atest update on the Platte County Commission’s CPP (Crony Payment Plan) using federal CARES money.
One of the newest recipients is a non-profit youth sports organization, Southern Platte County Athletic Association. The SPCAA was awarded a grant of more than $20,000 by county commissioners on Monday, Aug. 17. It was the largest dollar amount awarded that day.
Interestingly, Stephanie Schieber, wife of presiding county commissioner Ron Schieber, is the paid executive director of the Southern Platte County Athletic Association. In late July when the list of applicants was printed, it was publicly pointed out in The Landmark that Schieber’s wife had an employment connection to the SPCAA. So when the vote came around on Aug. 17, Schieber abstained.
The Southern Platte County Athletic Association has also received two other helpings of grant money from the county recently. In addition to the $20,000 CARES grant awarded that same day, on Aug. 17 commissioners also approved a youth sports grant of $37,500 to the SPCAA. The youth sports grant comes from the county sales tax for parks and recreaction. Ron Schieber abstained on this.
But the SPCAA which employs Mrs. Schieber also received a $20,000 parks and recreation outreach grant approved by Platte County commissioners back on April 6. Interestingly, Ron Schieber voted yes on that one, even though his wife’s signature is on the application.
So a quick chronological summary of events:
April 6: Using parks and rec sales tax dollars, county commissioners approve a $20,000 outreach grant to SPCAA for softball field upgrades. Ron Schieber votes yes. His wife’s signature is among those on the organization’s application for funds.
July 29: It is reported in The Landmark that Schieber’s wife is employed by SPCAA and that the SPCAA is on the list of CARES grant applicants.
Aug. 17: County commissioners approve a grant for the SPCAA in the amount of $20,167 using federal CARES money. Ron Schieber abstains.
Aug. 17: Using parks and rec sales tax dollars, county commissioners approve a youth sports grant in the amount of $37,500 to SPCAA for uniforms. Ron Schieber abstains.
I called Ron Schieber Tuesday, Aug. 18 and we had a 14-minute basically polite conversation about the current state of affairs at the county commission. The conversation included my asking him why the yes vote in April followed by two abstentions that occurred after it was brought to public light he has an immediate family connection to the organization. His answer was a bit of a convoluted explanation that the two most recent grants were “straight operational subsidies” that could be construed to be a conflict. He said he does not see the April outreach grant for softball field upgrades to be a conflict because, in his opinion, it was not an operational subsidy.
Wut? That sounds like splitting hairs. Most reasonable people would believe if you have a spouse drawing a paycheck from an organization, her signature is on the application, and your vote directly helps guide free money to that organization, you have a conflict. It’s not too much to expect elected officials in that situation to not only abstain from voting but also abstain from any discussion on the matter.
At any rate, what we can say for certain is that in recent months county commissioners have approved more than $77,000 in free public money to the youth sports organization that employs county commissioner Ron Schieber’s wife, including $20,000 of which the presiding commissioner took an active role in the vote to approve.
Participating with a yes vote to give free public money to an entity from whom his wife draws a paycheck seems like a conflict of interest by Ron Schieber. At the very minimum, it is another county commission action that doesn’t pass the smell test.
(Get more ‘nothing to see here’ from Foley via email to firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @ivanfoley)