Can't you imagine how proud Patty, the wife of House Speaker Pucky Harwood,
must feel these days after landing a job as Superior Court magistrate, thanks
to hubby's behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing? "Well, darling, I've been
working for years to try to get you a cushy appointment in the judicial system.
But because you're obviously underqualified, working only one day and night a
week to hand out traffic fines, and may have to go back to flogging real estate
if I don't bail you out, I called in some heavy-duty markers for you. Give us a
kiss!" What marvelous self-esteem she must now possess.
Readers of P&J know that, for months, we've predicted a nepotistic power
play like the one Pucky pulled, but even we didn't think he would be shameless
and audacious enough to jump Patty straight to the Superior Court and a
six-figure salary, not to mention it being a lifetime appointment. (We
would rather think positively of it as Mr. Speaker just having given a $75,000
raise to his family in one swell foop, and without public scrutiny.) Our
sources had Patty being sneaked in the back door at Family Court in a
magistrate's role, for a bit less lolly. Guess Pucky is ready to step down,
wait out the legislative revolving door restrictions concerning lobbying,
defend a few fire chiefs on DWI charges, let Patty pay the bills in the
meantime from her hefty paycheck, and then come back to call in favors for
corporate clients from his existing loyalists. Is this a great state or what?
Beyond the overt patronage involved, this deal screams of conflict of
interest, since the speaker has enormous control over the state judicial budget
-- a fact well seen by Superior Court Presiding Justice Joe Rogers, who, when
he made his recommendation of Parking Ticket Patty to outgoing Supreme Court
Chief Justice Joseph Weisberger, went into the tank like he was cannon-balling
off a 10-story building. We hope Weisberger is pleased that he's leaving the
Supremes with his reputation greatly tainted. And the normally reliable Rogers'
public image is completely soiled by this trip to the toilet, especially
because of his refusal to publicly identify the other finalists for the job,
saying it might make them look unqualified. If you're worried about the public
perceiving people as being unqualified, Joe, just snap a picture of you and
Patty together, and send it to the Urinal.
Now we remain to see if this insult to the public results in another quid
pro quo -- Pucky backing off any dissent of Governor Bigfoot's nomination
of the next chief justice of the Supremes, which he will presumably make in
consultation with, minimally, Weisberger, and, worst-case, both Weisberger and
Rogers. One hand tends to wash the other at Halitosis Hall, if people bother to
wash at all. Vo Dilun -- you've come a long way, baby.
Time for civilian review
Telling the Urinal, "No one is forcing me out. I'm leaving because I want to
retire," Chief Barney "Fife" Prignano is finally about to clean out his locker
and break camp. Of course, no one was forcing Barney out, just like there was
nothing compelling the Bud-I to sell his house and boat. He really wanted to
live in a hotel downtown. And Barney really wants to leave under a cloud. But,
of course, he'll proclaim the sky clear on his way out the door.
So, there'll be a big search for a new Providence police chief, and the
conduct of this search will tell us plenty. AG Sherbet Whitebread, who
understands this, issued a statement moments after Prignano's announcement,
stating that it's his hope that a "diverse, independent and professional"
committee will be assembled to look for a new chief, so the department may be
"well-led to face the challenges of modern law enforcement."
We agree, Sherbet. It's P&J's earnest desire that the next chief of police
in Our Little Towne be able to balance him or herself on their hind legs for
more than a few minutes at a time and have at least a fourth-grade command of
the English language (being thereby capable of reading the BeloJo in its
Underneath all the jockeying and speculation is something of much greater
importance. This is the civilian review proposal put forth by Councilwoman
Patricia Nolan, DARE, Jobs With Justice, the Blue Ribbon Commission set up by
the city council to scrutinize the department, the Center for Police and
Community, and others. Police departments reflexively reject civilian review,
but this time, Detective Sgt. Hugh Clements, vice president of the local
Fraternal Order of Police chapter, indicates that the union leadership should
consider new ideas for change in the department, because of the "push from
community and [the] political leaders."
Although the FOP is hardly likely to accept any kind of effective civilian
review, this suggests they are ready to horse trade. Councilwoman Nolan
believes she may have the support on the council to get civilian review passed.
If so, it's a great and important opportunity to address the racial issues, the
discrimination issues, the inbred culture of corruption issues (Where do cops
get off thinking they deserve free off-duty parking? Doughnuts, maybe, but not
parking.) that have soiled the department's reputation. Here's a real chance to
do the right thing. We should follow it closely.
Prime time for the Bud-I
We assume that everyone in Our Little Towne has now read Sunday's New York
Times Magazine article on our own mighty Bud-I. Penned by Dan Barry, a
Times reporter who, for many years, toiled as one of the finest prose
stylists at the Urinal, it may have been thin gruel from the perspective of
locals who know Hizzoner all too well, but it was accurate, well-crafted and,
at times, near poetic gruel. Take, for instance, this little gem: "He has
served longer than any other big-city mayor in the country, and he is the most
defiant, if not the very last, of an old-school political breed: cheerleader,
bully and lounge singer, all rolled into a fist of a man."
Barry certainly has the Bud-I's number (E-1?) and goes on about the Good
Buddy/Bad Buddy dichotomy -- the act we've known for all these years. A few
notes of pathos are sounded as Barry follows a weary Bud-I into the Biltmore
lounge. Ever since the Big Guy moved upstairs into the presidential suite, he's
had his own special Willy Loman Room on the first floor, and, in a haze of
B&B and Merit cigarette smoke, the mayor explains how he "might have made
mistakes in who I appointed and that stuff, but that's not criminal."
The full-page photo accompanying the article, of the mayor emerging from the
Bud-I mobile, is certainly a classic of sorts. As a matter of fact, the only
thing that rings false in the whole piece is an observation near the end:
"Sometimes he directs his driver to take him to the award-winning zoo so that
he can watch the elephants be fed late at night." Sure. And P&J frequently
have our driver take us to the rim of the Cranston end of Roger Williams Park
at nightfall, so we can watch dogs defecate.
Terry and the pirates
What's the difference between Terry Murray and Joe Mollicone Jr.? Well,
Mollicone is currently serving a 30-year sentence for embezzlement, while
Murray continues to be extolled in newspaper business pages as a corporate
buccaneer of the banking industry. But P&J see few more dissimilarities
This is, of course, because Fleet Financial Group, part of Terry's fiefdom,
just agreed to pay $15.5 million to the state's Depositor's Economic Protection
Corporation (DEPCO) for Fleet's role in helping to cause the incredible RISDIC
banking crisis -- the Biggest Little's Second Coming of the stock market crash.
Seems a nice soft-shoe dance by Fleet helped to deceive banking regulators
about the financial strength of Mollicone's Jefferson Loan and Savings, just
before Joey took a hike with $12 million.
The great thing about Murray and Fleet is their incredible generosity. They
agreed to pay the fine even though they ADMIT NO WRONGDOING. Of course not!
They just had an extra $15.5 million lying around that they wanted to hand out,
Santa-style, during the holidays. Never mind the perception that Fleet's
actions were part of the whole white-collar shenanigans that saw thousands of
average depositors having their assets frozen 10 years ago. Fleet is simply
trying to make people forget about its role in this case and dodge a DEPCO
civil suit brought on behalf of the Vo Dilunduhs who took the really big hit
for these dealings. In case you're ready to stop bending over, good people,
keep those hands on your ankles and revel in the knowledge that Terry and the
Pirates' $15.5 million loss will doubtless be recouped in the form of more
ghastly transaction and ATM fees.
Sleep tight, Joey. Terry sends his best.
P&J were delighted to see that Sherman's March, the 1986 film by our
dear old friend and Brown grad Ross McElwee, was among the 25 latest additions
selected by the librarian of Congress to be archived as classics in the
National Film Registry. It will be preserved in perpetuity for future film
buffs, along with likes of other 2000 selections, such as GoodFellas and
Apocalypse Now. Sherman's March is the story of how North
Carolina resident Ross, dubbed "The Tarheel Woody Allen" by Time
magazine after the film's release, went from preparing to make a film on
Sherman's March through the South, to do a documentary on his search for a new
girlfriend after he got dumped just prior to heading back to Dixie. It's
off-the-wall, clever, and a hoot. And in a true Little Rhody moment, when
P&J first saw the video with friends, our pal Amanda Wright, the lovable
lobsterwoman, shrieked, "That's my house!" We hadn't told her who made the
movie, but it turns out she had grown up right next door to Ross in North
Carolina, where he shot the bulk of the film. Only in Vo Dilun.