News: A temporary employee of the Eau Claire County Finance Department admits stealing $20,000 in public funds for personal use after being on the job barely a month.

Views: Is there something about county money that seems like an easy target? In the wake of the wide-scale pilfering of county funds by ex-county treasurer Larry Lokken and his deputy, Kay Onarheim, taxpayers have a right to wonder what is going on.

The good news is that the latest ruse by temporary employee Susan O’Connor was discovered soon after the checks were written, unlike the years-long systematic thefts by Lokken and Onarheim. The bad news is O’Connor reportedly spent most of the money before she was caught.

More safeguards may be needed. It was found that O’Connor had nearly $185,000 in judgments and defaults against her. Someone that far underwater probably shouldn’t have access to the public checkbook.

News: Certain officials in Lafayette County threatened journalists with prosecution if they didn’t publish results of a well water study verbatim. Those same officials also wanted to punish any county board member who spoke about the study’s findings without permission from a review board.

Views: What rock did these officials crawl out from under? Fortunately, once their goofy ideas were publicized, they became a laughingstock. Stifling debate and dissent is the stock in trade of tyrants and fools. People like that are exactly why we all must stand up when our First Amendment freedoms are attacked.

By the way, the well water study found widespread contamination caused by fecal matter from both human and livestock sources. That sounds like something that needs more discussion and illumination, not less.

News: President Donald Trump asks the Supreme Court to block a subpoena for his tax returns.

Views: There must be some really interesting stuff in those returns for him to fight so hard to keep them out of public view. You would think that Trump, who rails constantly about “fake news,” would welcome the opportunity to show us that he has personally contributed his share of taxes to help “Make America Great Again.”

News: Dean Foods, the nation’s largest milk producer, files for bankruptcy amid a 40 percent decline in per-person milk consumption since 1975.

Views: Alternatives to milk, such as teas, sodas and on-the-go breakfasts, are being blamed for the decline. That’s not good news for “America’s Dairyland,” where many of us know from years of experience that there’s nothing like a good glass of cold milk with meals and desserts.

News: New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg announces his candidacy for president. President Trump quickly responds: “Little Michael will fail. There is nobody I’d rather run against than Little Michael, that I can tell you.”

Views: Most of us learned early on that petty name-calling is the stuff of immature middle-schoolers, but it seems to work for Trump, who also gave us “Slimeball” James Comey, “Pencilneck” Adam Schiff, “Lyin” Ted Cruz, and on and on.

Then there was this famous Trump quote in a 2015 piece in Rolling Stone magazine about then-opponent Carly Fiorina: “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? … I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not s’posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”

As we head toward 2020, expect the level of discourse to sink to ever-lower levels. As the name-calling and other boorish behavior grows, the adults in the room should remember that the children are watching and learning from what they see and hear.

News: A government survey found that one in four high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the previous month despite federal law banning sales to those under 18.

Views: If that number is true, shame on all those helping fuel the problem. Why is it that the wealthiest and supposedly among the best-educated people in the world succumb to such dangerous, unhealthy behavior?

News: Speaking of stupidity, UW-Eau Claire suspends five football players for a racist Snapchat conversation that used a Ku Klux Klan image.

Views: The damage this has done to the local university and our community is immense. As of last week, a Google search of “UW-Eau Claire KKK” produced 104,000 hits, including from such media outlets as CNN, The Washington Post and the New York Post.

Trying to clean up this mess won’t be easy. Talk about the actions of a few harming the many. Now we are all left to convince the world that Eau Claire is not a haven for redneck, racist ignoramuses.

Huebscher, a contributing columnist and former Leader-Telegram editor, can be reached at don.huebscher@ecpc.com.