I feel sorry for Maggie Brooks.
And I was enraged to see her husband, a retired police captain, handcuffed and perp walked across Exchange by some lard asses from the attorney general’s office.
It’s all a very sad affair.
But it’s their fault. As political as the prosecution may be, as innocent as the accused may be, even if the charges are completely wrong, it’s their fault.
Maggie and Bob crapped the bed, and now they have to lie in it.
At 12:30 yesterday, with an army of reporters waiting, a phalanx of dark suits walked out of the building where the attorney general keeps his Rochester offices. Four of the men were in handcuffs. The cameras were all on one of them. That was Bob Weisner, the husband of Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks.
He used to be a section captain on the Rochester Police Department, when such men were kings of the neighborhoods they patrolled. He was mostly well liked, and he had that swagger from the days when men were tough and proud of it. She was the TV babe who ended up knocking on doors asking for votes to the county legislature. With her sometimes tempestuous personal life, he came along after she dumped the Wayne Newton lookalike. They seemed like a good fit, a couple of larger-than-life personalities, finally at peace, easing together through the latter half of middle age.
You were glad they had each other.
And now, they may prove to be one another’s undoing. Or rather, the dynamic of their union may undo them both.
He’s in handcuffs, she’s in jeopardy.
And it’s all their fault.
That doesn’t mean I think the charges are correct, or that I even understand what they are. The attorney general believes that somehow, someway, some wildly complex county business relationships were rigged to favor certain companies with ties to Maggie’s Republican establishment. Some – but not Bob or Maggie – are accused of benefiting financially from these operations.
That doesn’t mean that I think the attorney general’s staff is blameless in this. Part of me suspects that they are a pack of snakes. Yesterday’s perp walk, for example, was advertised some 20 hours in advance in an off-the-record memo sent out by the AG’s Albany staff. Revealing the existence of an unopened indictment – like this one – is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison.
The office of the state’s top prosecutor violated the law in an effort to embarrass and demean Bob Weisner -- and through him, his wife -- and to further whatever objectives of political vilification it can.
So the indictments have come down.
It’s been a yearlong investigation, which some have called a witch hunt by the Democrat attorney general. But there are indictments. And they are either the fruit of conscientious investigation or political assassination.
I don’t know what the accusations are, and I don’t know if anybody’s guilty.
But I do know that the conduct of Maggie Brooks and Bob Weisner has raised questions year after year about their personal integrity. The two of them, keeping with a long-standing tradition among local Republican politicians, used her clout to fatten his paycheck. They practiced patronage of the vilest and most obvious sort.
She’s county executive, and he gets a cush job at the Monroe County Water Authority. She’s county executive, and he gets another cush job at the Monroe (County) Community College. Repeatedly challenged on it, she brushed off questions and criticisms and said that her husband got his big-ticket jobs on the strength of his own ability.
And certainly, Bob Weisner is a competent person. But, then, so are a lot of other retired cops who would love the jobs only he could seem to get.
Maggie and Bob may have thought their behavior was acceptable because the Republican politicians all around them were practicing it. Wives with judgeships, step-sons with executive positions, kids and cousins scattered all over the payroll.
It was just the way business was done.
But it was, and had always been, immoral.
It is simply not right. To use public office for personal benefit is not honorable. It’s not Republican, it’s not Democrat, it’s crooked.
And it shouldn’t be.
But Maggie Brooks, instead of cleaning house and bringing integrity to Republican stewardship of Monroe County government, waded into the swamp of easy money.
Which made people all the more uncomfortable with her “local development corporations” and their massive, years-long contracts. Astronomical amounts of taxpayer money was put in private pockets and Maggie said it was for the public good. Her cronies and her husband had their fingers in various pies and it didn’t look right.
And that drew the attorney general.
And the FBI and whoever else you might care to list.
And they have made a cottage industry out of investigating Maggie and the Republicans. Was it because of politics, as Maggie claimed, or because of corruption, as Democrats claimed?
Maybe these indictments bring us closer to an answer.
Either way, the seeds of doubt and impropriety planted by Maggie’s nepotism have born a bitter fruit.
She didn’t stand for integrity, and now she may fall for a lack of it.