Merten says Pulitzer is tainted

In response to the latest editorial in the Storm Lake Times newspaper:

I had a hard time plunking down a dollar to purchase your latest rant on the Buena Vista County Supervisors (Wed. 4-19). I remembered your tag line at the bottom of your editorials. (“Ye shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:32). I am also aware of your award of which you are so proud, and how those opinions were based on half truths and plain lies. I guess if you tell lies long enough, they become the truth in the mind of the teller. Maybe now we should clear the air a little bit.

For the umpteenth time you tell how we, the supervisors, have not let our county attorney be a part of this process. We did in fact keep him in the loop from the beginning with DMWW’s intent to sue, all the way through the dismissal of the lawsuit. He was always welcome to be a part of any and all conversations, and he did participate. At no time did he ever recommend settlement.

You also stated that we schedule “closed meetings.” This is also a lie. If you read the agendas put out (including the one prior to your last editorial), you will notice they say the words possible Closed Session. Until this DMWW lawsuit we have very rarely gone into closed session, if ever, during my tenure on the board. There are very few situations where we are allowed to go into closed session and we always ask the attorneys present if they recommend that a closed session be warranted. When the county attorney has been present for these situations, he has never been asked to leave and always asked for his input. No action may take place in closed session nor has any action ever taken place in closed session. On this last Tuesday, the agenda also stated a possible Closed Session. However, for some reason you were not aware that when we asked Mr. Armstrong if he recommended closing the meeting, he said “NO” and everyone was allowed to remain in the room. Unfortunately maybe by this time some in the audience were getting their morning nap. Any and all conversation was open to anyone in attendance.

There are other half truths that need to be addressed, since they seem to have been to your benefit and not to those of our county, which are the figures and amounts as well as the “players” in this funding you so haphazardly throw around in your editorials. Not sure if you are throwing these out there to see what sticks or you have actual facts. We as a board are only privy to the bills that are submitted to us for payment. Those amounts have always been open and shared by this board through the Sac County Auditor’s Office, who is the fiscal agent. The entities that contributed those amounts are also public, and I know your staff had access to that information. We are proud of those who stepped up to help fund our defense in any way they could and I am proud to call them friends. Anything we’ve seen, you’ve been able to see as well. We take transparency very seriously, unlike what you would have your readers believe. As to the amount raised and paid to national counsel, again, what we’ve seen, you’ve seen as well. WE are not hiding anything as you have so often accused us of doing.

Do we want our ducks in a row? Yes. Do we want this to be a burden on our taxpayers? NO.

When we literally pass the hat for the remaining funding, will we tell you contributes and how much? Absolutely yes. I fear that you will not be patient to wait for this information, but I wish you would trust that we are doing what is in the best interest of the county and not your editorials. You must also remember we were wrongfully sued and therefore forced to defend ourselves. You always wanted us to settle even after being told multiple times we legally had nothing to settle with. We do remain open to any and all funding to finish paying any outstanding debts to our attorneys when those bills are submitted.

I also don’t know where you came up with the dollar amounts you so easily float around in your editorials. Anywhere from $300,000 here to $3 million there. I guess whatever is outrageous enough to garner attention for yourselves or pose some type of shock factor is fair game. The bottom line is that we three counties have paid less than 5% of the total costs so far but always maintained 100% control of the lawsuit. That would/should be wonderful news but doesn’t seem to be in your world.

While these are just a few of the inaccuracies of your editorials, I don’t have the space for the others at this time. I just want to say that I have been disappointed in your editorials (which I know are just your opinions) regarding this lawsuit. Throughout the last two years, you seem to have definitely picked side in this argument and that side has not been with your friends, neighbors, and businesses of Buena Vista County. Throughout this process you could not help but demonize the agricultural community. On top of that, I think you fail to see the bigger picture of who the “Big Guys” were in this case. You took the side of a person who feels the need/want to expand his water empire in central Iowa, who used bully tactics to try and make 10 small drainage districts in northwest Iowa pay for his years of mismanagement and his desire for expansion of that empire beyond the Des Moines city limits. I can’t help but feel you’ve rooted against us all along and you are disappointed that we prevailed in this unprovoked attack against our county. I would rather that you’d won your award by reporting on how the agricultural community is addressing the problems and the facts of how nitrate movement actually occurs, instead of painting farmers as industrial polluters. Not once did I read anything in your editorials where you even considered we were right. These error filled attacks by you should end. Congratulations on your Pulitzer Award even if some think it is tainted. I also would like to invite you to our meetings. It may add credibility to your editorials.


Buena Vista County Supervisor