Sonza’s veteran position is a substitute in case he loses the election

The Hamilton County Veterans Service Commission asked Orlando Sonza to suspend his congressional campaign or commit to serving beyond November, but he refused.

You may have seen the press coverage about Orlando Sonza, the candidate running against U.S. Rep. Greg Landsman, who began working as executive director of the Hamilton County Veterans Service Commission.

At first glance, this might seem strange, given that Sonza is actively campaigning for another position: Congressman. People don’t usually go looking for a new, demanding job, but rather work “tirelessly” to convince others that they are the right people for a different job.

It’s curious, yes, but Sonza’s decision to accept the post in the midst of the ups and downs of his campaign is more than curious: it is negligent.

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The Veterans Service Commission plays a crucial role in helping Hamilton County’s 41,000 veterans navigate the medical system, housing, employment and benefits they have earned through their service. The commission needs an active leader who can improve and expand services for those who deserve it most — not someone who treats the position as a simple four-month substitute in case Option A doesn’t go as planned.

It is encouraging to know that the Veterans Service Commission shares these concerns, as do most veterans.

The commission asked Sonza to suspend his campaign or commit to staying in office beyond November, but he refused. Instead, it said his commitment to the office could only be “considered while he is focused on the campaign.”

His decision to accept the position is not only selfish: it is a clear insult to the veterans he claims to support.

Ethics aside, his appointment is also an affront to those who pay his six-figure salary: the taxpayers of Hamilton County. As CEO, the congressional candidate receives a full-time, taxpayer-funded $130,000 salary to do a part-time job.

This is a significant increase from his previous position as Hamilton County Deputy Prosecutor, and means taxpayers are forced to line Sonza’s pockets while he “focuses on (his) campaign.” It is a blatant misuse of taxpayer money and, most outrageously, comes at the expense of Hamilton County veterans.

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As a veteran, the importance of the Veterans Service Commission and the role it plays in serving the veteran community is not lost on me. Nor is it lost on the countless Hamilton County veterans who stood up to voice their concerns about Sonza taking on the lead role responsible for supporting the seat of our county’s 41,000 veterans in the midst of his campaign for a different seat.

I am confident that the leaders of the Veterans Service Commission will address this controversy and make a decision that prioritizes the needs of Hamilton County veterans over Sonza’s political ambitions.

Rod Sommer lives in Hyde Park and served for three years in the U.S. Army (1966-1969) and for 25 years on large systems development projects at Fort Hood, Kelly Air Force Base, Cheyenne Mountain Complex, and a major international software company.