The following is a guest opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the GUARDIAN. We offer all candidates and readers a chance to respond via the comments section of this post or with a guest opinion.
By KAREN DANLEY
On the ballot once again, Sharon Ullman must possess a wicked sense of irony in positioning herself as a fiscal conservative, just weeks after the Ada County Commission cleaned up the remaining fallout from Ullman’s Folly—the Dynamis debacle that cost taxpayers $4.6 million. The people of Ada County were left holding the bag, wondering how the half-baked scheme ever got approved and why it found a champion and cheerleader in then-commissioner Ullman.
To recap this sordid tale of wasteful spending, fraud, and deception, let’s start at the beginning. At the urging of Ullman, who gave numerous assurances as to the legality, propriety, and built-in safeguards of the deal, Ada County entered into a contract with Dynamis Energy, fronting the start-up company $2 million to design a plant that would turn trash into electricity by burning it at the county landfill.
According to an Idaho Statesman story (Sept. 30, 2012), more than half of the $2 million went to personnel, including engineers who were paid more than $350 per hour, outrageous rates by any standard and more so for a public project. Under-capitalized and ill-equipped to do what it was promising, Dynamis required that the county buy their high-end Apple computers, in addition to charging an extra 10% for “overhead and profit.” That’s like hiring a plumber and finding out that in addition to standard labor charges, you’ll be charged for the wrench and all other tools, and then an extra gratuity for good measure.
By late 2012, following delays and complications, public opposition was mounting and environmental and contractual concerns were surfacing. Ada County, and in particular recently appointed Commissioner Dave Case, began looking for ways to exit this ill-conceived scheme. It wasn’t until Ullman was voted out of office that Case and newly elected Commissioner Jim Tibbs moved to kill the deal in February 2013, even though it meant cutting their losses and foregoing the county’s right to recoup damages.
Adding insult to injury, the episode cost taxpayers another $2.2 million, when the County was forced to settle with Fortistar, a company that for years had been successfully reclaiming landfill methane gas, which it converts to electricity. Fortistar sued the county when the trash was promised to both Dynamis and Fortistar. The $30 million tort claim was mediated, with the current commission having to settle, incurring nearly half a million dollars in legal fees.
Of course, there’s much more to the story: alleged closed-door meetings, public input thwarted, county employees resigning over their disgust for the way it was all handed. But here’s what voters need to remember: Ullman’s Folly took $4.6 million away from hardworking taxpayers—$2 million to Dynamis, $2.2 million to Fortistar, and another $450,000 in legal fees.
Sharon Ullman is no fiscal conservative and has proven that she is ill-suited to any office, much less the one she brought disgrace to with her unyielding promotion of this ridiculous and costly fiasco. Dave Case is a thoughtful and earnest steward of the public’s money and deserves to be reelected.
To insure more advertising-free Boise Guardian news, please consider financial support.