Diana Irey Vaughan

Diana Irey Vaughan

Since Gary Stout’s excessive exaggeration on Republican governance in Washington County fails to define either “good government” or “partisan politics,” perhaps I should address our common understanding of these terms before refuting his poorly researched, baseless and inflammatory accusations (“Concerns mount over commissioners’ moves,” March 15 Observer-Reporter).

“Good government” refers to government that promotes the general welfare of the people without malice or prejudice, so that they may pursue life, liberty and happiness, as well as full enjoyment of the gains accrued by their own labor and industry, within a framework of rules and laws.

“Partisan politics” refers to the practice of placing party loyalty above all other concerns, even when those concerns should be addressed through cooperative solutions.

A careful analysis of the facts on each issue will show that the logic used to arrive at our decisions is good government and was anything but partisan.

First, the hiring of our new county solicitor, Jana Grimm, of Steptoe and Johnson:

Local governments must outsource their legal work to a reputable firm with broad, diverse municipal experience, and they must be prepared to pay for top-notch results. We hired the firm of Steptoe & Johnson, located in Southpointe, with access to over 300 attorneys, naming Jana Grimm of the firm as solicitor. They provide expertise in diverse areas of law, including tax law, real estate law, and employment law. This contract will help to reduce dependency on the countless, outside legal firms the county has hired in the past to address issues outside of the solicitor’s contract scope, which includes oversight for all necessary legal services of the county. There is a tracking of our solicitor’s time, which is standard practice for legal work. A cost analysis revealed a significant savings and exposed that Washington County’s flat rate for counsel is far less than many other counties in our region.

Second, the designation of Washington County as a Sanctuary County:

In a nutshell, we’re just trying to make sure that the government of Washington County supports the constitutional rights of its citizens. You will recall that Commissioner Nick Sherman and I sued the governor for his overreach of power during the COVID-19 pandemic, standing up for the rights of our businesses. We believed that he was making a mockery of the First and Fourteenth Amendments, and so did the judge who heard our case. So we took a stand for the rights of law-abiding gun owners. Showing support. Some may see this as an empty gesture, but a growing consensus of legal scholars would disagree. So would most of the county. I would like to note that this resolution had full board support.

Finally, the consolidation of Human Services:

For many years, our human services in Washington County have been chronically disorganized. Although many organizations here do a wonderful job, each controls only its own piece of the pie. The county has no single point of entry for services, which results in no continuity of care and no followup across lifespans, families or problem areas. It’s challenging enough for families that function relatively well, who have adequate resources, or who have strong support systems. But what about a middle-aged woman who has a son who’s a drug addict and a pregnant daughter who’s being abused by her boyfriend – in addition to a mother who needs placement for Alzheimer’s and a father who has PTSD from his service in Vietnam? Who coordinates the multiple services these people need? Who ensures they have food? Medical attention? Hope? While this scenario may sound exaggerate, it is all too often the reality for many families in crisis. The pandemic has escalated many issues facing our families in Washington County.

I’d think that you, as an attorney, have seen many of these people – the ones who feel like they fall somewhere between a nobody and a somebody. The ones who feel the imbalance inherent between wealth and poverty.

If we can’t help our citizens by streamlining their services, eliminating the duplication, eliminating the phone calls that never get returned and the voicemails that go unanswered ... what are we even here for? Now more than ever it is imperative for our county to move toward consolidation of services.

It is the board’s responsibility to research and review the business that is brought before them to ensure educated decisions are based on factual information. The board is responsible for working toward cooperative solutions; however, at times we will have differences of opinions in our vote, which of late is unfortunately being construed as partisan politics.

Diana Irey Vaughan is chair of the Washington County Board of Commissioners.

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