816 North

Appointees say Platte commissioner didn’t unduly sway jail advisory panel on park tax

Two appointees of Platte County Presiding Commissioner Jason Brown dispute the notion that he exercised undue influence on the county jail advisory committee, which recently recommended that part of the county parks tax be redirected to law enforcment.

The committee was formed to address the issue of crowding in the county jail and space needs for the sheriff and prosecutor.

But critics have suggested that Brown used the committee as a vehicle to win support for the tax transfer and to solve funding problems arising from the county’s lease of new radio equipment. The radio costs came up during the committee’s deliberations.

Late last month, the three-member county commission did not take the committee’s suggestion to put the park tax switch on the November ballot. And with Brown dissenting, it raised the property tax levy to meet the radio lease costs.

Brown has not responded to requests for comment, but jail committee member Jacque Cox, wife of Platte County Assessor David Cox, denied he had any influence in the committee’s activities.

Asked how the parks tax became a target for funding the needs of county law enforcement, Cox recalled that “someone” had brought it up, “as a way to not raise taxes.”

“But I was not directed by Jason Brown,” she said.

Dagmar Wood, one of the jail committee members named by Brown, dismissed as moot the question of whether Brown exerted undue influence on the group.

“Who cares if they did? You pick people who you think would be good to serve. They’re probably going to be like-minded,” she said. “But Jason never told me, ‘You will do this and you will do whatever.’”

Although the citizen group’s main task was to address jail crowding, Cox said it was given a “large scope.”

“Funding was part of that,” she said.

Wood said she brought the tax switch before the committee and researched the issue, but she also said the idea has been around for a long time as a way to pay for the county’s other needs.

“That was the only issue we split on,” Wood said.

Overall, she and Cox rated the group a success.

State Rep. Ron Schieber, who will replace Brown as presiding commissioner in January, said the chance to realign the parks tax was a missed opportunity.

He said he hadn’t spoken to the other commissiones on the issue of jail crowding. He noted that jail committee report “indicates that we have to start doing some planning, but we don’t have to just jump right in and do something.”