Letter: Tell the whole truth about King Ben

Mar. 09, 2014 @ 04:53 AM

To the editor:

I had to respond to Ms. Dianne Safford, whose name appeared under a letter in the March 2 News-Topic about telling the truth about Ben Griffin’s term as county commissioner. Come on, Ms. Safford, the “whole” truth about Ben Griffin is not a pretty picture and you know it.

Much of what you write about Ben’s rule is true, especially about cutting costs. But that’s not what got Ben defeated in the 2012 election. Ben ran the county with an iron hand, and he ran off some very good employees. He also insisted on buying worn-out sheriff’s patrol cars and ambulances from other states in the so-called rust belt to save money. At one time, the sheriff’s department had more deputies than it had functioning patrol cars to accommodate them.

For me, the defining moment of his tyrannical rule came in August 2011 when he engineered the sale of the 400-acre site of a possible reservoir in the Happy Valley area. You are correct about most of the numbers, but since when is it good economics to take a sales price of $550,000 on a piece of land that cost the county $900,000? That property, and the pristine aquifer that was found there, was a good investment for the future of Caldwell County – and I’m not the only one who thinks so. There was a drought at the time the land was bought and a political war over use of water from the Catawba, but Ben hated the idea of a reservoir in Happy Valley since he’d engineered a lucrative water contract with the City of Lenoir.

My opposition to Ben’s renewed candidacy for commissioner is not personal. The truth is I sort of like the guy. But he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing—and not to be trusted with power. His own party failed to endorse his last run for re-election.

Have you noticed how the commissioners get along more as colleagues now, instead of one or two always imposing their will? Rarely is there the additional stress of threats, retaliation or arguments. A 5-0 Republican majority is sufficient to guarantee that conservative policies are generally followed, and no one seems to miss King Ben Griffin’s high-handed, autocratic way of doing things.

We’d all be fools to elect him again.

Dennis A. Benfield