Fred Drops Dead, So To Speak

Fred Drops Dead, So To Speak

In the friendly confines of the Clear Channel studios of Minnesota Fattz and Cher Best Tuesday morning, the most controversial mayoral candidate who never was withdrew his hat from the ring to become Augusta’s next chief executive. Or as some might say, “the pig got out of the smokehouse.”

Deposed city Administrator Fred Russell has robbed us all of a magnificent opportunity, the chance to see him under the lights with the microphones open and the cameras rolling (Fattz and Cher safely tucked away for the moment), to face serious questions and maybe even a few allegations concerning his time as the “man in charge” of one of the most dysfunctional governments this side of, well, most other dysfunctional governments.

Call me selfish, but what a shame we can’t see how Fred would actually handle answering questions that he could not deflect to his “elected bosses” or squirm away from under the guise of being an untouchable “legal issue,” with Ryan Calhoun and George Eskola dragging behind him on the sidewalk like water skiers behind a motorboat.

I can only imagine the interrogations:

“Please sir… defend the notion that you were the man tasked specifically with being the “administrator-in-charge” of the most important individuals on the payroll for the city, and that you should not be held directly (and perhaps even financially) responsible for the abortions that were the local careers of Bubba Willis (as Fire Chief), Chiquita Johnson (as City Attorney) or Teresa Smith (as Head of Public Works).

How on this planet do you defend your hideous duplicity in the case of the firing of recreation department chief Tom Beck, or your complicity in the laughably unethical gratuity offered to a city employee by a vendor (in the form of gastric bypass surgery), or your willingness to stand by quietly while waterworks employees are reinstated after being caught red-handed defrauding the city by falsifying time cards, or your total lack of attention to the fact that, in our post 9/11 world, while we have armed guards frisking every visitor to the Municipal Building, the city headquarters was likely the only occupied business structure within the downtown area that did not have exterior and interior security cameras recording activity 24/7?

There were more than a few ‘big picture’ issues, such as the enormous cost overruns you oversaw in the construction of the TEE Center (how is that investment working out for the city?) and of course the indefensible stand you took at the right hand of Marion Williams, advocating the construction and operation of a municipal drag strip.”

In my humble opinion, while we may have missed the opportunity to solve more mysteries than the Scooby gang, Augusta did avoid the distinction of becoming the only major city in the nation to elect a man mayor while he is still collecting a severance package from the same municipality.

I don’t think Fred Russell needs to go to jail, nor do I believe he needs to go to Hell. But he does need to go away.

And one quick note about two guys who should join him on his one-way express bus to oblivion, Marion Williams and Andrew McKenzie.

If you think Marion’s incessant witchhunt for incriminating pictures/emails/Doomsday plans somewhere on Fred’s “hard drive” has anything to do with his decision to withdraw from the race, well, I would say it was no more the cause than jellyfish stings contributed to Leonardo DiCaprio’s ultimate demise in “Titanic.” It was noise, nothing else, and the fact that he deleted personal files off his own office computer proves nothing except that he was tidy and security conscious. Nothing illegal or immoral about that. The unwashed will praise the 9th district city commissioner for his role in running Fred off; actually, the only thing he did was likely remind employees to delete their browsing history every day when they leave work.

The city attorney, Andrew McKenzie, aside form being woefully inept as to understanding the powers of a single commissioner, or what constitutes a reasonable request for information, may have been caught playing his own silly games with Williams, a man who clearly does not like him. When Commissioner Williams requested that he be provided with items off Russell’s hard drive, McKenzie should have told him to get six votes from the city commission to do it or personally pay the fees that any citizen would have to pay who makes a similar request. He probably should have also reminded the technologically challenged, bombastic goofball that any and all email that he wanted that was either sent or received through the administrator’s city email account would be available through the city’s internal servers, and should be easy to retrieve if given a narrow search timeframe. Would any of it show up on Russell’s hard drive, maybe some, by accident, but if he wanted Russell’s email, he would do better to look in places other than inside the single machine the man himself had complete control over.

If Marion Williams ever goes to DeVry, he just might become a force to reckon with.


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