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Louise Slaughter was right, Maggie Brooks is corrupt.
Not criminally, but morally.
That sad fact was writ large in the public mind last Thursday when, two days after a crushing election defeat, Maggie Brooks’ Republican machine passed out the pork with a plum patronage post for a connected politician.
The move pads the politician’s pension and opens the way for his party-selected replacement to run as an incumbent.
Here’s the background.
For almost a generation, Republicans have controlled Monroe County government.
For all of those years, they have used their power to get high-paying taxpayer-funded jobs for their relatives and friends. In the eyes of many, the county and the various agencies it controls have stopped being about serving the people and become about paying fat salaries to Republican hangers on who apparently can’t get jobs in the real world.
This point was hammered home over the fall as the county’s top Republican, County Executive Maggie Brooks, ran for Congress against long-time incumbent Louise Slaughter. Slaughter ran millions of dollars in attack ads which claimed Brooks was corrupt, and specifically talked about patronage. Topping the list was a string of jobs given to Maggie Brooks’ own husband.
Many people defended Maggie Brooks, and a lot of people voted for her.
But it was an awkward situation. Like having a relative with a drinking problem who swears he doesn’t have a drinking problem and yet who you, through the denials, presume understands the problem and will swear off drinking.
Maggie Brooks has, of course, had a long history of playing and benefiting by the patronage game. Much criticism has been directed at her because of it. And yet the assumption was still made, among polite people, that she would, in the light of a congressional campaign, recognize and fix her problem.
Well, you know what happens when you assume.
That’s right, politicians give it to you in the shorts.
At least Republican politicians in Monroe County do.
On Thursday morning, less than 48 hours after voting ended, the board of the Monroe County Water Authority voted to make Pittsford town Supervisor William Carpenter its new deputy executive director.
Here’s some background on that. The Water Authority was one of the stops on Maggie Brooks’ husband’s tour of patronage jobs. Its big-ticket employees are usually former Republican chairmen and senior Republican members of the county legislature. One former party chairman and legislature president – who subsequently landed the top job at the water authority – ended up spending weekends in jail when somehow, accidentally, we can’t explain it, a water authority contractor funneled some $25,000 to him through payments to his children.
That’s what the Water Authority is all about.
Its board includes four Republicans, one Conservative and one member of the Independence Party. That’s a pretty slick trick in a county with more registered Democrats with Republicans.
But back to the case in hand.
William Carpenter is the new deputy executive director. He will make about $20,000 more a year than he makes now. He will replace nobody.
That’s right. For some seven years, no one has held this position. It has been vacant.
Because it is unnecessary.
In the past, when the deputy position has been filled, it has invariably been filled by top-level Republican hacks with no background whatsoever in operating a water plant or distribution system. It is a big-paycheck parking place for faithful Republicans.
Like William Carpenter.
The smiling picture of him in the newspaper, beaming at his town supervisor desk, shows clearly in the background his collection of elephant statuettes. No American flags, no patriotic memorabilia, no family pictures, just the graven images of his partisanship.
And he is being thrown a Republican bone which will enrich him for the rest of his life.
See, this big-money job will allow William Carpenter to artificially inflate his state pension. How much he receives in retirement money will be based on his highest-paid three years of government service. That means that if he holds this job for three years, and he will, that his pension will be based on its inflated pay, as opposed to the lesser amount he has made over the years he actually worked.
So maybe a bunch of stupid elephants on your desk is not such a bad idea.
But, wait, there’s more.
By resigning before his town supervisor term is up, William
Carpenter is following a long-standing Monroe County Republican tradition. It allows the party machinery to select and appoint his replacement, who then goes into the election an incumbent, with a presumed advantage over the Democrat opponent.
So that’s what happened.
The county party moved a guy into a position that had been empty for seven years so that he could pad his pension.
Which gets us back to Maggie Brooks.
How possibly can anyone have the audacity and gall to, not quite two full days after the election, engage in exactly the same kind of dirty tricks that they’d just been reamed for?
If you had just endured two months of incessant attacks on your integrity, wouldn’t you have some desire to prove those attacks wrong, rather than confirm them in the public mind?
Is there no shame?
What kind of gall, arrogance, entitlement and blindness allows an individual or a party to think that this would spark anything but outrage? When Maggie went on television and almost peevishly described criticisms of Carpenter’s appointment as dirty, divisive politics, did she honestly think there was anyone stupid enough to take her seriously?
And when she coyly declines to answer about a possible future run for Congress, does she honestly think there is anyone stupid enough to vote for her again?
When it comes to knowing what’s in a politician’s heart, don’t look at what she says before an election, look at how she acts after an election.
Every single person in this county knows that putting William Carpenter at the Water Authority was wrong.
Every single person.
Including Maggie Brooks.
And when you do what you know is wrong, that’s corruption.