Monday Morning Water Cooler Talk for Sept. 17, 2012

September 17, 2012

City Council, Columbus, MS, Mayor, News, Politics

Beware the Thumb

Let’s get this straight from the beginning – this is not an article condoning a firefighter making an insensitive Facebook post.  By this time, most of Lowndes County is aware that a firefighter has resigned after making a harsh comment on his Facebook page about his displeasure with a mother’s reaction on a call to which the Columbus Fire Department had responded. His post was inappropriate and the three individuals who hit the “like” button did not demonstrate the best judgment.

This is also not an article about social media or the First Amendment. These are important issues; however, they will be addressed if and when any of the three parties who were severely disciplined take their complaint to the city’s Civil Service Commission and beyond.

No, this article is about the men who meted out such severe punishment and at what point the citizens of Columbus must stand up to City Hall and stop our local government from being a joke. Because, right now, Columbus is being run by people who have no clue how to govern. The city is being run by a mayor who knows very little about governance and even less about interpersonal skills.

By every indication, the vote was tied three to three on the matter of discipline, when moral giant and ethics lover Robert Smith broke the tie to save Columbus from its impending Facebook apocalypse. That’s right, boys and girls, a man who beat up a council person while he was at work made the decision to suspend somebody for thirty days. Yes, a Facebook “like” thumb-image has more impact on an employee’s livelihood than a person whipping somebody’s a@@ while they are at work. And make no doubt about it, Robert Smith whipped Kabir Karriem’s a@@ while Smith was working. And his punishment for said offense….drum roll please……NOTHING!

That’s right, happy campers. Robert Smith, after running crazy wild that day because he had blown the handling of the “bridge to nowhere” announcement and was embarrassed about his own ignorance on the matter, made a series of calls that day to other government officials raising holy terror. Apparently, Kabir Karriem did not like it and went to address the issue.

The rest is “beat down” history.  And let’s be blunt and pull up our big boy underwear. The only reason Smith was able to get away with such a vulgar offense is that many people in Columbus hate Karriem. There, it has been said. It is out in the open. If you’re going to whip some butt, do it to someone a lot of people do not like.

But, here is the most unfortunate part. Robert took the silence as a sign of weakness. He took the silence to mean that the community was weak and cowardly. And from that day forward, he has run wild and is functioning under “Robert’s law,” which is no law at all.

He has intimidated every city employee and department head to kowtow before him. Campers, if you think, for one moment, any of the department heads are going to stand up to him, you are insane. They fear Robert Smith because they want their jobs. And if you think Police Chief McQueen or Fire Chief Moore are going to stand up to Robert, guess again. They also want to keep their jobs.

And disregard what these two gentlemen say in public; every city employee knows that Robert Smith rules the day and that each department does what he says. And what makes this worse is the city attorney also bows to his will. The city’s last line of legal defense shot in the backside because no one stands up to Robert Smith. Not even the town’s legal representative.

In the end, this has nothing to do with social media. This is about a mayor who wants to control every department, especially the fire and police departments. And Robert Smith has as much business being in charge of the police department as the man in the moon.

To be honest, there is no one to stop Smith’s agenda – except for the only people who matter – the citizens. It is now up to the community to stop Smith’s desire to run the police department.  If they don’t, it is over. Robert Smith is the Chief of Police. It’s that plain and simple.

On Tuesday, Sept. 4, Charlie Box, Bill Gavin and assault victim Kabir Karriem understood what was happening. They should be commended.  Unfortunately, Gene Taylor and Fred Stewart vote the way Robert Smith tells them. It is sad but true. As for Joe Mickens, who knows what he was thinking?  Maybe a political activist told him how to vote. Who knows?

In the end, this is not about Facebook. This is about a man who beat a councilman up and then passes judgment on others to punish them and cost them their livelihood. It would be funny if it weren’t true. A bully rules the day and everyone who works for the city is paralyzed with fear. They only people who can save the day are the citizens. Heaven help Columbus if they don’t stand up and stop the madness.

The title of this article should be “Violent Bully Mayor Breaks Tie To Punish Employees Over A Facebook Post.”

But I don’t think many people would hit the “like” button for that one.

Joseph B. St. John

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5 Comments on “Monday Morning Water Cooler Talk for Sept. 17, 2012”

  1. TJ Says:

    WELL SAID jOE. I have lived in Columbus for a long time. In this time I have never seen the good citizens do so little to right the ship. No one will even run for mayor. Where are all the leaders in this community? Why don’t someome come farward and challenge Robert’s strong handed way. This town and this nation will wake up one day and say “what the hell happen”. Too late. This could be the best small town in America if:______________________________________. (you fill in the blank) I don’t see anyone trying to change this picture. Those who have tried were beaten down or voted out of office. Most people think this is a lost cause. The next election will show the direction we are going.


  2. harold Says:

    I wonder what would have been done on the facebook deal if all were Black. Jesse, Al and Leroy would have been at City Hall before the sun could set. It would still be on national news day and night. What has happen to “a once great little town” ? You can all go back to sleep. Robert has yo back.


  3. charles divel Says:

    I agree with You Joe, wholeheartedly. Thank you for the nerve to print the truth.


  4. Raider Says:

    WCBI finally showed the full statement that was posted on Facebook. That was the first time I got a chance to see it. Frankly, I can’t believe that a veteran firefighter would think it was OK to make such a post. I know I am in the minority on these board when comes to my view on this matter, but I stand by my position.

    I see why the fireman went on and resigned rather than facing the CC and trying to explain and justify his statement. I can’t believe that the citizens of this town would support a comment like that. I am even more surprised that three other public servants would have such low integrity as to “like” the comment. No, I take that back, I am not surprised. Statements like he made is not only supported in Lowndes County, but encouraged because it was made about a black person.

    As far as this fight between Robert Smith and Kabir Karriem…I have asked before, who has the authority to punish the Mayor and why didn’t they do there job? If you are not willing to answer that question, then please stop with the “nothing happened to the mayor”.

    Since JSJ wrote this opinion piece, I have a question. If the CC would have allowed you to keep your job as police chief, do you believe that you would have maintained the moral authority to discipline or recommend discipline for your employees? I ask that because it was one of the main reasons that I said you had to be removed. Yet, that seems to be the principle that you are advancing here. That Robert Smith lacks moral authority to discipline employees because he got into a fight with a councilman. Am I misunderstanding your position here?


  5. Patty Says:

    I understand what you are saying Joe – I used to work for a bully. Some staff members would do about anything to keep an even keel, and they were also the ones that got by with many violations of rules. Those that did an excellent job and followed the rules and regulations, but did not bow to this mini-tyrant, stayed in the “enemy camp” and were constantly harassed, belittled, and taunted.

    Nothing will change while the mini-tyrants are in power!


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