Editorials

Something rotten in the county of Dunstan

Madison County Chairman Alan Dunstan, a Democrat, is being challenged by Madison County Treasurer Kurt Prenzler, a Republican. Both men are responsible for lawsuit decisions that could cost county taxpayers millions.
Madison County Chairman Alan Dunstan, a Democrat, is being challenged by Madison County Treasurer Kurt Prenzler, a Republican. Both men are responsible for lawsuit decisions that could cost county taxpayers millions. Provided

The Democrats have a great issue with which they can beat up the Republican candidate for Madison County chairman, Kurt Prenzler, between now and November.

Losing just more than $1 million in taxpayers’ dollars by discriminating against a handicapped person? Well, that’s just campaign gold.

Madison County Treasurer Prenzler inherited a corrupt office that was bloated and he tried to trim staff and save taxpayers some money. That was working well until one of those workers, Linda Dunnagan, filed a federal lawsuit that on Monday hit $660,000 plus lawyers fees that tally $1.01 million. There go the savings.

Critics have pounded on the fact that Dunnagan’s lawyer made repeated overtures to settle for much less, starting at $60,000.

Prenzler claims there was no discrimination, that another job was offered Dunnagan at $35,600, which was half her old salary. The federal judge said half salary is not a legitimate job offer.

“She rejected this offer, retired, began to collect her pension, and sued the county, claiming a disability,” Prenzler said. “She did not have a disability. We have excellent grounds to appeal.”

Maybe, but so far the results have not been good. The question is whether to continue gambling with the taxpayers’ money by appealing. How much more can they lose? Prenzler’s legal instincts on this so far have been lousy.

It is important to note that the incumbent Prenzler is trying to unseat is Madison County Chairman Alan Dunstan, who leads the county’s Democratic Party. Prenzler inherited the bloated treasurer’s staff from the Democrat on whom he blew the whistle — Fred Bathon.

Bathon went to the federal pen for running a scam on delinquent property taxpayers that allowed tax buyers to charge the kind of interest you’d see on credit cards. Bathon was getting campaign contributions for steering the delinquent properties to the buyers who’d bought his love, and one of them made $1 million from the scam.

The 10,000 victimized taxpayers have a class-action lawsuit against Madison County, which under Dunstan’s leadership has so far refused settlement offers. The plaintiff’s attorney has noted that the county has a $2 million bond against Bathon claims.

Depositions have shown the Bathon conspiracy was common knowledge in the county. Dunstan has denied knowledge of Bathon’s antics, which is either an example of a clueless leader or a dishonest one.

So there are your choices for Madison County chairman: A guy who called out corruption but blundered personnel cuts to the tune of $1 million, or a guy who couldn’t or wouldn’t smell the rot when it was right under his nose and could cost the county $2 million or more.

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