Thursday, October 07, 2010

7 OCT 10: Wetherington - the Storm

If you think it's easy to be a blogger, think again. A caller Wednesday suggested I'm "borderline insane," and wondered aloud if I'm "queer." I'm NOT the latter, don't think I'm the former - and imagine what people might say if I ran for political office.

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: It can't be easy to be mayor, either - especially when a blogger has to ask uncomfortable questions. We put one to Columbus Mayor Jim Wetherington Wednesday. See if you can find it, embedded in this lengthy e-mail....


Have you notice that the mayor has never really addressed the issue of the unauthorized awarding of unearned time to an employee that was exposed by a Battalion Chief to Human Resources Director Tom Barron. Mayor Wetherington has publicly stated "You cannot turn you back when certain people break the law." He has said "It is not about White and Black, it is about wrong and right." He has said "Good people make mistakes, and when they make mistakes they have to be PUNISHED. Since this entire flap began about the audit and subsequent hasty investigation Wetherington says African Americans have called him and they want the same thing "White folks" want. Interestingly, we have a mayor that cannot even bring himself to say the words "equal justice."

Jim Wetherington deliberately applies a clear double standard in all these cases. He touts zero tolerance and punishment when it is Herman Porter Tony Adams and Parks and Recreation or Vivian Creighton Bishop and Greg Countryman and the Junior Marshal's Program. He wanted to call in the GBI in the Junior Marshal's Program case. He refuses to call a GBI independent investigation of Columbus Fire & EMS or of Parks and Recreation since the GBI did investigate the Junior Marshal's Program and found no criminal conduct. Subsequent to the GBI investigation exonerating the Municipal Court Clerk and Muscogee County Marshal Mayor Jim Wetherington has never mentioned calling the GBI to investigate anything in Columbus as he cannot control the outcome or direction of the investigation as Public Safety Director.

The mayor has been inconsistent and contradictory in words, deeds, and actions when you compare his decisions regarding Parks and Recreation and his decisions regarding Fire & EMS, whereas he had infinitely more reason to launch a criminal investigation based on known facts and documented evidence present to him by one of the highest ranking members in the field with the CFEMS.

In the CFEMS case regarding Chief Jeff Myer the mayor is publicly supportive and totally confident in Chief Myer's word alone. He avoids the documented evidence and misleads the public with his answers and arguments. Every statement the mayor makes excuses or explains away anything that Jeff Myer is said to have done wrong, every statement is a helpful positive statement. He tells NAACP President Edward DuBose that CFEMS Chief Jeff Myer should be promoted and that he believes everything Jeff has said. Just the opposite words or sentiments exist all through the record regarding Tony Adams and Parks and Recreation.

The mayor never asked Tony Adams any questions when the audit was leaked. He called in police before Adams could even officially respond to the audit, which ensures the situation would escalate and become more costly and difficult. Tony does not get to explain. Likewise, Vivian Creighton Bishop and Marshal Greg Countryman are 2 floors down from the mayor's office and are both county-wide elected officials like the mayor. Nevertheless, you have a certain remarkable lack of respect and absence of benefit of the doubt and professional courtesy. Jeff Myer and Warden Bill Adamson are appointed officials that Jim Wetherington has openly treated with more courtesy and respect than these fellow Democrats and elected officials.

In Parks and Recreation and the Junior Marshal's Program cases the mayor relies heavily on facts derived from audits conducted by John Redmond in drawing his conclusions and making his decisions. However, when it comes to Jeff Myer and CFEMS the Internal Auditor does a preliminary investigation pursuant to Battalion Chief Janice Bruner's Fair Treatment Report and in a February 10, 2009 report to the mayor recommends a comprehensive audit of CFEMS. That audit was never ordered by the mayor. Neither Chief Bruner's complaints nor the Internal Auditor's investigation were ever shared with the Columbus Council, but incriminating evidence in the Junior Marshal's Program payroll audit was.

You have evidence of both lying and breaking the law on the part of the mayor. The mayor himself actually is guilty of violating a City Ordinance 25 times regarding the final disposition of internal audits. I went before Columbus Council and proved with documented evidence Chief Myer lied and the mayor lied about the period that elapsed time before Battalion Chief Bruner reported the incident which endangered her life and the alteration of time cards, Lotus Notes, to award unearned time to an employee.

If it is about wrong and right, the mayor is seriously confused about what wrong and right is and how you apply basic fairness and justice to cases that that happen to involve Black and White people. Mayor Wetherington openly practices one gospel while preaching another, and the facts, documented and otherwise, bears this out. The facts are there and the evidence of favoritism and discrimination, and deceit scream out against Jim Wetherington while Council turns a blind eye and deaf ear. What Jim Wetherington has been allowed to do as our mayor has set this city back 40-50 years and has eroded the moral fiber of this community. He cannot utter the words equal justice for all because he believes in equal justice for the "quiet majority" he has alluded to at City Council since he began the public persecution of Tony Adams and Herman Porter.

Thought you might be interested in the glaring inconsistencies that are a lot more than coincidence by all means, especially since Jeff Myer is Wetherington's reported godson. This is the kind of corruption that makes Columbus all the poorer.

Take care,

Brother Love, Director

Grassroots Unity Movement for Change

Oh dear -- if you didn't know better, this letter might make you think Wetherington actually is running for re-election.

A dispute about fire department time cards -- well, that's kind of wonky. But a claim of semi-familial relations between the mayor and the fire chief? Ahhh -- now that's right up a humor blogger's alley. It's not quite good enough to sell to TMZ, but it's well on the way....

The title of C.A. "Brother Love" Hardmon's e-mail labeled the Columbus Mayor a "Boss Tweed." But what he sent left me wondering if Jim Wetherington was more like.... uh-oh. I have to be careful here. What I write next could invite a lawsuit, along the lines of what The Courier faced. But if Jeff Meyer is the Godson, wouldn't that make the mayor a Godfather?

"I don't know where they come up with such...." even the mayor picked his words carefully for a moment; "falsities with that." In other words, Jim Wetherington denies he's the godfather of the fire chief. I personally think he'd be more likely to accept that title for a high-ranking police officer....

Mayor Jim Wetherington admitted he's heard the godson rumors, too. He speculated they may have started because his son and Fire Chief Jeff Meyer went to Hardaway High School together. We could also speculate the red Hardaway sports jerseys inspired Meyer to join the fire department.

So there - can we stop the godson grumbling once and for all? If anyone has proof the fire chief is the godson of the mayor, please bring it forward. And while you're at it, see if Orly Taitz will serve as your attorney.

But I think Brother Love really wanted me to focus on his larger issue. Trouble is, Mayor Jim Wetherington says the time card issue was settled a year ago, in a meeting with Fire Chief Jeff Meyer and Battalion Chief Janice Bruner. He seemed frustrated that people keep bringing it up -- as if they're running up overtime.

Mayor Wetherington told me Janice Bruner kept her own "time card" records, separate from the official forms Columbus Fire/EMS employees fill out by computer. He concluded the official time cards were correct, and the employees in question were entitled to extra pay. Otherwise.... well, uh.... firefighters could have been "hosed."

"I can't help what people think," Jim Wetherington said when I asked him about complaints of a double standard. I admittedly didn't mention the "40-50 years" part of the e-mail - even though the current mayor is one of the few people in Columbus who could recall who was Fire Chief 50 years ago.

Since the mayor considers the time card issue resolved, he sees no need to pursue a further investigation. The critics who count 25 violations of city rules when it comes to audits might want to call the District Attorney's office. If Julia Slater recuses herself as she did with Mark Shelnutt, their dreams of state agents will come true.

While I had the mayor on the phone, I asked him about the upcoming city election. Jim Wetherington told me he will NOT endorse any other candidates, beyond former assistant and current Columbus Council contender Judy Thomas. I'm sorry if that ruins Paul Olson's plans for a big comeback in the mayor's race....

(If you're thinking back to that lunch the mayor shared with Roy Barnes at the Royal Café - well, maybe he was there because Barnes picked up the bill.)

After 45 months in office, this was my first direct interview with Mayor Jim Wetherington. Before now, Judy Thomas was able to answer all my questions concerning the mayor's office. But she had to resign from city government to run for Council - and the current assistant in the mayor's office apparently wasn't trained in what a blog is.

I know better than to presume possible ulterior motives -- but perhaps Brother Love brought all this up because he wants Columbus city candidates to bring it up. Mayoral candidate Teresa Tomlinson denied last month she plans to fire the Fire Chief. The opponent most likely to make Jeff Meyer an issue still hasn't done it - unless Zeph Baker is leaving that for his father's sermons.

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BLOG UPDATE: Was Jimmy Wetzel telling the truth, when he said an ethics complaint had been filed against the Phenix City School Superintendent? We called the Alabama Ethics Commission Wednesday to find out - and the answer is: we don't know. Some people in Montgomery tend to keep their lips sealed better than the Phenix City Council.

Hugh Evans with the Alabama Ethics Commission told me he cannot confirm or deny ANY filing. But if something criminal occurred, a complaint would be passed to the Alabama Attorney General's office. If the Commission has an opinion in a matter, it will be announced. And if someone brings up Nick Saban, the complainant might want to move to another state and hide.

The Alabama Ethics Commission hasn't issued an opinion involving Phenix City government in at least 15 years. I found a 1999 case where the commission ruled Russell County Appraiser J.W. Brannen could run for the county commission "on his own time." Since then, Brannen has advanced well on his way to holding every public office in the city and county.

A couple of other juicy rumors are in our pipeline, for potential denial in coming days. But now let's check things which actually happened Wednesday:

+ The Lee County Sheriff's Office hosted a conference of Alabama SWAT team personnel. But the evening news showed them training in Chattahoochee County. Auburn fans with RV's must camp out at Chewacla State Park earlier than I realized.

(Isn't this amazing - armed Alabama men in camouflage outfits crossing well into Georgia for training? The Columbus Tea Party simply must get better organized, to stop this....)

+ Dozens of Muscogee County children marked International Walk to School Day. Who knows how many of their parents and grandparents once joined in a college "walk OUT on school" protest day?

+ ABC "World News" presented a report on the Georgia Works program, which is placing thousands of unemployed people in new jobs. The report included an interview with Labor Commissioner and U.S. Senate candidate Mike Thurmond. What does it say when Thurmond has one free interview to counter all those paid Johnny Isakson ads?

+ Instant Message to Muscogee County School Board member Cathy Williams: I'm shocked - SHOCKED! You held a NeighborWorks Columbus event Wednesday, and did NOT wear a re-election sticker? Judy Thomas at the Open Door Community House never would have forgotten that.

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