Anarchy in the Aachen

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Advancing the Scholarship of Liberty in the Tradition of the Austrian School

August 8, 2012

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Anarchy in the Aachen
by Peter C. Earle on August 8, 2012 Can a community without a central government avoid descending into chaos and rampant criminality? Can its economy grow and thrive without the intervening regulatory hand of the state? Can its disputes be settled without a monopoly on legal judgments? If the strange and little-known case of the condominum of Moresnet — a wedge of disputed territory in northwestern Europe, and arguably Europe’s counterpart to America’s so-called Wild West — acts as our guide, we must conclude that statelessness is not only possible but beneficial to progress, carrying profound advantages over coercive bureaucracies.

The remarkable experiment that was Moresenet was an indirect consequence of the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815), which, like all wars, empowered the governments of participating states at the expense of their populations: nationalism grew more fervent; many nations suspended specie payments indefinitely; and a new crop of destitute amputees appeared in streets all across Europe.

In the Congress of Vienna, which concluded the war, borders were redrawn according to the "balance-of-power" theory: no state should be in a position to dominate others militarily. There were some disagreements, one in particular between Prussia and the Netherlands regarding the miniscule, mineral-rich map spot known as the "old mountain" — Altenberg in German, Vieille Montagne in French — which held a large zinc mine that profitably extricated tons of ore from the ground. With a major war recently concluded, and the next nearest zinc source of any significance in England, it behooved the two powers to jointly control the operation.

They settled on an accommodation; the mountain mine would be a region of shared sovereignty. So from its inception in 1816, the zone would fall under the aegis of several states: Prussia and the Netherlands initially, and Belgium taking the place of the Netherlands after gaining its independence in 1830. Designated "Neutral Moresnet," the small land occupied a triangular spot between these three states, its area largely covered by the quarry, some company buildings, a bank, schools, several stores, a hospital, and the roughly 50 cottages housing 256 miners and support personnel.[1]

The territory "originate[ed] in mistake … perpetuated by [the] jealousy [and] inability of … two governments to concur in partition," and initially, little changed within the district.[2] But over the next few decades, Moresnet’s small size and ambiguous oversight by several national powers came together to create an inadvertent experiment deep in the Aachen forests of northwestern Europe.

The first factor is that, although nominally monitored by several nations, by virtue of its small size, Moresnet was loosely supervised at best. Not only was it so small that a crumb would blot out its existence on most maps; neither was there much reason for its overseers to direct attention to it: it sat quietly, reliably excavating 8,500 tons of zinc each year. Occasionally a patrolling Prussian, Dutch, or Belgian soldier would wander close to the border — as a demilitarized zone, Moresnet territory was explicitly off limits for military forces — but for the most part the mining community was left alone.

And it wasn’t just administrators who lost track of the of the anomalous territory; it was secluded enough that one traveler recalled inquiring

at [a nearby] hotel, at some neighboring shops, and at both of the railway stations … [but still couldn't be told] how to reach Neutral Moresnet; they had no idea at all, or guessed at random at various impossible stations.[3]

Within the triangle, there was a minimal government in the form of a burgomaster, assisted by a "Committee of Ten." Despite its somewhat ominous name, the committee "wield[ed] no real power" and the burgomaster was "far from being a … despot."[4]

Moresnet also employed a police force of one, referred to with local good humor — and perhaps mocking nearby Prussia with its General Staff and large social class of military officers — as Moresnet’s "Secretary of War."[5] The lone police officer was usually "to be seen in full uniform enjoying a game of chess or billiards with the burgomaster at the beer garden on the shores of the lake."[6]

Through the rest of the 19th century, Moresnet’s course ran distinct from that of surrounding European states. In 1848, for example, violent revolutions broke out in Italy, France, Germany, Denmark, Hungary, Switzerland, Poland, Ireland, Wallachia, the Ukraine, and throughout the Habsburg Empire. For Moresnettians, life in 1848 proceeded unperturbed, and the year was noteworthy only for the first minting of sovereign coins, which local merchants accepted for use alongside other currencies.[7]

Despite its isolation, word slowly spread that within Moresnet — if one could find it — "imports from surrounding countries were toll free, the taxes were very low, prices were lower and wages higher than in [other European] countries."[8]

Over the following decades the population of the tiny region grew correspondingly: by 1850, the population had doubled, and in addition to the zinc mine, new businesses and even some small farms began to spring up.

Alongside the negligible tax burden, a unique legal climate favored the expansion of economic activity within the tiny district. On inception, the Congress of Vienna, which created Neutral Moresnet, held that its laws would be construed in accordance with the Code Napoleon, known for

its stress on clearly written and accessible law, [which] was a major step in replacing the previous patchwork of feudal laws.… Laws could be applied only if they had been duly promulgated, and only if they had been published officially (including provisions for publishing delays, given the means of communication available at the time); thus no secret laws were authorized. It [also] prohibited ex post factor laws.[9]

And most importantly of all, the code placed a primary importance on "property rights … [which] were made absolute," naturally generating a favorable climate for commercial enterprise.[10] One periodical noted that a "thief tried … [nearby] gets … a few months, while the Code Napoleon specifies five years."[11]

This contrasted sharply with the Allgemeines Landrecht legal system of neighboring Prussia, which "used an incredibly casuistic and imprecise language, making it hard to properly understand and use in practice," but which for some legal purposes may have held advantages over the Code Napoleon.[12] Alternately, disputes could be directed to the burgomaster’s "petty tribunal" for quick decisions on smaller issues and disputes.[13] His

head-quarters were … "under his hat." He went about town and held court wherever he happened to be when his service as justice was required, which, happily, was not often. When complaint was made to him, he would listen patiently and attentively … [then] whistle some favorite air, and thus take time to resolve the matter in his mind.… His judgments were always intelligible and fair, insomuch that they were never excepted to or appealed from during all his term of thirty-five years.[14]

Moresnet inhabitants, therefore, had access to several different systems for resolution of disputes — a rudimentary market for justice — and were therefore empowered to take their issues to the venue they felt afforded the best chances of satisfactory resolution.

Further, residents of Neutral Moresnet were not required to fulfill the compulsory military requirements of their nations of origin.[15] This no doubt motivated many of the new arrivals, in particular those from Prussia, which fought half a dozen wars during the 19th century.[16]

The population of the hamlet quadrupled between 1850 and 1860, topping 2,000 residents. One newcomer was particularly significant. Dr. Wilhelm Molly arrived in 1863 to become the general practitioner of the mining company, and soon won celebrity by thwarting a local cholera epidemic in Moresnet. Like many physicians of his era, Dr. Molly had numerous interests, some of which would play a role in Moresnet’s development over the next half-century.[17]

From the beginning of the designation of Neutral Moresnet, it was known that the Vieille Montagne zinc mine could not, and would not, produce indefinitely. In 1885, the zinc mine finally wound down and ceased operation, but this wasn’t especially worrisome economically: numerous businesses were now flourishing, including "60–70 bars and cafes [along] the main street," a number of breweries, small farms, and at least one dairy operation.[18] Taxes hadn’t changed since the designation of the neutral zone in 1816, and visitors noted that Moresnet was "without the beggars who are [a] sadly familiar sight" across the rest of Europe.[19]

To Dr. Molly, the closing of the zinc mine hardly presented reason for the culmination of Neutral Moresnet as a community, much less its end. On the contrary, he became the foremost advocate of pursuing a path of complete independence and severing the few ties that Moresnet had with Prussia and Belgium. Within a year after the zinc mine closed down, he spearheaded the founding of a local, private postal service — but it was quickly shut down by Prussian and Belgian authorities.

Undeterred, he explored numerous other initiatives. In 1903, a group of entrepreneurs proposed developing a casino there to rival those in Monte Carlo, offering to build electric trolleys to nearby towns and "share the profit with every citizen."[20] In fact, a small casino opened briefly, but like the postal service was short-lived; on hearing of it, the king of Belgium threatened Moresnet’s always-tenuous independence.

But Belgium proved the least of Moresnet’s worries. In 1900 the Prussian state — now itself consolidated into the greater German Empire — began to undertake "aggressive" tactics towards pressuring the residents of the zone to consent to absorption.[21] None too subtle and true to its martial heritage, Prussian efforts included "outright sabotage," such as cutting off Moresnet’s electricity and telephone connections at times.[22] When citizens attempted to run new electrical and telephone lines, Prussia attempted to thwart them, as well as "prevent[ing] the appointment of new … officials" known to support Moresnettian independence.[23]

But "these people, small though their territory, w[ould] not be cabined, cribbed, confined."[24] In fact, despite being harassed by a state thousands of times larger and armed to the teeth, by 1907 the population of the hamlet had increased to almost 3,800, only 460 of whom were descendents of the original Moresnettians.[25] The rest came from varied and far-flung locations: not only Germans, Belgians and Dutch, but also former residents of Italy, Switzerland, and Russia — and eventually two Americans and even one Chinese resident. A large cathedral had come to occupy the center of the community, which had expanded to over 800 homes.[26] Even though Belgian Aix-la-Chapelle was nearby and offered a more cosmopolitan experience, in general, the Moresnettians chose "not [to] leave the Triangle, but variedly find the spice of life within its slender borders."[27]

Dr. Molly — now living in the "thoroughly autonomous" Neutral Moresnet for half a century — began to view the independence and prosperity of Moresnet as a place compatible with the Weltanschauung of another of his intellectual pursuits: the universal language and culture of Esperanto.[28] While a detailed discussion of Esperanto is beyond the scope of this writing, the synthetic language was founded in 1887 by L.L. Zamenhof to eliminate the "hate and prejudice" that he theorized arose between ethnic groups owing to language differences and often leading to war; and it should come as little surprise that Esperanto’s founder additionally expressed his

profound [conviction] that every nationalism offers humanity only the greatest unhappiness.… It is true that the nationalism of oppressed peoples — as a natural self-defensive reaction — is much more excusable than the nationalism of peoples who oppress; but, if the nationalism of the strong is ignoble, the nationalism of the weak is imprudent; both give birth to and support each other.[29]

Embracing this thinly veiled antistate philosophy and having corresponded for years with prominent Esperantists around the world, in 1906, Dr. Molly met with several colleagues to discuss designating Neutral Moresnet as a self-determining global haven for Esperantists; a territory that would "embrace aims and ideals affecting the brotherhood of man … civilized life … emancipating ourselves from all that is absurd and unworthy in convention, all that the ignorant centuries have imposed upon us."[30] Core to that initiative, he proposed that the name of the enclave be changed to Amikejo — Esperanto for "place of friendship" — not only espousing their explicitly peaceful nature, but undoubtedly a propagandist thumb in the eye of ever-marauding Prussia.[31]

Two years later, in 1908, a large celebration was held commemorating the launch of the renamed Amikejo, complete with festivities and the airing of a new national anthem.[32] Unsurprisingly, the occasion went unnoted (and Amikejo unrecognized) by nearby states, although numerous newspapers reported the event.

By 1914, Amikejo’s population topped 4,600 people, peacefully cohabitating in an economically prosperous political limbo characterized by an "absence of definite rule."[33] Signs and notifications were printed in German, French, and Esperanto, and residents had developed one of the "queerest and most unintelligible dialects in the world."[34] Indeed, an American — an American of the turn of the century, no less — described the establishment as having "a sort of al fresco freedom of life, an untrammelledness which comes naturally from long-continued absence of centralized restraint."[35]

Indeed; for a century, residents and settlers in the diminutive wedge of land had found governments — internally and foreign — superfluous to and iniquitous toward the attainment of individual liberty. In one sense the Moresnet/Amikejo experiment might be viewed as Europe’s analog to the American West, covering a greater length of time but on a much smaller scale. Summarizing, one reporter described it as

one of the smallest and strangest territories in the world … an encircling ridge of high mountains veritably buries it from neighboring civilization and culture and leaves it in a little world of its own.… [And] for nearly a century, the inhabitants have never experienced the feeling of being under the rule of an emperor, king or president. They are independent, governed by no one, at liberty to do as they please.[36]

More to the point, another visitor described Amikejo in simple terms: "a legal anarchy."[37]

Despite a vibrant, small-scale economy, the existence of the district remained enormously fragile in the tempestuous political environment of early 20th-century Continental Europe. Amikejans perennially worried over the "impermanency of their pleasing status," and this concern was realized in 1914 when war broke out between France and Germany.[38] Although Amikejo escaped destruction as invading German forces bypassed it — it was, fortuitously, "an oasis in a desert of destruction" — the War proved a ready excuse, confirming the suspicion that "Prussia … always had the intention to appropriate the territory" when Germany statutorily annexed the district in 1915.[39]

Two inconceivably bloody years later, with the end of the war in sight, only the Contemporary Review, a British journal of politics and social reform, considered the plight of Amikejo née Moresnet:

Tannehill, Linda and Morris

$8.00 $5.00

The fate of Moresnet has been forgotten in this immense catastrophe. We must bear it in mind. After the victory the plenipotentiaries who draw up the conditions of peace must not neglect this poor little piece of independence which has been victimized.[40]

The cost of the Great War was unimaginably staggering, dwarfing those of previous conflicts in virtually every category: 37 million casualties, the influenza pandemic, widespread hunger, civil dislocation, economic wreckage, and more. But another, seldom-considered consequence of the war — of all wars — was, and is, the uncountable heaps of unfulfilled promises and discarded goals left in the wake of the conflagration. And with article 32 of the Treaty of Versailles — "Germany recognizes the full sovereignty of Belgium over the whole of the contested territory of Moresnet"[41] — these were joined by yet another: Dr. Molly’s vision.

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Copyright © 2012 by the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided full credit is given.


[1] "Life in Neutral Moresnet,"

[2] Robert Shackleton, Unvisited Places of Old Europe (Philadelphia: The Penn Publishing Company, 1913), p.157.

[3] Ibid, p. 159.

[4] Ibid, p. 161.

[5] Ibid, p. 164.

[6] "Europe’s Smallest State" New York Times October 31, 1886.

[7] "Coins,"

[8] "Life in Neutral Moresnet,"

[9] "Napoleonic Code,"

[10] "The Civil Code,"

[11] A Manual of Belgium and the Adjoining Territories. Naval Intelligence Division. (Great Britain: H. M. Stationary Office, 1918) p. 246.

[12] "General state laws for the Prussian states,"

[13] Shackleton, 166.

[14] William S. Walsh, A Handy Book of Curious Information (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1913) p. 558-559.

[15] Both Belgium (1847) and Prussia (1875) ultimately rescinded their exemption of emigrants in the Moresnet zone from conscription military service.

[16] "List of wars 1800–1899,"

[17] The website notes that Wilhelm Molly was awarded the Geheimrat title by Prussia, which translates to "special [medical] counselor." This author finds amusement in noting that the term may have incurred ironic gravity over time as it was also used by German Kaisers to refer to academics that irritated them, as Molly’s heroic efforts in Moresnet/Amikejo undoubtedly did.

[18] "Life in Neutral Moresnet,"

[19] Shackleton, p. 171.

[20] "The Smallest in Europe." New York Times Sept 28, 1905.

[21] "How It Ended,"

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Shackleton, p. 172.

[25] Shackleton, p. 157.

[26] "The Smallest in Europe." New York Times Sept 28, 1905.

[27] Shackleton, p. 163

[28] Links between anarchism/libertarianism and Esperanto are copious, if perplexingly underinvestigated. While a portion of Esperanto’s usage has always been co-opted by leftist and Utopian groups, its founding principle was anti-state to the extent that it was created to skirt nationalism and provide possibilities for more seamless, peaceful interaction: facilitating trade and avoiding violent conflict. The great writer and linguistics genius J. R. R. Tolkien, who occasionally espoused anti-state views ("My political opinions lean more and more to anarchy. The most improper job of any man, even saints, is bossing other men.") wrote, "My advice to all who have the time or inclination to concern themselves with the international language movement would be: ‘Back Esperanto loyally.’ See "La Filozofio de Libereco" ("The Philosophy of Liberty"),

[29] N. Z. Maimon, "La Cionista Periodo en la Vivo de Zamenhof," Nica Literatura Revuo 3/5: p. 165–177.

[30] "An Esperanto City," The Strand Magazine Vol XXXVI, No. 215 (1908): 559.

[31] Listen to the anthem played at the founding of Amikejo.

[32] "Dr. Wilhelm Molly,"

[33] Shackleton, p. 165.

[34] "Neutral Moresnet." New York Times May 10, 1919.

[35] Shackleton, p. 173.

[36] "Neutral Territory of Moresnet." Sausalito News January 23, 1915: p. 3.

[37] Louis Viereck, "Moresnet — The Smallest State on Earth," The Fatherland Vol III, No. 2 (1915): 33.

[38] Shackleton, p. 173.

[39] "The Defence and Military Service,"

[40] CH Flor O’Squarr, "The Neutrality of Moresnet," The Contemporary Review No. 613 (1917): 248.

[41] "The Versailles Treaty June 28, 1919 : Part III," The Avalong Project, Yale Law Schol.


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Rambosk Insults Teachers, Taxpayers, Retirees and Everyone that Works Hard for a Living

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Rambosk Continues to Mislead About Pay Increases

As a Constitutional officer, the Sheriff reports to no one, except to you, the voter, once every four years. And this is the year that you can do something about his incredible mismanagement of taxpayer money.

Our Teachers
Collier County announced last week it doesn’t have money to give our teachers a pay increase, and in 59 instances, it will terminate jobs.

All teachers, taxpayers, retirees and anyone that works hard for a living should be infuriated, and their primary focus should be on ousting one of the primary culprits of overspending in the County, Rambosk. There is plenty of fat in Rambosk’s $131.5 million budget, a budget he told Collier County Commissioners he wouldn’t be changing regardless of their objections.

Nearly a month ago I released a very damaging study on Collier County Sheriff’s Office pay increases over a 7-year period. The full report is attached. It isn’t pretty. Rambosk’s explanations are insulting. Here’s why excessive pay increases at the CCSO are important to you.

Pay increases of $850,000.Over the past five years, I discovered more than $850,000 in pay "increases" that could have easily been reappropirated to cover teacher salaries or for hiring additional road deputies.

More examples of wasted taxpayer money.
On Friday, the Sheriff’s Office had a 4-page insert in the Naples Daily News, at a cost of about $4,100; the last page had nothing but photographs. At $4,100 every two months, that is a $25,000 annual expenditure that could be easily eliminated. More than 65% of all residents now have email and Rambosk has those emails. $25,000 covers the majority of a teacher’s salary.

Rambosk believes that no one cares and that he can ride out this storm if he clouds the discussion with misinformation. Once you read his explanations, draw your own conclusions as to how disconnected he is with the citizens he was elected to protect and serve.

Pay is Pay is Pay
Quite simply, for teachers, taxpayers, voters, and anyone you care to ask, pay is pay is pay. It is a single, uncomplicated, pocketbook issue.

It absolutely does not matter how is increased pay is "accounted for" or "doled out." At the end of a 12-month period – Fiscal Year or Calendar Year or some combination – if an individual earned more than the prior period, it is classified as a pay increase. If "NO MEMBER" of the CCSO was supposed to have had their salary increased since 2007, as the letter Rambosk signed and submitted to Collier County Commissioners details. Official records – not an explanation given to the Naples Daily News on an Excel spreadsheet – demonstrate that 109 had pay increases. Road deputies, correctional officers, teachers, everyone in the County has a right to be very upset.

According to Florida Retirement funds, today 38 CCSO employees earn more than $100,000; in FY 2006 only a handful, 10 made more than $100,000. Rambosk claims that pay increases for six senior executives at the Collier County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) were due to "incentive training," cashing in vacation time, etc.

Incentive Training is Just Another Word for PayIncrease or Bonus
This is another huge pain point to anyone that owns their own business or manages a corporate staff. No employee gets paid extra to take training, regardless of the type of training. Most employees are happy to take training as it adds to their resume. At the CCSO, not only do you get a base salary for a year’s worth of work, but you get paid extra for training. It’s like you get paid for 380 days a year when the rest of the world gets paid for 365 days.

Businesses and corporations expense the cost of training, fees, travel, and lodging. If you were one of the lucky ones at the CCSO to be selected to get "incentive" training, guess what, that’s not training, and it cannot be expensed. It is technically classifed by the IRS as income, aka, pay, and you must pay income taxes on that incentive. It’s no different than getting a bonus, which by the way, is also considered part of your total compensation and is taxable.

Reviewing the FY 11 increases, the average pay increase for 109 people was $8,000. Many Collier County residents are living pay check to pay check because someone in their household has lost their job, or their hours have been cut, or they are making a woefully low salary. For many, $8,000 is a BIG DEAL: it is car payments; it is mortgage payments; it is food and gas. In a downturned economy, everyone has sacrificed, everyone that is, except for the very top at the CCSO.

Rambosk is Manipulating Crime Stats: 6% vs. a 12% Crime Decrease
Sheriff Rambosk’s justification for his $131.5 million budget and paying his command staff extraordinarily high salaries is that he was successful in "kicking crime to the curb" this past year with a 6% overall decrease. A day after Rambosk held his briefing, Sheriff Scott from Lee County announced that crime had decreased 12% for the same time period.

Rambosk hates any comparison to Lee County. Why? Because the truth is that they do a better job overall – headlines to the contrary – of reducing crime. Using Rambosk’s own statistics, Lee County did a significantly better job of decreasing crime on a budget of $140 million and with twice the population. Recall also that Lee County’s command staff is 33% less than the CCSO. Lee County’s command staff earns about 40% less than the CCSO. Lee County spends more on Road Deputies and less on top administrative jobs.

No Transparency
Until I released our study of pay increases, absolutely no one in the County – including Collier County Commissioners – knew what anyone was earning at the CCSO. Salaries are reported as aggregate numbers so they are hidden from taxpayer scrutiny. Why all the secrecy? The only way we can fix the problems with our government institutions is to have access to data to evaluate whether the public’s trust is being violated.

No Accountability
There are absolutely no checks or balances against Rambosk’s decisions and spending. Who approved overtime? Who approved what is now being referred to as "incentive" training? Are road deputies and correctional officers eligible for "incentive" training?

The root problem of the pay increase issue is one of perception. Like many other large institutions, leaders like Rambosk chose not to do the right thing when he was fully able to do so. Unfortunately, if he doesn’t perform in the best interests of the community, there is no one there to police him.

No ImmunityGovernment – PUBLIC SERVICE – jobs should not be immune to pay cuts or RIFs. When ad valorem revenue is down, Collier County salaries should decrease. This just makes common sense, but at the CCSO, once your salary increases, it doesn’t decrease.
It is very clear that Rambosk is out of touch with what happens in the real world of business, especially a business with a $131.5 million budget. In business, we would not be having this debate. A decrease in revenue automatically triggers several key actions by a CEO: pay cuts, layoffs, salary freezes, travel freezes, training holds, and the like. Normally, a CEO and his senior staff take pay increases first because they are most able to absorb the impact.

Rambosk Did Not Do the Right Thing
During the past four years, the right thing would have been for Rambosk to have met with his Chiefs and the 16+ Commanders during budgeting. He should have taken a pay decrease; he should have imposed a pay reduction for his command staff as well. Travel, training, overtime, should all have been frozen. Instead, Rambosk created workarounds for everyone at the top, and ignored the rank and file.

It is time that we focus on the people – the road deputies, the correctional officers, the commanders, the directors and chiefs – who comprise the organization. We need to get the right people in the right jobs doing the right things.The CCSO needs to be streamlined and in doing so we will make the organization significantly more efficient.

Early Voting Has Begun
It was exciting to see early voters cast their ballots yesterday at The Orange Blossom Library. Early voting for the August Republican Primary will continue through August 11. The polls are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Vote at any one of the following locations:

  • Everglades City Hall – 102 Copeland Avenue N, Everglades City
  • Golden Gate Library – 2432 Lucerne Road, Naples
  • Immokalee Library – 417 N First St, Immokalee
  • Library Headquarters – 2385 Orange Blossom Drive, Naples
  • Marco Island Library – 210 S Heathwood Drive, Marco Island
  • Naples City Hall – 735 8th Street S, Naples
  • Supervisor of Elections Office – 3295 Tamiami Trail E, Naples

What Else Can You Do?
Spread the word. Forward this email to everyone you know. Teachers, Firemen, EMS, other County workers.

The August 14 primary is open to Republicans only. Please encourage your fellow Republicans to vote. It is important that every voter that can vote in the Primary, actually vote.

Political Advertisement Paid for and Approved by Victor Ortino, Republican Candidate for Sheriff


FINAL Victor Ortino Briefing on Huge Salary Increases at the CCSO 070912O2.pdf