In a belated edition of “Sunday Funnies” please consider Mules Jack and Jill 
run up $78,000 bill

Cobb County taxpayers became the proud owners of two mules in August 2009. County officials bought the animals to put them to work on a proposed historic farm, a living museum where schoolchildren would learn how farmers tilled the land a century ago.

But Cobb put the cart before the horse. Or rather, the mules before the farm.

Several key steps in the development of historic Hyde Farm had not been completed by the time the county bought the mules. More than a year later, some are still not resolved.

In the meantime, Cobb taxpayers have footed the bill for $78,000 on the mules in the past year — including purchase price, a caretaker, food and other expenses. With the cost rising, the county has been trying to sell the mules since June but has not found a buyer.

The problems don’t surprise the Alabama farmer who sold the animals to Cobb officials.

“Most of that bunch, you know, they didn’t know a mule from a donkey,” said Terry LeDuke of Vincent, Ala.

While $78,000 is a tiny fraction of the county budget, that amount could have covered the price of building a medium-size playground or a pavilion restroom structure at a county park. And the episode demonstrates how poor planning can lead a government to get in over its head.

Once purchased, the mules quickly started racking up other expenses that now stand at $63,490, the largest of which was $25,488 to pay a caretaker to feed, groom and exercise the animals. The caretaker, Cindy Cason, is the wife of a county transportation department employee, Randy Cason.

County workers also spent 701 man hours — an estimated cost of $15,000 in taxpayer money — to work on four different mule-related projects.

For three months, county staffers have been trying to find a new home for Jack and Jill. They are advertising them on eBay, Craigslist and several specialty mule websites but are not getting good offers for them, Canon said.

LeDuke, the Alabama man who sold Cobb the animals, said it’s a bad time to sell mules. “Ain’t no market for them. Right now, it’s winter coming on and somebody’s got to feed them all winter.”

LeDuke told the county he’d be willing to buy the mules back for $3,000 — less than half of what he sold them for.

When LeDuke learned how much Cobb had spent on his former animals in the past year, he said, “Good God almighty … That’s a bunch of [expletive].”

Archeologists Unearth Bureaucrat

It’s very difficult to top that story but in honor of government bureaucrats as well as government mules and jackasses, here is this week’s cartoon feature.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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