Corruption in City Government
It has been six weeks since my last post on the political goings-on in
Until now I have not referred to the council members by their actual names, but have used labels for them. Several commenters have named them (and, on occasion, labeled them far more spearingly than I), and from this point on I will simply refer to them by name. I will also identify some of the labels.
The Mayor is Eric Middlebrook. He is the leader of the Block of Four and has been called Clipped Gerbil in an earlier comment, and Mayor Mugabe in a more recent one.
The Vice Mayor is Raymond “Thor” Williams. A member of the Block of Four, he was the maker of the motion to terminate the City Attorney. Referred to by a commenter as McCheese. Noted by another commenter always to be on the wrong side of every vote, along with Tundy Rodgers. He is an incredibly insecure individual who tries to make himself feel less inadequate by cutting others down (doesn’t work but he has no other strategies). He wastes an inordinate amount of Council’s time splitting hairs over insignificant issues, like making miniscule and unnecessary budget modifications. He thinks this makes him look smart. Uh…no. Raymond is one of the three current Council members who is also a former Mayor; he was a disaster in that position and could not get re-elected to the following year’s Council when he was one of four people running for three open seats. The codeword among the voters was “EBT”—everybody but Thor. He managed to get elected to the current Council with only 216 votes.
Willie Keppel, the Newly Appointed Council Member. He ran for Council last fall but was defeated by Raymond Williams by 2 votes. When a now-departed Council member moved away from Bethel in January, he applied for appointment to the position along with several others, and when the vote was evenly split, received the appointment by literally drawing the right straw. He is only there for the remainder of the departed member’s term, and must run for election in October. He is the final member of the Group of Four, and along with Tundy, he simply must not be reelected.
Keppel is the Council member referred to by commenter Two Dogs as Torch, because he is widely believed to have set fire to a wooden building owned by his arch-rival Harry Faulkner, the citizen who brought the injunction against him for Conflict of Interest in participating in the termination of the City Attorney. Keppel not only voted for her termination, he seconded the motion to terminate when it was made by Raymond Williams. (No update on that injunction; it hasn’t gone away, but nothing has happened as a result of it that I know of.)
Keppel is the Council member who is and long has been in violation of the Bethel Municipal Code (BMC), and who faces $18,000 in fines for that violation. His case was being prosecuted by the City Attorney; he believed that by firing her the case would magically go away. The Conflict of Interest in this situation is neither subtle nor complicated.
And his violation is particularly disgusting. All
The BMC was created by the City Council, and during the swearing-in ceremony of each new Council member, he or she is sworn to uphold and abide by the Code. There is no gray area here; Keppel’s violation is clear-cut, obvious, provable. His hearing in court is on Monday, April 28th. In the absence of a City Attorney, the City Manager will present the city’s case.
And here is one place where we reach a level of misbehavior that can be called corruption in this City Council. At the regular meeting of the Council which Dutch and I missed while we were in the
The second, and far more significant, situation vying for the label of corruption involves the recall petitions, which I have mentioned before. After the debacle of the firing of the City Attorney, a grass-roots movement of citizens came forward wanting Middlebrook and Williams recalled. Rodgers and Keppel were not eligible for recall, or they would have been included as well. One woman, Diane Moffitt, took the lead in asking people to sign up as petition circulators to gather the necessary 285 signatures of registered voters to place the recall question before the citizens of
There were 12 of us who signed up to be petition circulators. We had sixty days to get the signatures, and then the petitions must be turned in to the City Clerk to have the signatures verified as registered voters.
Middlebrook and Williams have acted as if this recall movement were nothing but a joke, and have been openly scornful of it. Middlebrook instructed the City Clerk to be sure the petitions were handled according to the precise letter of the law.
When we had over 300 signatures, Diane asked the City Clerk how the 12 of us go about turning in our petitions. The Clerk said for each of us to bring them in to her office at our convenience. After about half of the petitions had been turned in, the Clerk announced that the petition had failed due to insufficient signatures; only the petitions turned in together counted, the remaining five or six would not be accepted. The Clerk refused to return them to the individuals who had submitted them to her, so that we could turn them all in at once, saying it was “against the law”; but she could not quote what law it was against. We have a week yet before the deadline of May 2nd.
The Clerk is now denying her initial instructions on how to turn the petitions in. She is saying that she never told us to bring them in to her office at our convenience. She is refusing to do the right thing, which is to return the petitions that were submitted so that we can all turn them in together as a single instrument. Several of the circulators consulted an attorney who said there is absolutely no reason she cannot return those petitions. It was he who said that this is nothing but corruption.
Those same circulators have now contacted the American Civil Liberties Union, who feels that this is pure suppression of the voice of the people. The ACLU is writing a letter to the Clerk, telling her basically to do the right thing: give back the submitted petitions and allow all of them to be turned in together. If she refuses, litigation will follow.
So once again,
A new comment was posted by Anonymous this past Monday evening to the last blog post I did on the City Council. It speaks to these issues, and is now likely to go completely unseen, being so deeply buried, so I have copied it here.
This evening on the news I heard Mayor Eric "Mugabe" Middlebrook at a council meeting last week pressuring the city manager to release Councilman Willie Keppel from his civil penalties by instructing the judge to dismiss the case. This was after Keppel failed to observe city ordinances and hook up to the city sewer system. Instead he dumped his sewage in the tundra. The kind of example that could lead us all to cholera. He ignored citations served him by the city that have been well documented. Mayor "Mugabe" as we have come to know him, also instructed the City Clerk to throw out citizen petitions to recall him and another city council representative. These council members swore to uphold the laws of this City and by extension the laws of our state and nation. They are so deep into this mess that they lost whatever ethical perspective they might have once possessed.
I agree completely.
For those of you who might be new to this thread—and who have enough interest to read more—I have written four posts in the last two months on the outrageousness of Bethel’s current City Council:
Political Shenanigans, February 13
City Council Doesn’t Get It, March 15
And for those of you don’t live in
Labels: Life in Bethel