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The Tentacle


August 17, 2007

Dictator Pair

Roy Meachum

This mid-Atlantic region is blessed. One John "Lennie" Thompson may be, it figures, all this democracy can support. But we apparently have two; the other operates in Virginia. For those who don't read the Washington Post I'll explain.

Prince William's Corey A. Stewart shepherded through the county's board of supervisors a tough anti-illegal-immigrants resolution. That's what the still-pending resolution supporters say it means. For Latino business owners and others, it looks, smells and walks like an attempt to put officially condoned prejudice on Prince William's books.

That view received considerable boosting when Mr. Stewart and his gang issued a warning to the county's civil rights guardians: they must make no comments. Until the last several years in Frederick, I thought rule by Divine Decree had been finished off long ago.

The supervisors expect the Human Rights Commission to implement any and all actions they perpetrate. The commission's function, Mr. Stewart said, is to convince citizens that the board is always right! Sieg Heil and get into goose step!

Frederick County's heard that song before. Mr. Thompson treats criticism the way Leo Durocher reacted to an umpire who called one of his players out. Fortunately for the county, Lennie is no longer in control. That does not mean, however, he's not still around.

You heard, doubtless, about the lawsuits by 39 individual firefighters alleging favoritism in promotions and unfair pay practices. They've asked for a cool $100 million in damages, as the News-Post's Meg Bernhardt pointed out in Thursday's Frederick News-Post.

As with everything that has to do with county government, Mr. Thompson takes the legal actions as a personal insult. Instead of seeking a way to solve the differences out of court (and save taxpayers' money) the commissioner has slithered into his Red Queen outfit. Once again Winchester Hall echoes to "Off with their heads."

Since he wouldn't want blood to ruin his county cell phone, which he has admitted to using for his private business, the part-time lawyer sought other means.

The sometime squire of Walkersville has managed to tack together a proposal that would discipline county employees who dare to go to court. He has managed, moreover, to bring along two more votes. David Gray long ago solidified his role as Lennie's lackey. As the cliché goes, when Mr. Thompson says Jump!, Mr. Gray waits to hear how high. The ex-board president slavishly obeys.

Charles Jenkins is another matter. He strikes me as motivated by conservative Republican principles, not personalities. I have at least one friend who has a totally closed mind, as Mr. Jenkins', against some publications and organizations, like the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU brought itself into the local picture by pointing out:

"The right to petition one's government for the redress of grievances is enshrined in the First Amendment...ranking among our most precious liberties."

The ACLU added: "Courts have repeatedly ruled that the government may not force an employee to give up any constitutional right in order to keep a public benefit, including government employment."

It would seem Mr. Thompson and his cohorts are on shaky ground. He argues the First Amendment gives employees the right to sue, but not the right to a job. Come on, Lennie. However slim the margin, you passed law school and bar exams to hang up a shingle.

Listen to the voice of reason: Jan Gardner said: "I think it's a bad way to treat employees. Commissioner Thompson is trying to do leadership by force, and I'm trying to do leadership by consensus."

So, what's new? Mr. Thompson is a verbal rapist; at one point he had Ms. Gardner in frequent tears. He attempts to override every argument, not by reason, but by raising his voice and hurling invective. Voters seem to be coming to the realization. He was the last of the five current commissioners elected.

If Lennie or the Prince William's supervisors persist they face almost certain lawsuits. But what the hey! No skin off their elbows or billfolds.

Oh, politics! A great way to have fun with other people's money.



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