Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Conservative Factor - Alex Spencer

Wow. I mean really, wow. Here’s the problem with writing a political column, sometimes the political climate is a bit slow or uneventful and you find yourself rehashing old news. Then, the Mayor of St. Peters gets indicted by the United States Government. Yup, that’s the latest and greatest political news out of St. Charles County. One more time, for anyone who might be living under a rock and might have missed the news: MAYOR SHAWN BROWN WAS INDICTED ON FEDERAL BRIBERY CHARGES.

Let’s recap, shall we? On Thursday, August 17, 2006, a Federal Grand Jury indicted St. Peters Mayor Shawn Brown on charges of federal bribery. Basically, they decided there was enough proof to proceed against Shawn on charges of bribery. This idiot (there really is no other word for it) shook down a red light camera company. On Friday, August 18, Shawn was arrested near his home. He was arrested, handcuffed, and taken downtown for processing. Wow.

From all the press accounts, it looks like it went down something like this: The St. Peters Board of Aldermen voted to sign a contract with Redflex, a red light camera company based in Arizona, to install and monitor several red light cameras in St. Peters. Shawn, as Mayor, would sign that bill and the process for installing the cameras would move forward. Bingo, bango: less people run red lights, and the City of St. Peters has a new stream of revenue (which of course, is not the reason for installing the cameras). Well, that’s not exactly what happened. Apparently, it looks like Shawn interacted with Redflex and said something like: “I’m going to veto the bill and you won’t get the contract unless you pay me $2750.00.” The press reports are somewhat contradictory, so I’m not certain, but it sure sounds like that person from Redflex might have been wearing a wire. So, the Feds have Shawn on tape shaking down the business. That’s what you call a career-ender. Memo to the “innocent until proven guilty” Shawn fan club (Sandy Waters, Pathetic Brandy Pedersen, and other people suing the City of St. Peters.: this is a federal indictment, they have him cold – you might ix-nay on the defending Shawn-ay because you are a bunch of orons-may.

I digress, let’s get back to the basics. So, every other time Shawn was accused of inappropriate or criminal behavior, he would spout off several silly defenses. Remember when he was faxing out campaign reports from city hall? First he had reimbursed the city for use of the fax machine; then he was entitled to do it because he pays taxes; then he didn’t know it was inappropriate (duh!); finally, he proclaims: they are out to get me.

Then, there was the haunted house fiasco: first, it was a paperwork mix-up and he didn’t know you can’t use an out of town address to avoid paying taxes; then it was his lawyer told him to do it that way; finally, he proclaims: they are out to get me.

And maybe “they” are out to get him. But apparently, “they” have a point. Former Mayor Tom Brown was right when he said that Shawn broke a sacred trust with the people. So, you’d think the guy would defend himself right? Where are Shawn’s protestations of innocence this time? Where are the stupid excuses. When is he going to put that dopey look on his face and stare into the camera and do the whole simpleton routine where he claims not to understand that you can’t actually bribe a city vendor? Hmmmm, curiously missing. Instead, he’s giving excuses that would make Former President Clinton proud. What’s next: “In my heart, it was a campaign contribution” or maybe “it depends on what your definition of bribery is?” Shawn is a crook, plain and simple. He’s embarrassing and he should leave. So then, the idiot is walking out of the Federal Courthouse where he was arraigned that next week, and he tells the TV cameras that of course he will be at the meeting that Thursday. It’s business as usual. Well, let’s hope that’s not the case.

In the next installment of this drama, Alderman David Hayes announces that he will be asking for Shawn’s resignation at that next Board meeting. What exactly was Hayes supposed to do? There was a giant elephant in the room, and in the right light, it looked like the elephant might be wearing prison stripes. Meeting time came and proceeded rather slowly and uneventfully. Then, it was time for citizen comment at the end of the meeting. After that, it was time for the elected officials to give their comments. Lo and behold, Shawn bolted. Shawn didn’t excuse himself in a professional manner. Shawn bolted. Shawn ran out of that chamber like a scared little rabbit. He didn’t stay and let Hayes say his piece and then respond or ignore him. Shawn ran away. In the words of one local editorial board, Shawn was a coward.

Hayes gave an impassioned speech about why Shawn should resign. Even though I’ve called out him and others for speechifying in the past, he was right. It’s time for the people to realize they elected a crook, plain and simple. All the rumors of other shakedowns are probably true. It just took a company from out of state to do the right thing. Maybe the local builders will take notice and step up to the plate.

To the other aldermen, are you seriously that dense? Just in case you missed it, your mayor is under federal indictment. Hey Alderman Pagano – we get it. You want to keep Shawn there, so that Alderman Holt doesn’t take over and pose you any greater competition in the next Mayoral campaign. Just in case you are planning to do the doddering old fool routine again, you are very transparent, and it’s kind of pathetic – you might as well announce your candidacy. And Alderman Hollingsworth – before you start out on another campaign of compromise where you emerge as some sort of lesser of two evils, “trust me I’m an insurance guy” candidate, I’m not sure the people of St. Peters want a Mayor who abstains all the time because a bunch of the local builders and city contractors are clients of his insurance business. The city might not be ready for an insurance salesman Mayor, since the electrical salesman Mayor was kind of a bust. It will certainly be interesting to watch the members of the Board of Aldermen as they jockey for even the slightest electoral advantage.

To Shawn, I bid you a fond farewell. Whether you choose to do the right thing and resign your post to spare the people of your city (and the rest of us in this county from embarrassment, or you stick it out until the Feds put you in the can, your days as an elected official are numbered. Hey Shawn: Na, na, na, na. Na, na, na, na. Hey, hey, hey. Goodbye.