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June 18, 2012

Open Thread: Sticks & Stones Edition

by at 10:06 am.

Update: Here is the final day of budget hearings - City Council / Budget Hearing 4
….

Well, we have moved on from the drama of the budget hearings to the drama of the “Great Parking Garage Robbery.” There was even a perfect segue on Saturday, as the Council got to fluff it’s feathers and strut it’s stuff without missing a beat. Rarely does such opportunity come, where our electeds get to be so “large and in-charge.”

It was interesting to see C.Lorrey pop his head up, like he did. In less than one news cycle he picked the LPD’s OT budget’s pocket (I support that cut, btw) and came up with the scoop on the parking whistleblower. This makes me nervous, but I’m the nervous type. Ever the affable guy, Lorrey may not be able to shuck and grin his way through such political mayhem. The long knives are being palmed, hidden from view. This is not a good time to be “Johnny on the spot.” Anyone who has ever seen Goodfellas knows, it is your friends that come for you. They come with smiles.

A friend called this morning asking if I had watched the City Life show. I only caught the last hour. Apparently, I was knocked around by my pals because they figured I would not blog about the “Great Parking Garage Robbery.” The gist was that I would not do anything that may upset the CM. I’m going on hearsay on this. Later, I’ll listen to the show on LTC. Getting my facts straight is helpful. For now, I’ll just jump out in front on this with little direct knowledge. That’s what George and John do, fair is fair.

Oddly, my thoughts on the news, so far, matches Cliff Krieger’s. He wrote a thoughtful diary: The Big Parking Ticket

In some way this incident asks the larger question of if our system is working for us or against us?

If we had just let the company deal with it we would have gotten our money back, avoided additional costs as taxpayers and maybe even found a man who straightened out his life. Then again, maybe he was destined for perdition.

It is just that I would have preferred avoiding the instant outrage and asking some questions. I would have liked some “out of the box” thinking before throwing the book at the perp.


I was thinking the same thing, in a different sort of way. I was thinking that maybe it would be wise to not puke on the shoes of this developing story. I was thinking that the words “investigative” and “info-tainment” should never be used in the same line of reasoning. The objectives are wildy different. I’m curious when I see folks playing loosey goosey with the Scarlet Letters. When there are so few details known, those that banter, in my experience, are trying to fabricate a “casual link” out of thin air. I heard this very thing on City Life, this morning.

After watching the last half of the show, I didn’t learn a goddamned thing. I did laugh. And, I came away with the notion, that somehow, someway, this matter will be hung around the neck of either the CM or the Auditor. When details are scarce, fill in the ignorance with conjecture and rumor, forged in the fires of predisposed dispositions. Pin the vague, unshaded outline of the “Letter” on their garment of public service. Filling it in with “Scarlet” can come later.

Please keep a straight face on this Open Thread.

15 Responses to “Open Thread: Sticks & Stones Edition”

  1. Eleanor Rigby Says:

    I just left this comment on Cliff’s site, so I will leave it here are well:

    “Am I missing something? An employee steals money, is apparently caught and law enforcement is not called? It’s okay to embezzle $37,000 because others have gotten away with worse? NO.”

  2. Gardner Says:

    I am sure I am missing some “Lowell nuance” here, but from what I have read this should have been pretty straightforward. The management company should have immediately repaid the missing funds and dealt with their employee as they saw fit. Chuck should have notified the CM and the Council. End of story. Bad judgement on Chuck’s part to accept repayment over time from the employee and not to notify the CM and the Council. Not hanging offenses in my book, though.

  3. Jack Says:

    Is the employer going to “press charges?”

    Law is a funny thing. It could be that if the “victim” does not seek justice, then there is no further action by law enforement.

    In the cases where a city employee did wrong, the city admin responded. In the current situation, the suspect is behind a corporate veil. The question I have is when will the city be made whole. Has it been already? Sounds like the city is planning to claw back the amount disclosed.

    It’s one thing for John Q. Public to lose their heads. It’s another thing for city officials. They have the ability to gather crucial details and legal advice before blurting out.

  4. Joe S. Says:

    It is a bit worse than bad judgement, as it appears that the city will be short some money, if only on the interest it otherwise would have collected on the money at issue. In addition to this error, there was the issue of the “hiring” of a specific person out of order. We should also consider the many good things that have occurred with the parking administration in the past few years, yet still see some degree of reprimand for these errors.

    Returning stolen funds should not be the lone punishment, as it would be a heads-I-win, tails I-return-the-money situation. Since the city was the victim in this case, some measure of compensation over and above returning the money should be exacted.

  5. Magnolia Says:

    As I understand it, Carney knew about this last November and did not inform the Manager. I find that deeply disturbing. It is even more disturbing that the Manager, the Auditor and the Council had to find out from an anonymous source, and apparently not Mr. Carney. While some of you may disagree with me, I feel that Mr. Carney needs to be terminated for covering up a crime.

  6. joe from Lowell Says:

    Good luck getting $38,000 from a former parking garage employee who’s sitting the House of Corrections.

    Carney moved to get the city’s money back. Right move or wrong move, I can’t see crucifying the guy for that.

    Look at what the city’s parking operation used to be, and look at what it is now. The garages are safe and well-run, as well as financially stable. They weren’t always. We’re talking about how big a mark this episode is on an otherwise sterling record of accomplishment.

  7. Renee Aste Says:

    I’ve made my complaint over at Cliff’s in regards to the ‘cash only’ upfront concerns. We have residents like myself, who are being denied access to parking, because on some days it is cash only, when I fully and reasonably expected to be able to pay with electronic payment at the kiosoks and other residents paying 5 or 10 dollars even though they only needed parking for an hour.

    Why are high volume days with the highest revenue, it is cash only? Everyone knows that from a drive-thru or pumping gas that electronic is faster and a lesser likelihood of anyone employee or not from stealing?

  8. kmarcin Says:

    Too much Watergate history last week…can we now refer to this as “parking-gate”?

  9. Prince Charming Says:

    Whether you like it or not, Lorrey - an elected official - took his information and gave it to the police. The correct and proper move. The City Council has no investigative powers but the police do. Lorrey was dead on with this one. Carney is such a good guy and does a great job but made a serious mistake by not letting Lynch get in the loop. Damnable, yes. Fireable? Not so sure.

  10. Jack Says:

    What was odd, PC, is that Bill Taupier thought the move was a political boon, but a process bust. Doesn’t Taupier normally assert that the Council is in charge?

    I’m confused.

  11. Mimi Says:

    CC M. Lorey did the right thing. I did not understand B. Taupier’s objection. Can someone explain his reasoning? Also, during the CC Meeting a couple of Councilors mentioned they had received additional information. I would think instead of stating it on the Council floor to score some points, you would want to give that information immediately to the Police so that they can properly conduct their investigation.

    I think Mr. Carney would have helped himself if he had publicly apologized to the Council and the CM Saturday during the budget discussion. He did not seem to grasp the seriousness of the matter.

    And Jack, I agree with you, those who want to use this as a political ploy will blame the CM and/or the Auditor.

  12. Magnolia Says:

    Mimi , why on earth would anyone want to blame the Manager or Auditor? I am not always happy with the Manager - but this is a long way from being his fault. The whole blame lies with Carney. He should have informed the Manager back in November. And in my humble opinion , he had absolutely no right to make any decisions regarding the problem and should have gone to Lynch immediately. I also agree with Councilor Broderick, that we should not utilize this parking companmy again as they were complicit in the cover-up. I just heard on the radio that Carney has been terminated. I totally agree with that move.

    Admin Note: The termination is also reported on the Blog of Record. -Jack

  13. Jack Says:

    Magnolia,

    This is called ” moving the goal posts.

    City Councilor Rita Mercier on Saturday expressed concern and dismay that Carney and Lynch’s administration have not gone aggressively after the alleged thief.

    “It seems like we pick and choose who gets arrested and whose name is scarred,” Mercier said.

    City Councilor Ed Kennedy, who like Elliott and Mercier has sharply questioned Carney and the city’s handling of the missing funds, said at the very least Lynch should suspend Carney without pay until the investigation into the missing funds is complete. He said he does not know why Carney did not tell Lynch of the theft immediately.

    “The notion that Mr. Carney was not trying to do anything wrong or did not do anything wrong does not hold up when you learn of the facts,” Kennedy said. “Everyone on the council is watching closely to see how the city manager handles this. I’m not sure anyone is impressed so far.

    (bold mine)

    See how the Manager is being smeared?

    These Councilors have nothing on the CM, yet they opt to fill in the vaguery of the events with innuendo of, at best, negligence and mismanagement.

    Maybe a better cliche to describe this is “connect the dots?” While reasonable folks are trying to connect the dots, these councilors are busy scratching in dots.

  14. Lynne Says:

    “why on earth would anyone want to blame the Manager or Auditor?”

    Why, indeed. But they will anyway.

  15. JC Says:

    Carney can be justly criticized for his failures of judgment. He finds out the city was cheated out of $38,000 but does not inform his boss? Incredible! He then compounds his failure by entering into an agreement for restitution that would have the city wait 10 years to be made whole! What was he thinking? Does it matter if he is a nice guy? He is a public employee who failed to put public interest before all other concerns. His firing is fully warranted. But legitimate questions do remain… Should Carney’s relationship with the embezzler and/or the third party service provider be investigated? Do we need or want to know the reasons Carney failed to conduct himself appropriately? Or should we just close our eyes and forget about it - just take the minimum steps - recover all funds with interest, make the city whole and simply move on?

    What’s troubling is that Carney apparently felt he had the latitude to keep the CM in the dark about this entire matter. Either Carney went completely off the reservation, or there are serious deficiencies regarding the attitudes of city department heads. Why don’t they understand that any matter likely to be detrimental or embarrass the city must be reported to the CM’s office immediately? If that message isn’t getting through, then the CM must act. He must be firm and explicit in setting expectations for conduct by his department heads. He can’t just leave ethics training up to the state. He needs to personally explain to all city employees that they need to always conduct themselves ethically and solely in the public interest (yes, they should already know this, but it needs to be continually emphasized and the CM needs to be the person saying it). Finally, he needs to cite the instant case and tell them explicitly that any alleged breach of trust will be fully investigated and may result in adverse action – up to and including removal.

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