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Exonerated


   To the Editor,
   I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many people who supported me through the recent false allegations made against me. I know it took a lot of courage for persons who did not know me personally to tell me what they thought about the way this was handled. To those of you who knew me as either friends or clients, I would like to express how much your support really meant.
   It was very hard for me not to see this as a personal attack. It was devastating at first. Your support of me was the only thing that allowed me to put it all in the proper perspective. I would also like to express my appreciation to Commissioners Bellamy and Ponsford who appeared to attempt to handle matters in a professional and ethical manner. If in the end it turns out that the county has done me any intentional harm, it appears to me at least that Mr. Bellamy and Mr. Ponsford can only be blamed for trying too hard to accommodate Commissioner Zemke in her efforts to force a decision from the commission that it appears now she had made before she was elected. To this date the commission has not apologized or acknowledged the obvious mistake that they made.
   I am not important enough to believe that this was about me. I believe it was about money. I would like to share with you information I have that supports this belief but for various reasons I can not do so at this time. It was not about my money or the county's money. It was about taxpayer money that goes to paying for services for persons who have mental illness, chemical addictions, and have other problems fitting in socially. Counties and private providers spend this money with very little accountability for how it is spent. This taxpayer money is subject to the same pressures of increasing costs and more spending that healthcare in general faces while the average person must watch helplessly as the demand for more taxes and healthcare costs increase. The pressure to spend more comes from exaggerating the demand/need, poor productivity and commitment of providers, and a belief that if you are efficient and only provide necessary services that are effective, and providers are productive, that there will be less funding in the future.
   To the latter I say, "So what, it is taxpayer money so why shouldn't taxpayers be the beneficiaries of savings." While I was with the county I spent the last six and a half years working closely with the county commissioners to be a good steward of the public funds. I reduced the cost of one hour of services from over $135/hour to $88/hour. When county employees were shown to be too expensive and have low productivity I reported this to the commissioners and assisted them to implement a plan to privatize mental health which more than doubled the staff productivity at a lower cost to the taxpayers. I started sustainable, evidence based new programs that were tied in to the Oregon Benchmarks so they could be discontinued if they did not show that they could produce results. During the last six years, I believe it will be shown that the county saved close to $500,000.
   The existence of that money can be viewed in two ways. Providers and former county employees would say that the savings exist because we were not spending enough or doing enough. I contend that the savings are there because taxpayers are being asked to pay too much for an adequate level of service. This is happening everywhere on a much larger scale than Jefferson County. If you look closely at other counties even those who contract out services, you will find that they spent most of their money but it went into raising the costs of services, new buildings, capital outlay, and was just plain wasted so they could continue to claim that they need funding increases every year.
   I attended many meetings before Jan. 28, 2003 where it was agreed by providers that they would all make cuts in services that would have a deep impact on voters, even if they did not have to make the cuts for financial reasons, in order to get voters to approve a tax increase in January.
   I am no longer working for the county and do not miss the pressure from employees and providers to spend more tax dollars for services of questionable efficacy. In the years that follow, taxpayers can expect to be told that they need a lot of new programs that can't be held accountable to achieve outcomes and a lot of new providers who may not be accountable to the public for maintaining high levels of productivity. Following this will be the need for more space, buildings and equipment. This will initially be paid for by savings from prior years of efficiency however when the savings run out we will be expected to continue the spending with increases in taxes and/or health insurance premiums.
   It is appropriate for a private business using it's own capital to take a chance and expand in anticipation of more revenues. In government when this happens the anticipated increase in revenues is an increase in taxes, or where the revenue comes from insurance, an increase in premiums passed on to policy holders. It is time to resist government that caters to these practices and look into the actions of politicians who disgrace themselves by bringing forward false accusations in an effort to cater to those who endorse these practices. All effort is significant. You have shown me how a little support can go a long way.
   David White
   
Madras