Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Who mentioned the Sunshine Law Larry?

I've pretty much avoided commenting on Henry "Spec" Bonner's troubles back "home" yet here goes something that might get the family stirred up. Up front I'd hope any reaction might involve where I'm wrong in facts or reasoning.

I saw Mr. Spec just recently when I darkened the doors at the church I grew up in. I usually spoke to him as "Mayor" Bonner but used the Mr. Bonner greeting since he's entered guilty pleas and resigned. I was a bit surprised that he was called on for the obligatory prayer as we left the service. I've known Mr. Spec all my life and there's plenty to like about him. Then again, I've bumped heads with him at least once. I've surely had my own stumbles and surely believe that bumps and bruises often demonstrate that at least you've been in the fray.

I think the deal was a good compromise. Based on what I understand, Spec goofed up big time, ... likely violating the law. One bottom line is that if he thought he could win at trial he ought to have taken the case to the jury. In Alabama we don't allow a "no contest" plea so he had to 'fess up to something.

The idea of a "best interest plea" doesn't wash either and I think that was an invention of a crafty lawyer. Well played Sir! Reckon which reporter that lawyer called to get that out? Apparently it worked in that Bob Jackson of Huntsville used that same language as he wrote in to defend Spec and scold The Leader, Attorney General Troy King (who is a dick indeed!), and ...

I'm not sure how the mental state angle might have played out yet I expect he'd have had a hard time explaining what he did.

Here's the last straw. Larry Armstrong, who was the Pastor of my youth in the church I referenced above, wrote in to The Randolph Leader. Here's just a portion of what he wrote:

It was not a defense of the Sunshine Law since news media were present for the meeting of Mayor Bonner with his department heads. It was not a lesson to future office holders in the county. They are schooled in their responsibilities and do's and don'ts. ...[I]t was just an unnecessary reaction to the fact that your reporter was not allowed in the meeting and was your last opportunity to take a "cheap shot" at the mayor. ...

A small town ... which struggles to attract industry and jobs for its citizens could always use a positive "shot in the arm" from its main media source, not negative, angry attacks.

In fact, the media has been exposed so many times with lies, bias and slanted reporting, I don't know that the mainstream media knows how to handle honest, "straight forward" reporting with no hidden agenda or prejudice. I hope the Leader is above this deception.

Apparently someone didn't think they got a fair hearing with him or he hurt their feelings or didn't give them something they wanted. So, in their vindictiveness they notified the attorney general of something that was so insignificant as to be considered a misdemeanor and something that could have been handled in minutes if brought to the mayor and city council. The attorney general has far more important things to do than run around the state prosecuting misdemeanors, but when reported to him he had no choice but to investigate.

The Leader was mild in merely questioning how their reporter was denied access for an announcement of his resignation. To have police officers allow other reporters, once they were determined to not be representing The Randolph Leader, access to hear the Mayor speak and be given a copy of his written statement is outrageous! They could have hauled Spec and the City's collective asses into federal court after all. Larry goes into "victim" or martyr" mode on the "mainstream media" rather easily doesn't he? Has even this decent, smart man been warped? You're also throwing around "vindictiveness" rather casually.

That the Reverend Armstrong references the "Sunshine Law" is strange in that The Leader's editorial he's complaining about only references the 1st and 14th Amendment. There was no deliberation of a governing body so perhaps Alabama's Open Meetings Act didn't apply. The issue was selective access. Again, 1st and 14th Amendment Larry.

Also, did Spec meet with friends or his department heads? I'm confused.

That the Leader uses this opportunity to remind other local officials of the law seems wise. Seriously, we have people running for local office known as "Fatboy". I've searched high and low for a link yet I recall District 2 Commissioner Ed Creed getting into a fight and then facing charges for hitting another county employee with a ham (no, this isn't a typo!) at a Christmas party some years back. Wadley's Council and Mayor are at war over a dump truck for Christ's sake! Don't forget Dr. Joanne Jordan at Southern Union and others in the JuCo mess. Yet Larry thinks they are "schooled in their responsibilities and do's and don'ts"?

Insignificant misdemeanors? He was charged with various felonies. The deal resulted in misdemeanors. Larry, this mess was brought to the attention of the City Council. My God Larry, at least three Council members confirmed they asked for the investigation! And how is this reporting for instance biased or slanted? It seems rather a list of quotes and facts and ... Obviously Penny Pool was into hatchet jobs given this piece. Bob Bradshaw of Dadeville went after her nevertheless as he also wrote The Leader singing Spec's praises.

Finally, several people that wrote in to thank Spec for his service were a testament to what makes living in a small town so wonderful. Stanley Cofield and Nick Nichols are men that I think much of. I note their LTEs didn't attack The Leader or their reporter for doing their jobs.

I am so very disappointed in Larry Armstrong however! He's far too smart and decent I'd think to have done this type of drive by. John Gunn

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