It’s not FAIR, group says of auditor

Supporters of Measure G on the November Butte County ballot alleged this week that county Auditor/Controller David Houser’s public support of a competing ballot measure is “like the fox guarding the hen house.”

Measure G would give local anti-tobacco and health organizations almost sole control of about $2.5 million in tobacco settlement funds paid to counties for the next 25 years.

Butte County officials, citing a bleak budgetary future, have made no secret of their intent to use some or much of the windfall to backfill an increasingly bleak county budget, especially for police and fire protection. In response to Measure G, county supervisors put the compromise Measure H on the ballot, which would still give the county control over some of the money.

Houser is one of several county officials who are publicly backing Measure H.

Richard Gray, a Paradise physician who is one of the organizers of the FAIR campaign (which wrote Measure G), said Houser shouldn’t use his official title in support of Measure H. The conflict of interest is especially severe, Gray said, because Houser must write an impartial analysis on behalf of the county of each ballot measure for the voter guides, and his “impartial” analysis of Measure G also appears in the voter guide.

On the next page, though, Houser, along with a slew of other county officials, is a signatory on a statement urging a vote against the measure. Gray said that’s not fair and makes it appear as though there is no true impartial analysis of Measure G.

County officials are extremely concerned about possible loss of the money. Without it, said county Chief Administrative Officer Paul McIntosh, the county wouldn’t have enough money to maintain law enforcement.

But the FAIR campaign (that stands for Fair Allocation of Intended Revenues) has argued that the money was specifically intended to be used for anti-tobacco education and medical expenses.

Measure H would create a commission made up of members from local health care (many of whom support Measure G), county officials and law enforcement to spend the money together.

Houser said FAIR’s allegations are "just that, allegations." He added that he wrote up the impartial analysis long before he announced his support for Measure H.