WESTERHOLD: Lying about lies in the comfort zone

Erie County prosecutor Kevin Baxter put some distance between himself and any potential fallout firing Sandusky police Chief Kim Nue
Matt Westerhold
May 24, 2010

Erie County prosecutor Kevin Baxter put some distance between himself and any potential fallout firing Sandusky police Chief Kim Nuesse could create. He all but denounced the Murman report.

If ever there were a document deserving denouncement ... whew ... here you have it.

The report is a roadmap to millions in city tax liabilities. It is the entire plaintiff's case and a jury will see it for what it was conceived to be: A witch-hunt and a barbecue.

Baxter talked with Don Icsman on Monday and sent him a letter Tuesday refuting "details" in the Murman report. The letter was copied to city manager Matt Kline. Neither Icsman nor Kline followed up with Baxter. On Tuesday, Kline filed notice of the pre-disciplinary hearing with Nuesse, citing the Murman report findings without mentioning the concerns raised by Baxter.

So it's high noon again Monday, in Kline's office, with the door shut: Kline and Icsman vs. Nuesse and K. Ronald Bailey. The ultimate slap-down. Kline could order termination proceedings against Nuesse. This is what dreams are made of.

Meanwhile, city commissioner Dennis Murray Jr. floated an idea last week -- looking for consensus, if you will -- whether commission should step in and require Kline to reinstate Nuesse. Word was he had Waddington, Kaman and Stahl, and that is a majority.

Commissioners Brett Fuqua and Julie Farrar were said to be backing Kline.

Commissioners hunkered down on Wednesday and, after a lengthy closed-door session, a quiet calm fell over the city. Isn't that special?

No guts, no glory

Chief Nuesse deserves a public setting for her very public beheading. Commissioners are being anything but transparent by meeting in secrecy while she twists in the wind, targeted for pushing the boundaries of comfort. Each one -- Murray, Stahl, Waddington, Farrar, Fuqua and Kaman -- should be prepared to explain their decisions even though that might cause some discomfort.

This choice is between good government and corrupt government and these city commissioners should be judged by their action, or their inaction. They should be judged by their willingness to take a stand and decide the issues.

Nuesse's integrity is questioned throughout the Murman report, but commissioners must ask about the integrity and motivations of the witnesses for the prosecution. The report offers declarative statements from Baxter and others describing meetings. Those descriptions don't match descriptions given by other participants in those meetings, participants who were not interviewed by the Murman investigators.

U.S. Marshal Peter Elliott, Family Court Judge Robert DelaMatre, and others, called the meetings "successful," while the Murman report describes them as an "education" for Nuesse.

The big elephant in the room is whether some juvenile crime should be classified as gang behavior. Baxter and Mary Ann Barylski, chief criminal prosecutor, oppose attaching gang specs to certain crimes; it makes them uncomfortable.

Nuesse has called for careful review and has said drive-by shooting incidents in Sandusky are a symptom of gang-like behavior. She's not comfortable with that and wants to move forward.

Nuesse also gets tagged in the Murman report for the overwhelming defeat of the sales tax hike to fund the Erie County Drug Task Force. That defeat messes with Baxter's comfort zone and with county commissioner Tom Ferrell Jr.'s zone. The Murman timeline on the task force vote is off by weeks, but what the hell, it's just an integrity probe.

Baxter and King Ferrell abandoned efforts to resurrect the countywide task force after several closed-door meetings failed goal. The Murman descriptions of those meetings don't match descriptions given by others in attendance. The report also minimizes the impact of the SPD drug unit, the successor to the task force, despite documentation available to attest to the unit's successes.

The Murman report slaps Nuesse on dispatch, too, a big comfort issue for Ferrell. Nuesse "refused to back down on dispatch," the report states, but it does not mention she was ordered to review and recommend options and collaboration with the Perkins Police Department and those orders were never countermanded.

Perkins police Chief Tim McClung also gets a shout out in the report, and he makes everyone uncomfortable.

The Murman report is all about comfort for: Tom Ferrell, Dennis Murray, Craig "Smoochy" Stahl, Don Icsman, Matt Kline, Kevin Baxter, Mary Ann Barlyski, Terry Lyons and Bill Monaghan.

The report is a list of whiny comfort zone violations. It's overkill and underwhelming despite the 500 pages and the $20,000 price tag.

Just ask fire Chief Mike Meinzer. Nuesse made firefighters uncomfortable after SPD detectives investigated a threat by a firefighter to kill the fire chief.

Meinzer turned on Nuesse like an angry inbred pitbull when he met with Murman investigators. Meinzer's the one who created the "she lied about dispatch" lie. It will be interesting to see if he skates a path holding Baxter's hand down Denouncement Drive.

Truth in the Murman report will not be found in the conclusions it expounds. But a theme comes forward after digesting the report's enormity. It's a truth that lies between the lines and beyond the words, sentences and paragraphs.

It's a truth of human nature.

String her up.