Tuesday, July 12, 2011

City Hall Reels: Stench From White Intervention In Wife's Accident Wafts Over City; They Blame The Media, But This Could Be Defining Moment For Mayor 

Darren White
Darren White keeps dumping dung on the body politic of Albuquerque and like a compliant zookeeper Mayor Richard Berry follows him around with a shovel and scoops it up. And they're at it again.

A strong stench of a double-standard and hypocrisy wafted from the 11th Floor of City Hall Monday with the revelations that Public Safety Director White escorted his wife away from the scene of a Wednesday morning accident--without any DWI testing even though a police report describes her as "swaying" in the aftermath of the accident.

White insisted his intervention did not constitute special treatment or an abuse of his authority, but the incident seemed to have all the makings of a defining moment for Berry, even as he again hid from the TV cameras and hence the public. But the derision of vox populi over White's actions quickly surfaced in the comment sections of the TV news sites.

Setting aside the propriety of the intervention, the central policy questions that are inflicting the harm on Berry are these:

Would your wife or girlfriend or husband or boyfriend have been treated exactly the same as Mrs. White? And what would be expected of a rank and file police officer whose relative was involved in such an incident? If they intervened, would they have been treated with the same deference as Darren White, or had the police manual thrown at them?

Well, even the oblivious Mayor could smell the stench from this one and ordered up an investigation from the Independent Review Officer. But why wasn't White placed on administrative leave as is often the case in these matters? Again, the double-standard is what is killing the administration. And even the independent review officer seems too close to the City Hall gang to allay public concerns after an incident as sensational as this one.

And what about Darren's recent appointment by Governor Martinez to the Judicial Standards Commission? Is he in a suitable position now to be judging judges? That smell of dung is climbing all the way up La Bajada. Grab your gas mask, Susana.


Mayor Berry & CAO Perry
The City Hall spin doctors, inexperienced to the point that they attempted to squelch the story over the weekend by calling at least one TV news director and asserting that the White incident was not news, are not going to remove the smell of this from Berry's clothes. Certainly, lashing out at the news media as they advised their bosses to do at an evening news conference isn't going to advance their case any.

The attacks on the press by White, ABQ Police Chief Schultz and White's handmaiden and longtime political hit man--Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry--were outrageous to the point of being laughable. Any reporter worth their salt in this town ought to pursue White's tale with vigor and magnifying glasses. That includes the TV producer who told me he "would take a bullet for Darren White."

The press and public have every right to relevant medical records when Mrs. White smashes her Porsche into a curb and is described in a police report as "swaying" and appearing to be under the influence of "opiates." If White doesn't release all records in question, they will be forced into the public arena through the courts.

(The paper reports that the records released so far show that a Presbyterian Hospital doctor diagnosed Kathleen White with “new onset seizures” and that she tested negative for numerous prescription and illegal drugs. However, Mrs. White told police at the scene she was a user of anti-anxiety drugs. And what does "numerous" mean? That isn't "all" drugs.)

And to that galling harangue on the media by the top leaders of this city, we rely on our Shakespeare: "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

The administration has now entered a new phase and can expect a more confrontational media for the duration of their run. The attacks on the press do not match up with the personality and demeanor of this mayor. This fight is being picked by Darren and company to cover their own posteriors, but it is Berry who will pay the price. Ask him in about a year.


Then there was White's bizarre allegation that all this was a political plot against him. "I've been dealing with baseless allegations and innuendos from individuals who are trying to score cheap political points at the expense of my wife and her medical condition..."

Please! Explain yourself. Don't ask for pity. It reminds us of that scene in the "Godfather" when an especially whiny supplicant presents himself and the mob leader shouts at him, "Be a man!"


And then there's the chief who has stayed too long--way too long. Ray Schultz, seemingly a fine man who cares about this community, is going down in history as a chief who has lost complete control of his department and has been reduced to a political shill. Truly a shame.


And then there's the absent-without-leave city council. We warned them nearly two years ago that allowing the public safety director to be taken out from under the supervision of the city's chief administrative officer and allowing him to assume direct control over the police and fire departments was a recipe for chaos. Well, here we are. (Not that having Darren answer to Rob Perry who he basically hired would do any good now).

While the mayor may be the compliant zookeeper for Darren, the councilors are like little kids who go to the zoo and like to watch the animals poop. They point their fingers, giggle and move on to the next exhibit. Where, oh where, are some of the hell-raisers of councils past who could put the fear of God in that 11th floor and knock down some of that arrogance that we saw CAO Rob Perry parade with such blowhard confidence before the TV cameras Monday night?


This city is politically and economically adrift. The beaten down economy is ignored as City Hall puts on a continuing circus with ringmaster White and his sidekick Mayor. Yes, the mayor is likable. Yes, he's a nice guy. Yes, he's reasonable. But he is looking like the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz. His pollster--a best friend to Darren--may be telling him the public loves him and he has a sixty percent approval rating but remember, Mr. Mayor, the first President Bush had a 90 percent approval rating and lost re-election.

Unless this mayor grabs the reins, starts leading and stands up to his staff, Monday's events could mark the beginning of his end.

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