Thursday, May 19, 2011

19 MAY 11: Strode-Write?

It's usually not a good idea to walk into other people's arguments - especially if you're not invited. History is filled with cases of how badly that can end. That may explain why Maury Povich hasn't invited Arnold Schwarzenegger to provide a DNA sample for possible paternity tests.

But I dared to wade Wednesday into a fuss between Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson and another local website. It all started when Richard Hyatt posted an e-mail he says was sent to the mayor by 2010 campaign manager Tollie Strode. Hyatt wrote the e-mail was "circulating around the Government Center." That's what happens when city computers have Minesweeper removed from them.

Mayor Tomlinson took quick action in response to that post -- sending Richard Hyatt an e-mail reply Wednesday morning, saying she "never received" the message from Tollie Strode. The mayor called for a "public retraction." If Mike Gaymon could go to the Government Center and hold a news conference, so could Hyatt.

This is where I enter the story, because Mayor Tomlinson sent me a "CC" version of her message to Richard Hyatt. That e-mail was my first contact with this spat -- and for a minute, I thought the mayor had her Richards confused. My main topic Wednesday was more along the lines of stars falling from heaven, than combining in Columbus.

A quick e-mail exchange of my own led to confirmation from the mayor that she merely sent me a copy. Quoting part of it....

I wanted the media outlets and other blogs to know that Hyatt's blog was untrue. Sometimes one blog or outlet will republish another. No need to spread inaccurate information.

So there it is -- my own T-T C-C.

But Richard Hyatt insisted in a Wednesday update his "source is sound." He posted the header of Tollie Strode's e-mail to Mayor Tomlinson, dated Saturday afternoon. That led to another response from the mayor, which was C-C'ed to me-me my InBox as well:

Richard - It appears you have been duped. Whatever "header" you have was not attached to the writing you published. As I said, I have received emails from Tollie Strode, certainly. What you published however was not one of them. It appears to me that someone has "cut and pasted" any so-called "header" and completely rewritten and reformated what you printed as it is not what I have received from Tollie or anyone else. Again, it may well have been written by Mr. Strode. You will have to ask him. It was not however sent to or received by me.

I push the point because accuracy is important and whoever utterly manipulated the writing you have did so knowing that it was not sent to me. That amount of effort was exerted for a reason. I'm not sure what reason but I would imagine the newsworthy effect of invoking the Mayor's name. I request the retraction, as what you print is false, whether you understood it or not at the time of publication.

Hmmmm -- maybe Hyatt's mysterious columnist Mirabeau B. Lamar is behind all this....

It occurred to me after reading the second reply that there was a simple way to settle this spat. Ask Tollie Strode what he wrote - if anything. I don't know if Mayor Tomlinson or Richard Hyatt did that, but I dared to do it. Compare me with NATO warplanes over Libya if you wish, but I did.

So I e-mailed Tollie Strode a couple of questions, and this reply came Wednesday night:

Mr. Burkhard,

First, let me thank you for your inquiry.

Second, I read your blog often and enjoy your engaging use of facts and perspectives wrapped in comedic relief on a wide range of issues. It is my pleasure, indeed, to chuckle (and sometimes outright laugh) at your take on the events of the time. Thank you.

To your questions:

1. "Are you aware of the fuss that's developed over an e-mail supposedly from you to Mayor Tomlinson about the Marshal's Office?" RESPONSE: Yes, with a caveat. The e-mail that Richard posted was an excerpt of an e-mail that I sent to Mayor Tomlinson which also included a spreadsheet attachment.

2. "Is the e-mail really yours? Did you send it to the Mayor? Or has someone been hacking into your accounts?" RESPONSE: No one has hacked into my e-mail account.

Fondest Regards,

Tollie Strode, Jr.

Perhaps I offer comedic relief -- but this reply may relieve Richard Hyatt even more. The chances of a lawsuit have gone down substantially.

So let's sort things out: Mayor Tomlinson says the e-mail posted by Richard Hyatt was NOT sent by Tollie Strode -- yet Strode told me it was. Perhaps the section Hyatt quoted was in that spreadsheet, and the mayor has her aides screen all attachments for deadly viruses.

Mayor Tomlinson insists she never received Tollie Strode's message. Without access to her accounts, we have no way to verify that. Do mayors have spam filters for their InBoxes? Maybe Strode's e-mail is next to the one proclaiming she won one million British pounds in the Georgia Power lottery.

(I'll leave it to the mayor and Richard Hyatt to sort out the truth about "headers." It's not a World Cup soccer year, anyway.)

But there are deeper lessons we can learn from this case. Mayor Tomlinson again shows she'll respond personally and quickly to anything which might leave a wrong impression about what she's doing. Someone should award her an ax, and name her Firefighter-in-Chief.

It's also noteworthy that Tollie Strode (by his own admission, remember) e-mailed the mayor with guidance about the future of the Muscogee County Marshal's Office. Mayor Tomlinson wants an independent assessment of a possible merger with the Sheriff's Office. Strode may be trying to save the city $60,000 in costs with his "two cents."

Mayor Tomlinson said this week the Marshal's Office should be examined "less on emotion and politics." But if that e-mail isn't enough to suggest politics may be bubbling up, WRBL reported Wednesday night the mayor will meet with real estate executives Friday about the question. That may occur in an office, but a more fitting place might be a lobby....

Jim Evans of Fountain City Realty (in MidTown, of all places) says the current public safety structure isn't broken. He says landlords and property managers are concerned a consolidation of the Marshal's and Sheriff's Offices would double the cost of evicting someone. People want less government, but they somehow don't want to pay more for it.

Meanwhile, both elected officials in the middle of the debate were in the spotlight Wednesday. Marshal Greg Countryman said he was promised five new deputies from the Local Option Sales Tax vote, but he's only received three. Could Countryman use some other city employees currently wearing uniforms - such as staff members at Port Columbus?

Muscogee County Sheriff John Darr presented his first "Rising Star" awards to schoolchildren Wednesday. Darr says he plans to present three awards to youngsters four times a year. OK - but that means his timing was off a bit. Ceremonies should take place before the July primary, then in October before the general election.

-> Monday night was our best night in local live poker in months. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG UPDATE: What's the alternative to "Judgment Day" and Harold Camping? Fort Benning MWR is offering an option at Kings Pond this weekend -- a "Campout." I'm told in case that great worldwide earthquake occurs Saturday night, this event will be canceled.

Let's check other Wednesday news, which seemed to be dominated by business items....

+ WXTX reported Gateway Mitsubishi on Fifth Avenue has closed, after 28 years in business. This leaves Sports and Imports as the last new car dealership in downtown Columbus - and if that place doesn't start selling canoes and kayaks soon, it may be doomed as well.

+ More than 300 people camped outside the new Chick-Fil-A restaurant in Midland all day, hoping to win the traditional year's supply of sandwiches for 100 customers. The 5:00 p.m. news even showed people playing foursquare in the parking lot. Talk about old-fashioned! In 2011, aren't you supposed to use Foursquare to become the restaurant's mayor?

(One woman in the parking lot came from out-of-state to the new restaurant, and admitted this is her 72nd Chick-Fil-A grand opening. This is a hint to me that Chick-Fil-A could be a cult - with people simply following those cows everywhere.)

+ WRBL found a gas station on U.S. 80 in Ladonia selling regular unleaded for $3.43 a gallon. Take that, you skeptics! The arrest of the International Monetary Fund President finally has turned the trend around.

+ Columbus advanced to the Georgia high school baseball semifinals by whipping West Laurens 9-3. The next challenge will come from Thomson - and that's scary, because baseball fans know what that name could mean....

+ Instant Message to the household I noticed with a "Congratulations Northside graduate" yard sign outside: If the graduate is really smart, he or she will tell you to remove that sign Friday evening -- before your home becomes an easy target for burglars.

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