Friday, July 08, 2011

8 JUL 11: A Sonny-er View

"Beware Richard," warned the title of an e-mail I received Thursday. Huh?! Why? I don't run in Phenix City long enough to qualify for a grand jury investigation....

It turned out the message was in response to our Thursday interview with a Phenix City Councilor:

Please do not believe anything that comes from the mouth of J. Wetzel. That beard does not act as a filter for the blather that comes from within.

Maybe so, maybe not -- but I wouldn't be surprised if some popular T-shirts from San Francisco pop up around Phenix City one year from now.

Phenix City's mayor probably would agree with our writer. I called Sonny Coulter Thursday evening for a reply to Councilor Jimmy Wetzel's latest accusations. If you're expecting the city's biggest fireworks show since the 2009 high school football season, you're going to be disappointed....

"I've never done any of that," Mayor Coulter replied when I asked about Jimmy Wetzel's accusation about trying to provoke the Russell County District Attorney into investigations of several Phenix City Councilors. As far as we can tell, the mayor hasn't even called in Andrew Breitbart.

No, Sonny Coulter said -- he was NOT told by District Attorney Kenneth Davis to stop visiting Davis's office. But the mayor admitted, "Kenny is a good friend of mine...." If you're calling a county prosecutor "Kenny," I suppose that's true.

"I can pick up the phone and call him," Mayor Coulter said about the District Attorney. So there, Mr. Wetzel! If the mayor can do that, he might just call the City Manager while he's at it.

(And then Phenix City employees can borrow from "South Park" - shouting in horror: "Oh no! He called Kenny!")

But Mayor Sonny Coulter seemed to be surprised at this week's Phenix City Council meeting when City Manager Wallace Hunter mentioned plans for the former Cobb Hospital property. "I know nothing about it," the mayor admitted - adding he doesn't know why Hunter hasn't disclosed details to him. Maybe they plan to name the new municipal building the Coulter Complex.

The Phenix City mayor voted in June against giving the city an option to buy the old Cobb Hospital. But Sonny Coulter told me he voted Wednesday FOR spending $10,000 on a check of possible asbestos in the building. He explained since the council has made a commitment, the check seems worthwhile. And it's one check the city actually can afford to sign.

As for Jimmy Wetzel's latest rant about visiting Phenix City Hall, Mayor Sonny Coulter said: "I won't dignify anything that he said.... That is Mr. Wetzel's way of doing business." In other words, if Wetzel ran "American Idol," all the judges would be like Simon Cowell.

There certainly are two different approaches on display in Phenix City Council meetings these days. Jimmy Wetzel is the "agent provocateur," trying to bring changes by stirring things up. Sonny Coulter is more low-key, folksy and gentle - almost like he wants to launch a new version of "Mr. Rogers's Neighborhood."

(And deep-down, how many Columbus residents want to see this sort of public argument these days about THEIR City Manager?)

By the way, Sonny Coulter admitted he had NOT read Jimmy Wetzel's comment which we posted Thursday. He blamed it on an AT&T modem in his home which conked out during last weekend's storms, and still isn't working properly. If the mayor has that much clout with the District Attorney, why does he have to wait in line with the phone company?

Meanwhile, we promised a little more from our Wednesday interview with Jimmy Wetzel. As he understands it, a copy of Councilor Arthur Sumbry Senior's missing 1984 state pardon "has been found." It may have been tossed out by Alabama state officials in recent years, due to a purge of documents in Montgomery. But until we see it, Sumbry's political career may be in purge-atory.

Another potential East Alabama scandal begins our check of other Thursday news....

+ A former Smiths Station City Council member was indicted on federal embezzlement charges. WLTZ reports Angelia Curran may have taken federal grant money assigned to the Friendship Volunteer Fire Department, and spent it on personal items. Aw, c'mon - how can you bring firefighters out for a training session without a chili supper afterward?

(Curran's father happens to be the volunteer department's Fire Chief. This sounds a lot more like love than Friendship to me.)

+ Columbus Police warned someone dressed as a correctional officer staged two home invasions. One of them took place in Green Island Hills - which almost makes me wish this criminal had knocked on the door of former mayor Jim Wetherington.

+ WRBL showed specially-trained dogs from Auburn University checking for signs of Southern pine disease. Uh-oh - did "Al from Dadeville" call any other talk shows recently?

+ The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Alabama has the second highest obesity rate in the U.S. So? Do you realize how many beefy linemen it takes to win college football titles?

+ Instant Message to former President Jimmy Carter and wife Rosalynn: I hope you enjoyed a happy 65th wedding anniversary Thursday. Do you ever wish you'd sailed through the Panama Canal once, before giving it away?

SCHEDULED THIS WEEKEND: I stun a neighbor with a comment about Casey Anthony.... and a city work crew is put to the test....

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