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Still giving him the benefit of the doubt

Fear and Loathing in Waynesboro column by Chris Graham

An AFP reader raised a good point in a comment today on our team coverage of yesterday’s city-council reorganization.

“Bruce Allen’s comment in the News Virginian about Mr. Walker’s firing … ‘some issues were personnel issues,’ bothers some of us. … How would Mr. Allen know about personnel issues when he was not on council until yesterday!”

The comment in question had slipped my attention until the post from our friend Charles. Speaking of the effective firing of Walker, who had served as city manager for five and a half years before formally stepping down on Monday, at the urging of Allen, new mayor Tim Williams and new vice mayor Frank Lucente, who told Walker shortly after the May 6 elections that he could resign or face being fired when the new city-council majority took office on July 1, Allen said, “(A) lot of it is personnel issues that can’t be discussed. There are a lot of issues there. Citizens aren’t aware of all the issues and why the decision was made.”

OK, then, first question – if “a lot of it is personnel issues that can’t be discussed,” to borrow from the point raised by our friend Charles, how was it that Allen was made aware of them? Allen was a private citizen until taking office on Tuesday. Who briefed him on the personnel issues that Allen is hinting shouldn’t be discussed in public because they are internal city-council matters?

We can eliminate Walker from the list of suspects there. I think we can safely mark off council members Nancy Dowdy and Lorie Smith.

Question two – if Allen is getting this insider information weeks in advance of taking the oath of office, how insider can this information be? Allen himself points to the fact that “(c)itizens aren’t aware of all the issues and why the decision was made.” So come clean, then, Bruce. Tell us “why the decision was made.” You’ve laid it out there for us. There are “issues.” One you referenced in your chat with the NV. “I just didn’t think he was taking the city in the direction it needed to go.” Which would be fine in and of itself, if that’s all it was. But you’re saying there’s more. I’d like to know more about the more.

A preface for my third question – Allen nonsensically began his comment to the NV about how “a lot of it is personnel issues that can’t be discussed” and “(c)itizens aren’t aware of all the issues and why the decision was made” with the statement that “(a) lot of the city, people I’ve talked to, understand why the decision was made the way it was.” Foregoing a backsmack at the twisted logic that exists here, which reminds me of the famous Yogi Berra yarn about how nobody was going to a particular popular restaurant in St. Louis anymore because it was “too crowded,” my question – who are these people?

Wait, I think I know …

“It was very, very obvious to me that the guy they were going to back was going to have it out for Walker. From the very beginning. From the get-go. There was no question about that. I was left with clearly the impression that they wanted Walker fired. I don’t know that anybody said, They ought to fire him, but there was no question in my mind what the right answer was.”

That’s from my column on Tree Streets resident John Lawrence, who was interviewed by a faction of city and county businessmen to run as their candidate for the Ward B seat on city council. The ringleaders in that group all showed up as significant backers to the Allen campaign in his most recent campaign-finance report.

It’s probably safe to say that Allen didn’t come up with what he told the NV on his own, but I’ll still give him the benefit of the doubt. I mean, the guy has been on city council for all of two days now.

Even so, it’s not the best of starts for a man who absolutely does not want to go down in history being known as “Frank Lucente’s boy.”

augusta free press
augusta free press