It was at the Independent Redistricting Commission hearing that SaddleBrooke resident Vince Leach rose to speak before the Commission. Leach spoke to the cover-ups and legal battles in which the Commission is currently engaged (as reported by numerous news media). Leach urged the Commission to be transparent and focus on the real issue: redistricting.
Leach mentioned to the Commissioners that the Commission’s budget, for the ten year cycle, is $10 million as recommended by the Department of Administration and reported by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC). Leach was concerned that the last Commission cycle budget was $6 million but had to be increased to $9.5 million due to lawsuits filed against the Commission’s redistricting. Would this year’s budget also see a 58% increase, to $15.8 million, due to lawsuits filed against Commission decisions and backroom machinations?
After concluding his remarks, Leach returned to his seat in the “overflow” room. Before he could sit down, Ray Bladine, Executive Director of the Commission, confronted Leach, accusing him of providing false numbers. Leach provided a copy of the JLBC report, verifying the Department of Administration ten year $10.2 million budget recommendation.
Bladine, in spite of having seen the JLBC report, countered that the numbers were false. He accused Leach of presenting misleading material, which Leach denied. Bladine then stated, “Now I know what I am dealing with,” or words to that effect. When Leach asked Bladine to explain his comment, Bladine refused, repeating, “Now I know what I am dealing with.”
Bladine then placed his hand against Leach’s shoulder not once but twice. Leach told Bladine to take his hand off Leach’s shoulder, his voice loud enough to draw attention and witnesses to the confrontation.
Bladine was interviewed regarding the incident. He denied any confrontation with Mr. Leach but admitted putting his hand against Leach’s shoulder. Bladine further stated that this year’s budget appropriation was $3.5 million. He neither acknowledged that Leach was discussing the 10 year cycle not just a single fiscal year nor admitted that the Department of Administration had made a budget recommendation for $10 million.
It seems unusual that an Executive Director of the IRC would not know that the Department of Administration had recommended a budget of $10.2 million budget for the ten year redistricting cycle. This is public information.