Misery Loves Company

From coast to coast, public officials are behaving badly.



Don't beat yourself up too much, Memphis. You're not alone.

Here's a little roundup of recent stories on the investigations, scandals, and mayor-bashing in cities to which Memphis is sometimes compared.

Birmingham, Alabama: From The New York Times in December: "The mayor of this city, Larry P. Langford, was arrested by federal agents Monday and charged with taking bribes in exchange for doling out county financial business to a favored firm when he led the Jefferson County Commission from 2002 to 2006."

Langford pleaded not guilty to taking $236,000 in clothes, jewelry, and cash in exchange for his support and remains in office. He is scheduled to go on trial in May.

Detroit, Michigan: From the Huffington Post website two weeks ago: "Kwame Kilpatrick regained his freedom Tuesday morning, emerging from jail after a 99-day sentence and stepping back onto the streets of the city he once ruled as mayor."

Two Detroit Free Press reporters won the George Polk Award for stories about text messages, which showed that Kilpatrick and former chief of staff Christine Beatty lied at a police whistleblower trial in 2007, when they denied having an extramarital affair or firing a deputy. The text messages have been the talk of the town for more than a year.

Or they were until last month, when, according to the Detroit News: "FBI agents investigating alleged City Hall corruption delivered a grand jury subpoena to a former aide of Detroit City Council president Monica Conyers."

Some will say that's just Detroit for you. Well, let's go out west to a place that is a perennial contender for most desirable, cleanest, and most progressive city in the same lists that put Memphis near the bottom.

Portland, Oregon: From Willamette Week last week: "Three weeks after Portland mayor Sam Adams admitted lying about his sexual relationship in 2005 with then-teenager Beau Breedlove, Adams is gently trying to return to city business as usual."

Adams took office in January, making Portland the largest U.S. city with an openly gay mayor. The state attorney general has opened an investigation.

Baltimore, Maryland: From the Baltimore Sun this week: "At a time when the city is vying for state dollars in a tough economy, Sheila Dixon, a Democrat in her third year as mayor, can ill afford strained relationships with policymakers in Annapolis. This year, there's a new potential complication: Dixon was charged last month with 12 counts of felony theft, fraud, perjury and misconduct in office. She has said she is innocent and vowed not to let the case interrupt the city's business."

Jackson, Mississippi: From The Clarion-Ledger last week: "Federal prosecutors on Thursday wrapped up their case against Mayor Frank Melton and Michael Recio, his former police bodyguard. ... Melton and Recio face civil rights charges related to a warrantless, police-style raid on a Jackson duplex in August 2006."

Melton, who is still in office, is scheduled to testify this week. He was acquitted in state criminal charges in 2007.

Another Jackson dateline, also from The Clarion-Ledger last week:

"Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter looked ashen as he pleaded not guilty to corruption charges involving millionaire Dickie Scruggs. The courtroom scene was a far cry from the days following the 1994 conviction of Klansman Byron De La Beckwith, when DeLaughter drew international praise for leading the successful prosecution of the 1963 assassination of Mississippi NAACP leader Medgar Evers."

Louisville, Kentucky: From The Courier-Journal in January: "First elected to Louisville's highest office in 1985, Jerry Abramson has earned the nickname Mayor for Life. But Abramson now is facing sharper and louder criticism than at any point during his two decades on the job — just as he considers whether to seek a final four-year term in 2010."

Under Abramson's leadership, Louisville consolidated its city and county governments. If Abramson is guilty of anything it is remaining in office too long.

"The uptick in Abramson bashing has been noticed, if not embraced, in the business and civic community," The Courier-Journal reported. "Dan Jones, CEO of 21st Century Parks, said he thinks there is more criticism in part because there are more outlets for it — such as blogs or comments at the end of online media stories. Such forums are a mixed blessing, Jones said, because they give citizens an opportunity to participate, but their anonymous nature can lead to unhealthy and unfair comments."

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