State Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, has come under intense scrutiny from his local newspaper, The Columbian, especially since he landed a six-figure job as head of Clark County’s environmental services department.
The paper has reported aggressively on Benton’s business background, his questionable job qualifications and recently revealed he was being paid for his county work even while in Olympia for the legislative session — contradicting an agreement Benton had signed saying that would not happen.
Now Benton is weighing a new “litter fee” that would apply only to The Columbian and cost the newspaper $150,000 a year.
The Columbian reports the fee is one of several ideas floated by Benton’s environmental services department to pay for a costly settlement the county incurred for violations of the Clean Water Act. Other options include fee increases to homeowners and owners of private roads.
The $150,000 annual fee would apply to “daily newspapers that are produced and distributed in Clark County with a circulation of more than 28,500. Only The Columbian meets those parameters,” the paper notes.
Benton claimed the newspaper is among the “top five” polluters, but the county’s public works director told the Columbian he wasn’t aware of newspapers being a problem. The city attorney added the litter fee may not be legal.
The Columbian’s publisher told reporter Tyler Graf he’ll fight any such fee. “If I receive a bill for $150,000,” Campbell said, “I doubt I’ll pay it.”