Commissioners remove Bennett from jail group

Harry Bennett of rural Marion “was resigned” from the Marion County Public Safety and Law Enforcement Center Committee on a 3-0 vote of the Marion County Board of Commissioners Monday.

Commissioners said Bennett had overstepped the bounds of his position by checking on a potential site for a new jail and communications center without having been authorized to do so.

The commissioners said selecting real estate, checking its suitability, and discussing it with current owners are responsibilities of county commissioners, and not what committee members were asked to do.

The committee members also had voted previously to ask that Bennett be removed from the committee.

Bennett said discussions had been done in executive sessions, which he questioned if the committee was allowed to do, “without benefit of newspaper coverage.”

“My reputation was impugned,” he said.

Commission Chairman Dan Holub said committee members are charged only with evaluating ways to finance a new jail facility, its function and size.

Bennett contested his removal from the committee, saying throughout the meeting that he had acted within his responsibilities as a public citizen by looking at the old lumber yard across the street east from the courthouse grounds.

He saw the building, owned by Darvin Markley, as a potential site for a jail, and solicited a friend who is an engineer to look at it.

Bennett said the engineer friend had done it for him in a gesture of good will to help the county, and had not asked to be paid.

Commissioner Bob Hein said he also had been approached by Markley, who said he would like to sell the property to the county.

Bennett said if he had violated conditions of his committee appointment, then so had another committee member by soliciting support for a per-house county-wide assessment to finance a jail.

Holub said the two situations were different with the requirement to obtain real estate clearly a responsibility of the county commission.

Bennett noted Hein has asked him to the commission meeting, taking time from his work without any compensation.

After reviewing his positions, he asked the commissioners, “Am I being taken to the woodshed, or am I being asked to resign?”

Commissioner Randy Dallke replied he had no problem with Bennett being given a five-minute opportunity to present his views to his fellow committee members, but that his final choices were to resign or be resigned by the commissioners.

“The problem is, your trust with the committee has been broken,” Dallke said. “They feel you may go out and do something else again without their consensus. Will you give us your resignation after you’ve talked to them next Tuesday?”

Bennett said, “I’ll answer your question with a question. You say I violated that trust. Did you write those things down?”

Holub said the meeting was basically at an end because Bennett’s question had nothing to do with the issue.

Bennett left, and Dallke made the motion to resign him.

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