Saturday, June 25, 2005

A loss of innocence …

This is the sixth column in a series that started at a column called “Wirth-less”.

On his way to prison in 2004, Edwin W. Edwards said "I will be a model prisoner, as I have been a model citizen." Well, I must have met him on an off day in his model citizen role.

By 1975, EWE had taken the hiring of unclassified employees to a new level, and the state civil service commission was ready to take him on over it. Edwards’ staffers, when hiring me and many of my colleagues, told us that our unclassified status was necessary for them to offer us a competitive salary. That was not the publicly stated reason, however, since it was not a valid justification for circumventing civil service rules.

LIPA was a function of the office of the governor, so those of us working at the professional level, i.e., the unclassified ones, were summoned to the Capitol for a meeting with EWE to discuss where the dispute with civil service was headed. At the meeting, as I remember it, there were about twenty of us, and we assembled in a meeting room at the Capitol.

We were given a little time to settle down before EWE came in. He looked a bit somber, and didn’t “work the room” as I had expected. But once he started talking he really took charge; I felt like I was being recruited for the fight against evil.

As EWE invited questions, I realized that he had just coached us in how to bend the truth under oath. We were all to say that we were his trusted political advisors, and that he calls on us regularly. When Edwards left, we went from dumbfounded to boisterous, laughing and joking about all the time we spend at the mansion, and going there next week for a cookout.

Fortunately, Edwards and civil service settled “out of court” and we weren’t tested on what we could say comfortably when the time came. This was near the end of his first term, and he easily won re-election to his second term.

This was well before Edwards become “Fast Eddie” or “the crook,” and I feel that our group was one of the first to experience EWE’s flexible ethics code.

Tomorrow: Sweet Charity …


jbv's Competitive Edge 


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