I contribute a weekly column to the Platte County Landmark under the “Rambling Moron” name. It’s a great Northland Newspaper and well worth a subscription. The following is an copy of my article which appeared in the 8/10/12 edition – printed with permission.
TIPS FOR A POLITICAL SCANDAL
Like most of Platte County, I’ve been following the trials and travails of the greatest political scandal of the century… Well, maybe not quite, but certainly the greatest one to hit the town of Tracy, Missouri.
To briefly recap, the Mayor Rita Rhoads was removed from office after being found guilty of nepotism by hiring her son-in-law, Matthew Spores, to fix a broken sign for $100.
As is often the case, it’s never really the original infraction that gets you, it’s either the cover-up or the actions during the infraction that get you in trouble. It’s a common problem for political scandals the world over.
Here now, is a guide on what not to do if you’re charged with a political crime.
1) Know Which Rules to Break: This is critical. Rules are bent every day. When you’re challenged by the city clerk about the legality of one of them, that’s probably not the one to break that day. Try not to use phrases like “Oh, it’s okay” or “Just ignore it” or “It’ll be fine.” Those are all signals that you’re treading into shark-infested waters.
2) Forget Asking For Forgiveness After the Fact: Just like driving around, know which streets you can do 50 down a 35 and know which streets you’ll get pulled over doing 26 in a 25 zone. Apparently, the rule about slipping $100 to your daughter’s husband is the end of society as we know it and deserves the ultimate penalty of removal from office. Okay, lesson learned. Meanwhile, the Royals are allowed to skim money out of their taxpayer-funded savings account to pay for Sluggerrrr. Okay. Got it.
Know the rules of the road and nobody gets hurt.
3) Read Your State’s Constitution: Every state in the Union is different. Some allow you to marry a cow. Some forbid you to marry someone of the opposite sex. Some even allow you to buy marijuana for a member of the opposite sex that you want to marry a cow. Missouri’s, apparently, has an item in there about not paying your relatives – even a little bit of money – otherwise you’re out of office. This might’ve been good to have read when you came across that broken sign. You’d have been better off trying to buy weed for that cow.
4) Unplug the Shredder: Here’s a good rule of thumb for any budding reporters out there, if you see a political person buying a shredder at Office Depot, go ahead and follow them back to their office. There’s an old phrase in reporting called “follow the money,” but you can also get to the bottom of things when you follow the shredder. Besides, nothing is completely destructible in this age of e-mails and backups.
5) Respect Thy Authority: Pro tip to those of you out there trying to get out of a removal from office court case – buy a suit. Ask anyone associated with your side to buy a suit. Matthew Spores apparently came to court wearing a BATMAN t-shirt. Nothing says disrespect like showing up to court in a t-shirt. Maybe use some of that $100 that your mother-in-law gave you to get a pair of khakis and a tie.
There you go. Following those five best practices should get you out of most political hot water… unless your girlfriend comes to visit you and your office is oval shaped.
(Chris Kamler is widely known as @TheFakeNed on Twitter. He also hosts “The Kansas City Baseball Vault” on ESPN 1510 Thursdays at 6 p.m. Reach him through his web site, ramblingmorons.com)