The Detroit Public Schools have been laying off teachers and cutting the pay of those who are left. Students have been fleeing in droves, and there's not enough money to educate those who remain.
Nevertheless, the schools, or rather, their emergency manager, have decided to pay out $650,000 because a former school board member masturbated with a handkerchief last year.
Does that crass language offend you? Does it bother you that I'm about to reveal to all the kiddies reading this that FUBAR means, in fact, Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition?
Well, if you feel that way, your priorities are sadly out of whack, or, you might say, FUBAR. Even if I filled this column with repetitions of the word fuckwad, it would not approach the obscenity of what's been done by Emergency Manager Roy Roberts, a former General Motors executive, and Teresa Gueyser, one of a long line of failed and fired Detroit school superintendents.
Roberts threw away enough money to hire a dozen teachers, and Gueyser, a person whose career was allegedly devoted to education, took that money and deprived some poor kids.
She got it merely because she had to see some disgusting pervert pull his pud in front of her. According to Gueyser, Otis Mathis III, the former school board president, was meeting with her on June 16, 2010, when he unzipped his pants and began rubbing his wee-wee with a handkerchief. Gueyser added that Mathis had stroked his oar during earlier meetings (!), but felt the hanky took it to a new level.
For his part, the alleged habitual masturbator claimed he had a rash. Under pressure from his colleagues, he was forced to resign.
Several weeks later, however, Gueyser was fired, or at least her contract wasn't renewed. Mathis plead no contest to improper conduct in office.
Somehow, she got the idea that her termination was due to her not being receptive to the carrot-cuffer, and filed a whistleblower suit claiming discrimination, sexual harassment and wrongful termination. Last week, the schools decided to pay her off.
Steve Wasko, the longtime mouthpiece for whatever forces happen to currently be running the schools into the ground, said Roberts had approved the payoff as "the best utilization of district time and resources on this particular case."
Translated into standard Inglés: "We are buying her off for two reasons. We want to stop the humiliating publicity, and, besides, we are afraid if we don't settle, in the long run this may cost the schools more."
This is a legalized bribe, of course, for which she will sign some sort of agreement not to sue the schools again, and, if the district's lawyers have any brains, she will be made to stop talking about it.
But the damage has been done, and an unhealthy precedent set. Does anyone really believe that an adult woman's mild disgust at seeing a pervert perform was worth robbing poor kids of $650,000?
Putting it bluntly, how this will be interpreted by some people outside Detroit — such as in the Legislature — is that Detroiters are no more capable of running their affairs than were the racist caricatures of black legislators in Birth of a Nation, who grinned and gnawed chicken bones as they passed laws.
Otis Mathis, remember, made headlines before we knew he played public pocket pool, when Detroit News columnist Laura Berman exposed that he could barely read and write.
His election was the fault of a flawed system, and his perversion had nothing to do with being black. Five years ago, a white congressman from Florida sent text messages to little boys from the House floor, asking them to tell him about their penises. His fellow Republicans ran his ass out of town, but nobody in government offered to pay anybody off.
Common sense is a rare thing these days, but those running all things Detroit need some.
Desperately, and soon.
Justice for Elio: For some time, a lady named Virginia Hernandez has been corresponding with me about her son Elio, who was convicted some time ago of improper touching behavior with a girl.
His mother believes he was innocent, and that he was pressured into a plea by a court-appointed lawyer who told him that, as a poor black teenager, he wouldn't have a chance. I looked at the records she supplied me, and had no feeling one way or another about his innocence.
My guess, and it is only a guess, is that he was likely guilty of some mildly bad teenage behavior, and he was chewed up by the system. Nobody even alleged he committed rape. Yet that landed him for life on the sex offender list, and that made his life a living hell.
This summer, his mother took the family off to the Grand Rapids area, and things started to look up. His mother told me that Elio and his brothers had gotten jobs, and were working toward getting out of a hotel and into permanent housing.
Then, disaster. Those on the sex offender list are required to register their addresses when they move. According to a friend, Helen Chapman, "Elio attempted several times to register his new, temporary address, but was told in Grand Rapids ... that he could not register until he had a permanent address."
That meant he had to return to Macomb County, his original home, to meet with his probation officer. According to Chapman, "He did exactly as he was told." On Thursday, he boarded a bus and traveled to his appointment. Upon arrival, he was arrested for failure to register in Kent County, and was being held on $3,000 bond, according to his mom. This horrified Helen Chapman:
"Here is a young man who was trying to do the right thing. He was trying to help support his family, to earn a living and better himself," said Ms. Chapman, an educated and dignified lady.
Suddenly, she says she realized "the probation and parole system was never meant to give people freedom, but to force them to fail, all the while extorting money from the probationer."
Well, whatever the merits of this case, it would be gratifying to see more reporters, especially those who cover Macomb, look into it. For the last few months, they've devoted much time and space to analyzing the highly important issue of whether the strange, Sinatra-worshiping mayor of Warren was born in 1942 or 1944.
Something as small as the devastation of Elio Hernandez's life might be worth a story or two as well.
Wayne County update: Since my last column about the continuing saga of the vast sums paid to the CEO of the Wayne County Airport Authority, three things have happened.
We learned that Bob Ficano's crony, Turkia Awada Mullin, got even more money than we thought. Ficano then suspended two of his aides for 30 days and "fired" someone who'd already retired. Oh, yes — and the newspapers sternly came out in favor of "further inquiry."
Robert Ficano ought to be forced to resign, now. Mullin ought to be unceremoniously fired, and the county should hire someone in her place who has actually run an airport, not held Ficano's coat.
And someone needs to appoint a task force, a grand jury and a fumigator to take apart how Wayne County does business.