By Peter Fallow, RCNN Special Contributor
It’s been about a week since Mayor Bob Newell decided to defend himself in City Council chambers. Time enough to digest the smorgasbord of falsehoods and distractions. Since he is being advised by ambulance chaser and failed politician Harry Dietzler, Newell decided the best defense is a strong offense. And Newell was certainly offensive.
Let’s start with Newell’s obsession about the thumb drive, the one with over 1,300 files on it, including lurid pictures and videos, texts, emails and so on. (Let’s call it thumb drive #1.) During his comments to city council and the members of the public, Newell claimed an “investigation” had resulted in confessions that some of the material on drive #1 had been doctored or falsified. Newell did not offer any proof of this nor did he refer to any file in particular that had been doctored. Was he referring to the pictures and video of alleged male body parts? Was he referring to the sound recording of the Mayor and his paramour/Finance Director Ashley Flowers deceiving a member of the media about budgetary numbers? Was he referring to the picture featuring himself and Dietzler playing dress up as a child’s image of the 1970’s? Fact is, it doesn’t matter which if any file was doctored, because Newell cannot and has never at any time denied he and Flowers conducted an extra-marital affair on city time using city facilities and city money. Any and all talk about the veracity of the material on thumb drive #1 is an attempt to distract from the undeniable fact that the Mayor and the Finance Director were conjugal co-conspirators.
It’s also worth noting that Newell did not deny the veracity of another sound recording, one that was on what we will call thumb drive #2. In that second recording both Newell and Flowers can be heard discussing how to best cover up their fraudulent trip to Indianapolis in order to see Fleetwood Mac, order $116 in room service up to their $500-a-night hotel suite and get the city to pay for it all. But not even that was enough. The paramourous pair also got the city to pay for the gas money for them to drive separate cars to Indy (and then just maybe to Joliet, Illinois) and back. That recording was not on thumb drive #1. The conversation happened after their affair had finally been exposed exclusively by RCNN. The dysfunctional duo knew that the Indy trip was problematical. The real proof of their ham-fisted efforts at a coverup were obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests by members of the public from the Finance Office. If any of those documents can shown to be falsified, it would be Flowers and Newell who were responsible for falsifying them.
Also notably left unspoken by Newell was a defense of Ashley Flowers as a Finance Director. Most particularly unmentioned was why the Mayor felt Flowers deserved to be paid $72,000 a year for her services. When the salary for the Parkersburg Finance Director was increased to its current level, Newell argued that amount would allow the city to hire the best of the best. Wheeling pays their Finance Director $72K a year, after all, so why shouldn’t Parkersburg? The budgets and staff size of the two cities are comparable, so it makes some sense at first glance. But it turns out that Wheeling requires its Finance Director to have at least a CPA or MBA. (It remains unclear what Flowers’ actual academic achievements are despite repeated efforts by a legion of citizens to find out, but she does not even pretend to have either of those professional qualifications.) Presumably Wheeling does not value the Finance Director’s willingness to send the Mayor topless pictures and perform personal services as much as Newell does. Although it has to be said that her willingness to fudge numbers was probably more valuable to Newell than her willingness to be another of his mistresses.
Newell’s comments to City Council ended with a list of what he considers to be his achievements in office and his contention that without him none of them would have been possible. Interestingly enough, he included the perhaps eventual maybe potentially awesome future presence of a minor league baseball team as one of the keystones of the Newell regime. This was brazen on Newell’s part since there is evidence that the minor league team has been nothing other than a cover story for the Mayor to travel across the country with one mistress or another on the city’s dime. And that’s not to mention the question which of Newell’s cronies stands to benefit from yet another major real estate purchase by the city. The rest of the “achievements” heralded by Newell either amount to hopeful speculation (i.e., the cracker plant) or things the Mayor and his staff had little direct influence in (Home rule is a prime example- Parkersburg’s participation has been a fait accompli for years, unless it could be shown that the city was not being managed properly, as in the area of finances.).
Finally there was Newell’s openly hostile attack on members of the public who are not pleased with the fact that the city is being run by a miscreant who uses his office to procure women and cash with equal gusto. While he may have been technically correct that there exists no mechanism for City Council to remove him from office, his goal was not a civics lesson. It was a plea to be left alone. The public should content itself to wait out the results of numerous official inquiries into his behavior, and they should wait it out quietly. And when the contents of what we will call thumb drive #3 are made public, they should not believe their lying ears and eyes. In the end however, it is Newell’s contention that City Council is no place for the public to speak its mind on city government that is the best argument for his removal and a change to the city’s charter.