jack Louws said today that the state Attorney General’s Office gave an opinion on this little switcheroo. It was legitimate; however, the county hadn’t formally approved the fund switch.
The council will vote tonight on a resolution to confirm a move that’s already been made. If it decides not to approve the resolution, the executive said he would make sure the money was returned to the futures fund.
No money was misspent, Louws said. And it’s no skin off his nose, whichever way the council votes. “It’s just a political decision at this point,” he said this morning.
Even so, fireworks are expected tonight. Council members Ken Mann and Sam Crawford, on the finance committee, agreed at this morning’s committee meeting to put off debate on the issue until tonight. They expected robust discussion among council members and said the public is likely to speak out on the matter tonight as well.
Will Kremen be blasted for socking money away for his “pet project?” What was this “pet project,” anyway? Will Brenner and Kremen stop exchanging barbs and finally engage in a duel, to resolve their rivalry once and for all?
Stay tuned. All will be revealed tonight. Whatever happens will likely make Page 2 of Thursday’s Bellingham Herald.