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October 2008

Supervisor Rod Sullivan: Has he abused his power and violated the public trust?

FACT 1:  Rod Sullivan is the Chairman of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors.  He has the power to establish and set agendas.

FACT 2:  Rod Sullivan is a member of the Johnson County Heritage Trust (JCHT), a special interest group that buys up land in the name of conservation.

FACT 3:  Rod Sullivan helped put a JCHT like agenda on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors agenda, to be funded at taxpayer expense.

Here's the dirty little secret folks.....

The $20 million Conservation Bond issue that Rod Sullivan helped to shove down our throats was NOT something that folks like you and me, Joe-Johnson-County-Resident petitioned for. Average Joe Resident was NOT out knocking on doors saying, "Hey, we need more green space," asking you to sign a petition asking for the county to buy up unspecified lands for unspecified uses. Let me be perfectly clear, this was NOT a mass resident driven petition drive.  It was NOT an issue on the minds of Joe Average Johnson County resident.  No, the County Supervisors themselves along with Conservation Board Director Harry Graves put this on their self-serving agenda and on the November general election ballot.  This was a desire of a select few, not of the good people of Johnson County.

According to Iowa Code, since the Supervisors themselves put this on the ballot, they also had the power to take it off the ballot and table the issue if residents asked. The Supervisors were indeed asked to just that.  Sullivan and company arrogantly refused.

In June, Sullivan and the Supervisors were asked to consider the flood of 2008, the immense damage, the displacement, the recovery and relief efforts needed, the resulting negative economic impact and the resources needed to address all those related issues.  In light of all that and DESPITE IT ALL, Chairman Rod Sullivan and the Supervisors STILL chose to keep the Conservation Bond issue on the ballot.  Despite the obvious financial and resource absorbing issues related to the flood, despite the fact that Joe Johnson County Resident didn't petition the people for more bike trails and parks - Rod Sullivan and the Supervisors pushed forth with their self-serving agenda. 

Has Sullivan abused his power?  Has he violated the public trust?

FACT 4:  Terrance Neuzil is a Johnson County Supervisor and Co-Chair.  He too has the power to establish and set the agenda for the board.  

FACT 5:  Terrance Neuzil is also a member of the Johnson County Heritage Trust, a special interest group that buys up land in the name of conservation.

FACT 6:  Terrance Neuzil helped put a JCHT like agenda on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors agenda, at taxpayer expense.

FACT 7:  Sally Stutsman is a Johnson County Supervisor. 

FACT 8:  Sally Stutsman is also a member of the Johnson County Heritage Trust, a special interest group that buys up land in the name of conservation.

FACT 9:  Sally Stutsman helped put a JCHT like agenda on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors agenda, at taxpayer expense.

FACT 10:  Conservation Board Director Harry Graves is a member of the Johnson County Heritage Trust, a special interest group that buys up land in the name of conservation.

FACT 11:  Director Harry Graves helped put a JCHT like agenda on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors agenda, at taxpayer expense.


Here we have three out of five members of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, a majority, getting their way in placing an item on the agenda, and the ballot.  Is this an abuse of power?  This wasn't a want let alone a need identified by the people.  It was a self-interest want put on the agenda and the ballot by a very small select few.

They want YOU to buy the land THEY want.

Johnson County Supervisors failed to properly budget our money

As a result of the national housing slump, County Assessor Bill Greazel and County Treasurer Tom Kriz informed County Supervisors and other officials Thursday that residential and commercial property valuations are expected to stay flat.

One has to wonder how the valuations will remain flat and not drop, especially considering the national average is at a decline of about 9 percent according to most reports.  New construction in the area is also slowing down, further complicating the financial picture.

So what does this mean?  In a time when County Supervisor and Chairman Rod Sullivan and Co-Chair Terrance Neuzil have approved a $20 million Conservation Bond issue for some bike trails to go on the November ballot, they should have been considering how they're going to pay for projects already on the books.  When assessments are determined early next year, the revenue won't be what Sullivan and Neuzil had hoped for.  It's going to logically mean tough budget decisions for our county leaders.

"We may be saying to taxpayers, there is a lower level of service," supervisor Sally Stutsman said at the Thursday briefing. Sally Stutsman also approved putting the Conservation Bond issue - which vaguely proposes things like bike trails - on the general election ballot.

Something to keep in mind, the Conservation Bond issue was NOT something that Joe Johnson County Resident petitioned for.  Nobody was out knocking on doors asking you to sign a petition asking for the county to buy up unspecified lands for unspecified uses.  No, the County Supervisors themselves put this on their agenda and on the ballot.  And according to Iowa Code, they had to power to take it off the table if residents asked.  Given the floods and economic conditions, the Supervisors were asked to take the bond issue off the table in June, they arrogantly refused.

So given current conditions, how prudent was it for Supervisors Rod Sullivan and Terrance Neuzil (Chair and Co-Chair), to propose and/or approve project after project after project, taking millions and millions of dollars out of resident's pockets.  Did Supervisors Sullivan and Neuzil care to ask the common sense question, "What if things get bad?"

Sullivan has been a huge advocate for a new Health and Human Services Building - projected price tag:  $12.1 million.  To be fair some funds were set aside for this project.  What?  It was actually budgeted for?  My goodness that makes too much sense!  Government did that?  But the project isn't complete yet and PLEASE NOTE that this was budgeted for prior to Mr. Sullivan's time on the board.  County Treasurer Kriz has stated however that we would continue to pay for this facility for about five more years.

Sullivan and Neuzil approved a new Joint Communications Center - Projected price tag:  $22 million.  These costs have already exceeded the original estimate of $17 million.  Property taxes have been raised as a result of this project and County Supervisors are now looking to sell bonds to make up the balance.  Yep, another tax hike.  This cost does NOT include additional operational expenses taxpayers will have to cough up to run the place once the building is complete.

A new Conservation Headquarters/Maintenance Facility - Projected price tag: $1 million taxpayer dollars.  County Supervisors approved the issuance of General Obligation Bonds not to exceed $1.2 million.  This facility was needed, but why wasn't it planned for then in the budget?  Are County Supervisors mortgaging our future?

New SEATS Facility - The estimated total cost of the Johnson County SEATS and Secondary Roads Office Building is $1,980,300 and the estimated total cost of the Garage Structure is $1,056,300.  That's your money.  The question is, was this facility needed this year? 

County Jail - Projected price tag:  An estimated $61.2 million to $76.5 million, which includes a combined facility with courtrooms.  Who is paying for it?  You are.

County Courthouse - Projected price tag:  See 'County Jail' above, but if the combo doesn't work, how much?  It's your money being bantered about.

And in spite of the Flood of 2008, Johnson County Supervisors put the Conservation Bond Issue on the November ballot - Price tag: $20 million Johnson County taxpayer dollars.  This does NOT include additional costs for development of lands purchased, such as bike trails or parks (we don't know, they won't tell us the intended uses, there are no details, no business plan to speak of).  This does NOT include unforseen/additional costs for maintaining the lands purchased.   What land?  Where and how much?  How is it to be used?  They won't tell us.

Grasshopper So, in light of all these expenditures that County Supervisors want YOU to pay for, did the Supervisors arrogantly think Johnson County would always enjoy economic growth as long as they were in charge?  AS IF Mother Nature doesn't happen?  AS IF economic conditions don't change?

It seems our leaders have the *wisdom* of grasshoppers, not ants.

"I'm Michael D. Thayer, and I approve the removal of Rod Sullivan from office."

Supervisor Sullivan approves to spend $60 million more of your dollars

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors led by Rod Sullivan agreed Thursday to move forward with hiring an independent contractor to assist with coordinating plans for a more than $60 million criminal justice center.

And Rod Sullivan and Terrance Nuezil want ANOTHER $20 million of your money for some bike trails and parks!


Supervisor Rod Sullivan just doesn't get it

Since Johnson County Board of Supervisors Chairman Rod Sullivan has publicly stated that my opposition to the Conservation Bond issue and statements I've made related to his record are "BS", the following is from a February edition of Sullivan's Salvos, a publication the Chairman types up and sends out to subscribers once a week.  The Chairman has brought attention to himself, and voters need to know just how the Sullivan clock ticks:

You may have read Mike Thayer’s recent letter to the editor, which claimed that “while businesses tighten their belts, governments raise taxes.” Huh? Tighten their belts? I don’t know where Thayer shops, but the costs of gas, food, insurance… hell, EVERYTHING I BUY has gone up! So if by businesses “tightening their belts” he means raising their prices, then yeah, their belts are tight.  There are important discussions that can and should be had around government spending. I am happy to have those conversations (I actually enjoy them!), but let’s be honest first.

Yes Mr. Sullivan, let's be honest.

As far as I know, Mr. Sullivan has never owned his own business. Do you see how he tried to spin and play the "us vs. them" angle?  "So if by businesses “tightening their belts” he means raising their prices, then yeah, their belts are tight."  Ewwwww, those inherently evil businesses!.....  Keep in mind that Mr. Sullivan firmly believes that taxation is good for the collective and has stated as much.......

"I think we have to remember that, sometimes, doing the best for the taxpayer is spending money." ~ County Supervisor Chairman Rod Sullivan (D-Iowa City).

In getting back to the discussion of our current economic conditions, the Chairman fails to understand that the cost of doing business has indeed gone up.  Yep, fuel costs have gone up, insurance is up, the cost of paper is up.  Yes, businesses do indeed pass on the increase in the cost of doing business to the customer, IF THEY CAN.  Please be advised Mr. Sullivan, BUSINESSES ARE SUPPOSED TO MAKE MONEY, THEY'RE NOT IN BUSINESS TO BE A CHARITY.  But rises in prices from the business owner to the customer are not automatic.  It's not always wise let alone realistic to do so.  By and large, businesses set prices at what customers will bear, no more, no less.  They can't AFFORD not to play by the laws of supply and demand.  Economics 101 Sullivan, did you bother to take that class?

Does a restaurant raise the prices of their tasty offerings at the drop of a pin?  Hell no, spending time with an accountant (many times the accountant being the owner themselves) when there are other tasks needing attention, the labor involved with planning, printing, and dollar cost of new menus, the training of staff on changes, IT ALL COSTS MONEY!  Contrary to what Mr. Sullivan would have you believe, such costs do not automatically or necessarily get passed on to the consumer.  Does a grocery store automatically raise prices when tomatoes, cucumbers, and potatoes cost more in a given week due to rising fuel costs?  No, especially if competitor 'A' doesn't raise prices, than most likely store 'B' does not.  Store 'B' can't afford to lose market share.  And by the same token, we're starting to see fuel prices finally go back down, YES, stores are relaxing some prices reflecting that change.  Will Supervisor Sullivan acknowledge that business decision, passing on savings to consumers?  HELL NO!  He's all about how he can paint the prettiest picture, to convince you that he knows best and that raising taxes is a good thing.

Sullivan doesn't know business, he's spewing without real knowledge.  He doesn't consider tangibles, and what he completely fails to grasp, or fails to admit to his readers, is that business owners walk a fine line.  They can't raise prices on a whim, they can't gouge customers, and if they try they'll get discovered and they lose market share.  That's how it works.  You present a bad or overpriced product, and consumers respond negatively. 

Yes Mr. Sullivan, government SHOULD tighten its proverbial belt when economic times are down.  It's called COMMON SENSE, which you don't seem to have!  Asking for a tax hike for bike trails is a very bonehead thing to do, especially now.  Not only are we trying to recoup/recover from the flood of 2008, we're suffering from economic woes coming down from the national level.  You want to raise taxes so you can star gaze, when many people are struggling to put food on the table and pay the rent?

Mr. Supervisor, what are you thinking?   And why have you omitted the fact that you belong to a group whose mission it is to buy up land in the area, so that Joe Lunchpail, Joe Farmer, and Joe Employer can't?

Folks, here's a dirty little secret.  The County Board of Supervisors put this measure on the ballot.  This wasn't something that was put to them by the people, by petition.  Because the Board themselves placed this on the ballot, then according to Iowa Code, they could dismiss the issue and take it off the November ballot.  The Supervisors were asked to do so, they arrogantly opted not to.

By the way, three members of the ballot are members of the Johnson County Heritage Trust, a land conservation outfit, as is Conservation Board Director Harry Graves.

Rod needs to be voted out of office. 

I'm Michael D. Thayer, and I approve the removal of Rod Sullivan from office.

County Supervisor Rod Sullivan called me tonight

County Supervisor Rod Sullivan called me tonight, I wasn't home at the time, he left a message.  I returned his call.
Sounding nervous, he wanted to know why I seemed to be angry with him, why I am challenging him so much on the Press-Citizen story boards for example.
I basically told him I wasn't angry with him, but did object to his agenda, his policy stances, how the Conservation Bond issue came to be, and that I objected to many of the statements I've seen him make in a public forum.
And no, I'm not happy that he keeps proposing tax hikes time and again.
I also told him that I did not appreciate being called a liar, flippantly telling me to "go sue" if I didn't like it, sending me emails that say I'm gutless, and that "People see through your BS, Mike".....
Sullivan_crybabyIt's almost amusing how nice, at times whiny and crybabyish Sullivan was on the phone, compared to how he has behaved with a scolding arrogant tone behind the safety of a computer in posting on the Press-Citizen story boards.
This is getting ugly folks.  I really don't like what I'm seeing, I truly wish debate could stay on topic, but Rod Sullivan is the Chairman of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors and in my humble opinion his conduct is unbecoming.
The way I see it, Sullivan is not used to being challenged, he's used to getting things his way.  He is not accustomed to a vocal/opposing point of view here in the Republic of Iowa City, he doesn't like being taken to task in a public forum.  It's making him nervous, why else the personal phone call?
It seems that Supervisor Sullivan wants to have his cake and eat it too.  He wants to be given credit for playing the role of Supervisor, pretending to be all knowing and for ALL the people.  And yet he wants to be a partisan liberal citizen with the issues, writing letters to the editor and participating in political activism with a number of local groups.  And such antics by Sullivan is not to draw criticism?  How dare me!
And to borrow from the words of Tom Cardella, if Mr. Sullivan would take the time to stop being defensive, and LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE THAT VOTED FOR HIM (not me, but people who voted for him but object to the Conservation Bond issue), perhaps he would understand why HE is making the Conservation Bond issue a very partisan one.
And since Rod Sullivan himself suggested that I run for office, when voting for county supervisor in November - write in Michael D. Thayer!  Rod is up for reelection, so I'm going with it and taking Rod up on his challenge!
I'm Michael D. Thayer, and I approve the removal of Rod Sullivan from office.....
Get the word out.
From Rod Sullivan Fri Oct  3 07:16:17 2008
Return-Path: <>
Subject: RE:
Date: Fri, 3 Oct 2008 09:16:17 -0500
From: "Rod Sullivan" <>
To: <>


You are gutless.
That's some fantastic dialog coming from an elected official huh?


Supervisor Rod Sullivan has become arrogant

In commenting on the Press-Citizen story board, the following posting of a Rod Sullivan quote was made:

Rod_sullivan"I am not as up to date on the furniture as I should be; I’ll have to look at that in more detail." ~ County Supervisor and Chairman Rod Sullivan, when asked about the furniture buys in the county budget for the Health & Human Services building. He was asked if the county had even tried to solicit people for private donation to address some of the furniture needs in lieu of the callous habitual default of raising taxes for every little thing. And Rod didn't know details about the budget? He voted 'Yes' to approve it.

This is how Supervisor Rod Sullivan responded to that posting:

You asked the question, Mike. I didn't have the answer sitting there at my desk. I had to check the exact cost of the furniture. I do not see that as a crime.

You act as though you want to be treated like a regular citizen, simply asking a question. Then when I don't have the answer off the top of my head, you pull this. It is low, and you know it.

People see through your BS, Mike. They accept a reasonable disagreement over the issues. They do not accept your distortions and nonsequiters. People see you for what you are.


How is it low road to expect an answer to a legitimate question? And AS IF sending someone an email of inquiry comes with an expectation for an immediate answer off the top of the head!  It's email for crying out loud, Sullivan acts like somebody was standing there over his shoulder forcing him to type out an immediate reply and hit 'send'.... 


The public should know that Mr. Sullivan NEVER provided a follow-up to his initial response, no answer, nada, zip, nil, ziltch, zero......  He did NOT look at the issue in more detail and respond back.  No Mr. Sullivan, Chairman of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, an immediate answer was never expected, but a follow-up response was, especially when you yourself wrote, "I’ll have to look at that in more detail."


Additionally, note Sullivan's attempt to spin in a public forum - the Press-Citizen, pretending he was asked for dollar figures and he had to go look it up.  He wasn't asked that.  Or are we to believe that Mr. Sullivan's reading comprehension and retention is that bad?  Mr. Sullivan wasn't asked about cost, he was asked if alternative methods of acquiring furniture were even explored.  Again, no answer.  He most likely didn't care to admit the answer to that question was no, and blew off any further response.


And never mind that by his own admission he didn't know what the cost of the furniture was - and yet approved the budget anyway.  That demonstrates just how callous he can be with other people's money. 


"We need more furniture, let's raise taxes!"


We need more bike trails, let's raise taxes!"



Don’t get me wrong, Sullivan has done some great community service work in the area.  But let’s be honest, the guy has become arrogant in his position as a county supervisor, as if he can do no wrong.  Confidence in a public official is a good thing, but becoming arrogant with power is unacceptable.  Telling people that if they disagree with him, they should "go sue" is an appropriate response from a county supervisor? Telling a constituent that, "People see through your BS" is appropriate dialog coming from the mouth of the County Supervisor Chairman? 


And is Sullivan commenting on the PC story boards on taxpayer time, with taxpayer equipment:?


His comments this date were made at 1:32:24 PM,  1:36:24 PM , and 3:32:30 PM.  Late lunch?




And Rod has a Face Book account! How nice...



Does he update his facebook account on taxpayer time?



Rod Sullivan's arrogance is a disservice to this community

In a recent letter to the editor, Johnson County Supervisor Rod Sullivan - the chairman - wrote in support of the $20 million Conservation Bond issue.  In giving his support, he pretty much copied and pasted the talking points from the pro-increase-our-taxes folks who put up the Land, Water, Future website.

The title of Sullivan's letter referred to building a legacy, but whose?

PigDid you know that Rod Sullivan, county board members Terrance Nuezil and Sally Stutsman as well as Conservation Board Director, Harry Graves are all active members of a special interest trust group that has a mission of buying up land, so you can't?  The trust is called the Johnson County Heritage Trust (JHCT), their mission is to buy up land so Joe Lunchpail, Joe Farmer, and Joe Employer can't.  They don't want land in the hands of private citizens.  And it seems Rod Sullivan and company have taken that JHCT agenda and run with it.  They apparently think they can use their power in positions of government and your hard earned money to approve and fund THEIR private little agenda.

This bond matter was not an issue developed through a petition drive by residents. In other words, it's not a priority for most residents of Johnson County. It's a Johnson County board member WANT, not a true need.

With the want vs. need in mind and according to Iowa Code, since the Board of Supervisors themselves approved of this measure in the spring, they had the power and the obligation to the people to dismiss the ballot language and approval of the measure with a vote back in June. They were indeed asked by residents to table the proposal. They arrogantly chose not to exercise that authority.  That's an abuse of power.

Editor's Note:  Pat Harney is the only decent County Supervisor candidate on this year's election ballot.

Johnson County government continues to eat up your money

According to a Press-Citizen report, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors has decided to levy bonds to pay for a new Joint Emergency Communications Center.

Ten_menAs if the taxpayers of Johnson County aren't already 'giving away' enough of their hard earned money, the estimates for the cost of the center have gone up making those taxes even higher than the government first advertised.  The county folks got it wrong initially in saying the cost of the center would be about $17 million.  Delays in 'studying' this project has driven up the cost, which is now $22.57 million.

Taxpayers aren't done yet either, the facility will cost taxpayers an estimated additional $1 million every year just to operate.

Editor's note:  Apparently that paycheck isn't yours, it's Rod Sullivan's!

Government officials ignore real reform with Food Stamp program

So what does the government do in response to complaints about how food stamp users can purchase chocolates, pop, chips, and candy with taxpayer money?  They changed the name of the program.

As of October 1st, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) changed the name for the federal Food Stamp Program.  "SNAP" as the program is now called, stands for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

There is no change to program rules, users can still buy chocolate, chips, candy, soda and other not so nutritious items with their EBT card (The old style food stamps giving the program its name were phased out in the late '90's, users now have a debit style card, the "EBT card" to use in purchasing food).

How is allowing users to buy junk food, nutritional assistance?  And what's the next program reform, changing the name of the Electronic Benefits (EBT) Card, to "SNAP Card?"

RETAILER:  "Your total for the five candy bars and soda pop is $9.00 please."

SNAP USER:  "Here's my SNAP card, check out the personalized design on the card, it looks like a Capital One card, cool huh!"

In the Spring of 2009 and at taxpayer expense of course, the USDA will mail out new signs and material to authorized retailers, reflecting the new name of the program.   

To repeat, there's been no nutritional requirement changes to the program, just a *catchy* name change.  Users can still purchase chocolate, chips, candy, and soda pop with your money.  In researching this issue, it has been learned that in many cases, taxpayers are subsidizing a family's entire monthly grocery bill....  as in that family doesn't have to lift a finger to buy one ounce of do it for them.  For the government to claim that SNAP is a supplemental program is a load of bull.  There's a reason some of these folks drive nice cars and own homes.  They don't have a grocery bill.

Senator Grassley's office has received complaints about the witnessing of Food Stamp families buying for example, $20 worth of chocolate, chips, and pop - that being their entire grocery purchase that outing.  Grassley has defended the program, saying that families should be able to make food choices.  Grassley has also ignored calls for the program to emulate the Woman, Infants and Children Program (WIC) food purchasing standards, which restrict food choices to wholesome foods, to include iron-fortified adult cereal, vitamin C-rich fruit and/or vegetable juice, eggs, milk, cheese, peanut butter, dried beans, peas, tuna fish and carrots.  You cannot buy junk food with WIC money.

The Food Stamp program needs serious reform, and so how has our government responded to those calls for reform?  They changed the name.  Let's give that a big Ben Stein, WOW......

Your taxdollars at work.  What's in your wallet?

Tell Senator Grassley that's just not acceptable.