Time to get your free VIP tickets for the taxpayer-funded 2016 Western Freedom Festival, this year held 9/11 weekend in Richfield, Utah. You just need to ask your county commissioners who childishly call themselves “The Posse.” I mean, who are they after to string up from a tree, taxpayers and student protesters?
The Posse consists of County Commissioners from Beaver, Garfield, Kane, Iron, Piute, San Juan, Wayne, Weber, Washington, and Sevier Counties.
The Posse annually spends over $100,000 in public funds supporting both the Western Freedom Festival and the American Lands Council that is associated with the event. It’s money down the toilet on political, marginally religious pet projects of no intrinsic value and with nothing to show for the expense.
I chronicled last year’s malfeasance:
“So far, I’ve found that Western Freedom Festival organizers were so brazen with our tax dollars that they bought a country music star twice: once for a private dance in the back room and another for the public show where they gave away 80 percent of the tickets to whomever they wanted. And, they spent 80 percent of their taxpayer-funded budget doing so.”
The Posse of commissioners created the Western Freedom Festival the Summer of 2015. Now-resigned commissioner David Miller made Iron County the administrative lead, responsible for concert venue and overall financial bookkeeping for the event.
They have not yet come clean and still haven’t accounted for the money, even when faced with multiple GRAMA requests. From what I and others have independently gathered, there appears to have been a misuse of public funds and property that is still an open issue should a complaint be filed with the Office of the Utah State Auditor.
It is unclear which county is now responsible for bookkeeping, much less for the antics of The Posse. Do they yet have a formal organization? They do not own the name, “Western Freedom Festival,” according to the State of Utah Business page and could be sued for using it. Still flying by the seats of their pants, the question is, “Whom do you sue?”
Before leaving, Miller was able gain support from the other two Commissioners for $20,000 in tax dollars for the 2016 event, and it seems Iron County taxpayers will continue to pay for the majority of the boondoggle.
Sevier County, which appears to now be taking the lead for concert promotion and event budgeting, recently sent a letter to Garfield County asking for its pledged $5,000. Garfield County tabled the request for further discussion.
Other Posse counties have hidden the identification of the amounts as line items in their budgets or intend to “adjust” to account for a contribution later in the year. Keep watching their spaces.
Before last year’s concert, there was a day-long, anti-public lands, states’ rights conference called the Western Freedom Forum, organized by Rep. Ken Ivory and the American Lands Council. Malheur’s John Pratt was a speaker, as was Ivory among others, many with an associated LDS-based theo-constitutional theme.
The event was always designed to coincide with the anti-public lands message of the American Lands Council.
The Posse counties contribute 35 percent of the ALC budget through memberships — a total of $81,000, with Kane and Washington being the only “Gold” counties in the entire country at $25,000 each. It’s no coincidence that Washington County’s Alan Gardner and Kane County’s Doug Heaton of The Posse were at the time board members of the ALC.
Ponder this: What do you think they were going to do with the proceeds if they were to have made money with the 2015 Western Freedom Festival?
Perhaps this year they can get Kanosh lawyer Todd MacFarlane and property rights activist Angus McIntosh as part of their Storm Over Rangelands tour to encourage ranchers to sign emancipation pledges and renounce their federal grazing and other permits.
Maybe pledge signer and Bundy/Finicum pact holder Stanton Gleave and his “constitutional” Sheriff nephew Marty can speak, hopefully not after an active summer whereby they challenge the Fishlake National Forest over the Aspen Regeneration project on Monroe Mountain with a deputized militia.
Further, the Bundy wives and Finicum family can also have a presentation whereby they attempt to rehabilitate the images of their husbands and fundraise at the same time. Hell, if the 2016 Western Freedom Festival makes any money, maybe they’ll use fundraising for the Sagebrush Rebels as a marketing tool instead of the ALC.
Shortly before formally announcing his gubernatorial candidacy last August, Republican Jonathan Johnson’s Promote Liberty PAC supported the Western Freedom Festival with a $5,000 contribution. How much will he donate this year, particularly if he is victorious over incumbent Governor Gary Herbert in the June primary?
Jonathan Johnson has an anti-federal government, anti-public lands platform and has indicated that he will continue on the path of wasting taxpayer monies in the fruitless pursuit of suing the federal government for a “return” of public lands to the State of Utah.
Last year, Johnson invited Ted Cruz, Carlie Fiorina, and others to attend the Western Freedom Festival. After a red-hot summer, maybe Johnson will invite The Donald, who can rehabilitate his image with the Utah electorate with a violent anti-federal message, complete with Faux News coverage and a Glenn Beck chautauqua.
During this election season, when some Posse members are either up for reelection or there is an open seat, ask your candidates:
—Will you be a part of a group that calls itself “The Posse?”
—Will you use your vote to authorize taxpayer funds for American Lands Council membership?
—Will you use your vote to authorize taxpayer funds for the Western Freedom Festival or Forum?
There is an election season underway wherein candidates for office may not agree with incumbents who believe they can misuse taxpayer monies and property to support pet causes and private concerts.
As a taxpaying voter, neither should you.