Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Muni Tunes

The case of the disgruntled firefighter candidate was again the topic of conversation on the Jim Leach show this morning, this time with the emphasis placed on the most recent bumblings of the city’s legal department.

I agree that the city’s handling of this situation has been ham-handed at best, the document authorizing the release of background information to a candidate is simply the most recent example of their floundering.

Acknowledging that their hands are tied in many respects, it’s still confounding to me how virtually no attempt has been made to formulate a message to the public that maybe, despite all awkward appearances, the city is in the right here. And if they’re not in the right then a more convincing cover-up strategy needs to be concocted.

Listening and reading reactions to the candidate’s tale, the prevailing opinion seems to be that since he honorably completed military duty and passed scrutiny while landing a position in a bank, that whatever reason the city has for dismissing him must be discriminatory or capricious. Few suspect the existence of a smoking gun and so every action the city takes that in anyway impedes the release of his background information is viewed suspiciously.

However, the city’s case, from an outsider’s perspective, would seem to revolve around the presumption that there is a smoking gun, or at least a recoiled slingshot. So how best to further that assumption among the general public without getting specific and breaking the law?

I have it on good authority that the background checks the city conducts on firefighter and police officer candidates are much more thorough and inclusive than those employed in the banking industry. Were I Ernie Slottag, not only would I insist on being addressed as Slo-Dog at press conferences, I would also suggest to some eager reporter that they research the aspects of background checks and the varying depths at which they may be conducted in hopes that said reporter would conclude that it is quite possible that the city could have found something that the bank never looked for.

I have neither the time or the resources to do such reporting, nor am I all that eager. But I can and will postulate on why a bank wouldn’t screen prospective employees to the extent that the city does.

Obviously a bank would not want to hire-on any convicted felons, but neither do they rely on the honesty and virtue of their employees to protect them from theft or fraud. The various levels of security and operational safeguards implemented at a bank are probably built around the assumption that anyone, from the president on down, is a potential thief. For this reason and the fact that a bank does hire many lower wage workers, it would not be cost effective nor necessary to conduct hyper-intensive background checks.

Police officers, and to a lesser extent firemen, operate in a less controlled environment. Once an officer is on the street, his actions are largely unsupervised unless such supervision is requested or a situation develops that would call for it. The opportunity for mischief and ne’er-do-welling is great and the best, although by no means the only, preventative measure against such actions is the upright character of the individual behind the badge. Thus a more thorough background check would be required along with more stringent standards for passing. And what's good for the police, is good for the fire department.

I hope that my faith in the city isn’t misplaced. It occurs to me that I have offered them PR advice on this issue before, yet for some reason it still remains a concern. Hmmm. I suppose that it is possible that the mayor doesn't receive a daily debriefing of my blog posts. But perhaps he should because I also have some advice on how to handle the smoking ban battle (Hint: you’re losing already Your Honor.) Stay tuned.


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Russ said...

Wow Dan, you know you've made it in the blogosphere when you get spammed three times in less than two hours after you publish a post!

Anonymous said...

The fact that you write about something "on good authority" but "have neither the time or the resources to do such reporting" is the very reason we need news organizations to continue to invest in good journalism and not rely on the blogging community for much real truth.

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

I agree. I never suggested that my blog is a substitute for the type of journalism the mainstream media practices. This is commentary. And as far as truth goes, I can assure you that these are truly my opinions.

Dan M. said...

I must agree with you Daniel. Slotag is a poor excuse of a mouthpiece. The entire City government, be it the fire, police, or CWLP seem to be resigned to being a punching bag when it comes to defending their selves in the media. It is rather pathetic.

And on a somewhat related note you should have ended your response to "anonymous" who doesn't seem to get the meaning of a blog like this; "I can assure you that these are truly my opinions you jackass!"