Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-Hamilton) released a statement today criticizing the administration of Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes for failing to begin work on expensive capital projects, which he characterized as part of a broader trend of mismanagement under Hughes.
Benson, who is aiming to unseat Hughes in this year’s Democratic primary, said that the county’s acting chief financial officer told the County Board of Commissioners recently that $200 million in approved capital projects haven’t gone out for bond. In the time since the projects were approved, interest rates and the cost of labor and materials have gone up, potentially costing the county a significant amount of money.
“Very few details have been given to the commissioners,” Benson said. “Some of the questions that are still unanswered include: the period of time these unfunded projects covered; a list of the projects that were not undertaken; how the business administrator or chief of staff failed to notice critical projects and equipment weren’t moving forward; and whether department complaints about delayed capital investments were ignored.”
Last month, the Hughes administration was hit with a separate state comptroller report alleging that former county CFO David Miller had consistently failed to pay the county’s taxes on time, costing the county $4.5 million in late fees and penalties. Miller, who had been CFO since Hughes appointed him at the beginning of his first term in 2004, had already been let go by the county when the report was released.
In response to the comptroller’s report, Benson called for an independent audit of Mercer County’s finances. He further argued today that the repeated instances of money mismanagement, from Miller’s late tax filings to the missing capital projects, show that Hughes shouldn’t remain in charge of Mercer County at all.
“As the Hughes administration continues to waste millions of taxpayer dollars, our decision becomes easier and easier,” Benson said. “It’s time for new leadership in Mercer County government. At the Mercer Democratic convention on March 5, let’s show that Mercer Democrats stand for leadership that works for everyone, not mismanagement that costs us all.”