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Appearance of wrongdoing
By Jm Sack
Fort Wayne Reader
Okay, get this: a police officer pulls over a car full of college-aged folks and one adult. The police officer smells alcohol, but not being able to determine who has been drinking, lets them all go their way without a breath test. Does that really seem plausible to you?
That is what we are expected to believe in the Matter of Moss v. Personal Responsibility.
Paul Moss was driving along one night with a family member and their friends in the car. He said he had gotten a call to retrieve them after they had had too much to drink. So, in his big Caddie he barrels over a hill and a county mountie spots him. Something is amiss, so the country brown shirt gives chase and pulls over our county councilman.
What follows is gist for all sorts of speculation, because Councilman Moss does what most of the rest of us cannot do: he plays his get-out-of-jail-free card. He calls Sheriff Dan Fries, the boss of the patrol officer, and the low end of the payscale is soon talking to this boss, the big boss, the one who can make or break his career.
After the call, the patrol man lets the councilman go on his merry way without performing a breathalyzer test. He didn't ever make Moss touch his nose or walk the magic line. Nothing. Moss calls the sheriff — in Florida on vacation — words are exchanged, and the whole thing is just forgotten, until a reporter gets wind and opens the sordid, stinky little insider mess to public discussion.
It ends on the final days of November with Moss “apologizing” and the toothless Ethics Panel that had been required to investigate this little bit of buddy-buddy cronyism dismissing the whole thing. Meanwhile, every Monday, the Meeks Center is filled with schleps who are not lucky enough to have the clout of Moss or friends like Sheriff Fries and ex-public servant Pape.
Moss oversees the sheriff's budget. Think about that for just a second or two. Does the sheriff want to piss off Moss? Certainly not! He's got expansion on his mind, muscle cars and his own political future to consider. Sheriff Fries wants to run for the legislature, maybe earn a second or third pension. He would like to avoid a family fight with his fellow Republican, especially this one.
So, the deputy listens to instructions from the sheriff and lets the councilman go free. No sobriety checks. Moss is in a hurry. He is important. He has a car full of giggly drunks and wants to get them home. Sadly, a city police officer has been routinely alerted and he makes a report and the whole thing unravels. It hits the papers and tongues start to wag.
Moss, of course, tries to blame anyone else. The system took too long for someone as important as Mighty Moss. But, the matter gets out of hand, so he calls in another big gun. The easy way out, as counseled by his political attorney, Tim Pape, is to fess up and move on. It all goes to show the value of a good lawyer because the Ethics Panel slaps everybody on the back and they all go to the club for drinks. Do you think the schleps at the Meeks Center have well-connected lawyers? Those poor schleps who did the same thing are getting the book thrown at them, they spend time behind bars, loose jobs, pay more than they have in fines. “But, geezzz, officer, I was only swerving-while-texting on a dark road in the dead of night..” Right. Texting whom?
So, Moss sorta fesses up, but apologies in the lowest possible way by again blaming others. Now he blames the system for taking too long and vows to change it. Special treatment for a special guy. You see, when the powerful are offended they find ways to change the system so he will have it easier the next time they are caught “swerving-while-texting. (And isn’t that also against the law?)
So, Moss calls Fries to get-out-of-jail-free then calls in Tim Pape to get him off any other hook upon which he has placed himself.
So, Moss skips.
The question is, what did Fries say? Seems his underling thought enough of those few soft words to let the confessed midnight texter and suspected drunk driver skip. Seem Paul has a series of “texting” while driving events.
The next question is, how many more of Ken Fries buddies have gotten passes, and what might it have cost them in return? We’ll never know, will we? You have to wonder how many other officials owe Fries a favor or two, or might we euphemistically call it public service time.
That’s the way the system works here in Allen County. So, next time you get a solicitation call in support of a sheriff department charity, listen closely. You never know which celebrity or “serial texter” is working the phone bank...