Tuesday, February 1, 2011

If you don't stop it...

Concerned Mother: If you don't stop that, you'll go blind!
Teenage Son: Don't worry Mom, I'll just do it until I need glasses.

In the small town of Hudson, Michigan there's a sign at the border that proclaims:

Welcome to Hudson!
Small Town - Big Heart
Located on the Pulse of Michigan

It says the same thing on the other side. Hudson is well and truly a small town, with the population at 2,284 people as of July 2009 . People are leaving Hudson, by the way. The population fell by 8.6% since 2000. You can check this and other interesting facts at city data.

I wouldn't bother to write about this except for one item buried in the local bird cage liner: Indecent Exposure Incident Alleged Against Hudson City Manager. From the article:
Hudson City Manager Steve Hartsel was accused last month of fondling himself while driving a city-owned vehicle in Adrian.
You see, I know Steve Hartsel. I haven't seen him in years, and the last I heard he was out in Granola Land, working for Uncle Sam as an officer and a gentleman in Unc's Navy. It wasn't until I was driving out to the Bullet Stop that Big Mike alerted me to the connection between the Hartsel I knew way back when and the one named in the scandal sheet. Well, red hot damn.

The last time I saw Steve he was graduating college, engaged to be married and was intending to join the US Navy, where he would complete boot camp and then begin his Naval career as an officer. Yes, he'd be on the very bottom of the food chain, but he would be an officer and no matter which way you look at it, being an officer is one whole helluva lot better than being a swabby. Before Steve went into the Navy he was not on my short list of guys I hang out with. Steve was self-centered to a fault, very impulsive and could be a real dick when the whim struck him. As I recall I was ready to flatten him once because of some crappy stunt he'd pulled, but I judged (correctly) that it wouldn't alter his behavior in any meaningful way, and the stunt was fairly minor. The Navy took care of Steve's attitude during boot camp, adjusting his mouthy, wise guy demeanor and predilection for mischief into a new and much more pleasing configuration. Case in point, even I didn't recognize his behavior after boot camp, and I was expecting a change.

That's not to say that the man had no redeeming qualities. Steve Hartsel is intelligent and very well read. He tended to get good grades in college without a lot of studying, and he was always willing to help others with their class work to some extent. Steve was also the sort of man you could call at 3:30 AM when you'd done something incredibly stupid (or had it done to you) and you were standing in the phone booth next to the gay bar in downtown Toledo in your tighty whiteys with only one quarter to your name and way more than half a load on. Steve would come and pick you up without giving you a lot of grief about how you got there or asking a bunch of stupid rhetorical questions, like "So when you found out she was a he... I mean, have you washed your hands?" Now some silly bitch is accusing Steve of pulling his pud in public.

Hudson, Mich., City Official Charged With Sex Act
A misdemeanor charge of indecent exposure was filed Jan. 12 in Lenawee County District Court against Steven Hartsel by the county prosecutor's office.
The incident stems from an incident Dec. 22 when a motorist said she observed a man in a minivan masturbating on South Main Street. According to an Adrian police report, she said they were stopped for the traffic light at West Beecher Street about 2:45 p.m. when she looked to her right and witnessed the man performing the sexual act.
She told investigators the door frame on the vehicle obstructed her view of the man's face, and after the light turned green, she got the license number of the minivan as it drove away from the intersection.
My first question should be obvious: How was she able to see him? The driver of any mini-van sits higher than a passenger car, and the window sill is about as high as your armpit. So, unless the alleged complainant was sitting in the passenger side of a semi-tractor or a really jacked up pickup truck, how did she see what was going on? She didn't, that's how. But why lie?

To understand this, let's go back a little. Steve was hired around August of 2009, if you believe the local paper that is. From an article dated August 14, 2009: Hartsel Offered Manager Position
Members of the council said they felt Hartsel’s military managerial experience and work ethic made him the best of the three finalists.

“He is our best option,” Borck said. “He has the potential to create a legacy in Hudson. His energy and enthusiasm shows he has what it takes.”

Councilman Dennis Smoke said Hartsel is the city manager he wants.

“With this gentleman, we will break the revolving door syndrome we’ve had with city managers in recent years,” he said.

Councilman Jim Steele said the city will benefit from Hartsel’s work ethic and ability to both lead and serve the city.

“His morale will really make the city employees feel like they’re wanted and appreciated,” he said.
Most of the city council was in favor of hiring Steve, so they made him an offer and he accepted, agreeing to start work in September. So far, so good. A little further down the road Steve encountered an obstacle in the form of Fire Chief Brian Gerig, who wanted to get into a pissing contest with Steve. Brian has a relative on city council and decided that even though he reported to Steve (the city manager), Brian would just go ahead and do things his own way. When Steve brought him up short and instructed Brian that he'd have to follow the chain of command, Brian told Steve to go piss up a rope. Steve fired him for insubordination, and the city council backed him up. Click Council Upholds City Manager’s Decision To Dismiss Fire Chief for the full story. From the article:
The Hudson City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday to uphold city manager Steve Hartsel’s dismissal of former fire chief Brian Gerig.
Following a disagreement on procedure between Gerig and Hartsel, Gerig was fired Nov. 22 [2010 - MJ] from his position as chief on the grounds of insubordination. Jerry Tanner Jr. was then appointed acting fire chief.
Note that the vote is 5-2, not 7-0. Brian Gerig was fire chief for 11 months. Had he kept his balls in check, he'd likely still be fire chief.

As I pointed out, Hudson is a small town and it has some fairly vicious people in it. Brian Gerig has friends who do not approve of his dismissal or city council's approval of that action. Letters were written and heated discussions developed at the local watering hole. Finally, some months later we have this indecent exposure incident. Funny nothing like this has ever happened before. Now charges are filed, but the city council is loathe to convict a man based on the accusation of some nut job backed by a crowd of villagers with torches and pitchforks. Here are two sources:

Hudson City Manager Steve Hartsel To Remain On The Job
In a 7-0 vote Tuesday, the Hudson City Council said city manager Steve Hartsel will continue to perform his duties after an alleged Dec. 22 indecent exposure incident became public two weeks ago.
Mayor Dennis Smoke said the council’s stance is that they will “let the justice system do its work.” Any future decision on Hartsel’s employment will be determined after court proceedings have concluded.
Council Defers Action On Manager Charges
Council member Ed Engle then read a statement, which said in part: “A person accused of any crime — large or small — is presumed innocent until proven guilty in an appropriate Court of Law. Not tried in the newspaper; not tried by blog; not tried in the Court of Public Opinion; and not judged by knee-jerk reaction, gossip or innuendo. Presumptive Innocence simply means that Mr. Hartsel will — by right as an American citizen — remain innocent until proven guilty. It is also his Constitutional right to be faced by his accuser and to defend himself with the support of legal council. He is today an accused person; not a guilty person; and he will remain innocent until a judge or jury renders him otherwise by their verdict.”
Janine McClellan [speaking during a public meeting - MJ]: “I’ve worked with Steve ever since he’s come to town and I wanted to remind that I was raised not to criticize, judge or condemn anybody. This is nothing but a witch hunt, this is one person’s revenge. Who here was at that intersection? Anybody? Anybody here? Any of you guys at that intersection? That police report means nothing to me.
Note that the vote is 7-0, and the strong language used by city council.

I know that government corruption is common, and anyone who holds a public office is living in a fish bowl. I think it's refreshing to find a city council that refuses to convict and sentence someone before their case goes to trial. Especially in a case like this.

I'm waiting to see how this shakes out. The part I'd really like to see is Steve's attorney questioning the complainant.


Anonymous said...

I've known Steve for 35 years and know the kind of person he is, one of the best. The kind of friend you can depend on. I also wondered how the woman saw what she saw. It seems like a good old game of politics in action if you ask me.

Mad Jack said...

Thanks, jcisucks. I can see Steve firing the fire chief for insubordination, and I can also see him delivering a few scathing remarks while the man was leaving. That said, Steve was never a vindictive person or given to petty cruelty. Too bad his political opponents aren't put together the same way.