“You don't tug on Superman's cape.
You don't spit into the wind.
You don't pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger,
And you don’t mess around with Jim.”
— “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” — Jim Croce
BY D. REED ECKHARDT
There are some things you just don’t do. You don’t even have to told they are wrong or stupid or inappropriate. You just know they are.
But then there are some people who know these things are wrong, but they do them anyway because, well, they see themselves as different from the rest of us. They are special, above the rules, so they arrogantly do what they want, when they want. And to hell with norms.
Take Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr.
Her Honor surely knows that one of the highest ethical standards for public officials is to avoid all appearance of impropriety. Not only do ethical officials not do improper things, they don’t do that which might even seem improper.
This is a recognition
that perception is reality. If it looks suspect, the voters think, than it is. And to ignore this principle is to degrade the respect and trust that the voters should have for their government.
|Mayor Marian Orr, Dealin’ Doug and the “gift” pickup.|
So, really, there shouldn’t be a need for a change to the city’s purchasing policy to make this point. Yet here comes former City Council President Rocky Case with a proposed change in an effort to put reins on a wayward city leader. That leader? Who do you think?
Case’s proposal reads in part:
“The intent of the City Purchasing Policy is to provide guidelines for City elected officials, Department Directors and City employees who are involved in any segment of the procurement process for their departments or offices. … The cooperation is of everyone is essential if the city is to maximize the economic benefit (of items and services) purchased by the city. The Purchasing Policy expressly applies to elected officials.” (The italics are mine.)
In the city’s “Handbook on Purchasing,” it says: “Never solicit or accept money, loans, credits or prejudicial discounts, gifts, entertainment, favors or services from your present or potential suppliers which might influence or appear to influence purchasing decisions.”
Case’s changes really would not be necessary if Orr would simply follow the rules of the road. Unfortunately, she thinks she is above the rules and so chooses to violate them.
This change in the policy, no doubt, came about because Orr accepted the use of a truck from local vehicle salesman Dealin’ Doug for the 2019 Cheyenne Frontier Days. The mayor tried to argue that this wasn’t a gift, per purchasing policy, and besides, she arrogantly asserted, the policy didn’t apply to her office.
Yet the free use of the truck was, if nothing else, a clear violation of the accepted practice that public officials avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Dealin’ Doug was in negotiation for city property, and he is a potential bidder for contracts when the city buys vehicles. That acceptance of his “gift” was a clear conflict of interest for the mayor, and more obviously it stunk of impropriety.
Perhaps Doug’s motivations were pure. Perhaps, especially if one wants to ignore that he benefited from the free advertising. But that didn’t matter. Orr should never have gotten behind the wheel of the truck, and for her to argue that the purchasing policy did not apply to her was a blatant slap in the face of all here who expect their government to be run by ethics, not self will.
Unfortunately, one ethical violation breeds another. In the intervening months since Orr’s CFD truck ride, she has been caught with her hand in a Bloomberg grant cookie jar given to the city for downtown development. She paid back the money that she put to personal use, including bar tabs and plane tickets. But the city also was on the hook for its misuse, and the City Council was forced to use public funds to fill in the gaps.
So it is clear that Case’s policy needs to be approved, if only to clarify the rules to a rogue mayor. This should not have to be put into writing, but apparently in her case, and in the case of those who might try to follow in her footsteps, it does.
If this proposal doesn’t pass the council unanimously, then voters should take note come this fall. If council members — and the mayor, for that matter — can’t stand up for ethical behavior, then the people of Cheyenne need to find public officials who will.
Apparently Orr prefers to tug on Superman’s cape and to spit into the wind. This time the City Council, call it “Jim,” should make certain the mess lands squarely back on her.
D. Reed Eckhardt is the former executive editor of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.