Mingo politics may be a gamble

Last updated: October 22. 2013 9:56AM - 1350 Views
Ron Gregory ronjgregory@gmail.com



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The Mingo County fiasco continues as new revelations, more rumors and potential scenarios make their way around the county, region and state.


As I mentioned early on, it was difficult to see how Prosecuting Attorney C. Michael Sparks was going to escape the clutches of the Federal government, particularly when he began his “explaining” his actions. Sparks is one of those who would have been much better off to keep his mouth shut and let folks think him a fool (or crook) than open it and remove all doubt.


The latest “line” on politicos is that the Feds are not done with the County Commission with the conviction and resignation of David Baisden. Although rumors from the beginning have been that there is more to come there, the stories gained momentum and got hotter last week. Time will, of course, tell.


There is also a contention that a well-known bail bondsman will be among those soon-to-be charged, although I am not about to predict anything as a sure bet in this current situation.


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Speaking of betting, one of the theories from day one has been that gambling plays a huge role in all of the shenanigans going on in Williamson and vicinity. Certainly, many believe that politics and elections are deeply involved but gambling is also said to play a huge part.


Last week’s revelations about the late Sheriff Eugene Crum add to the interest concerning gambling since that was mentioned in those stories.


If gambling was one of the major undercurrents, who and what is the power-broker in that scenario?


As I quoted someone as saying early on, “just follow the trail of the money.” That seems a smarter and smarter idea as we go along.


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The sing printing business belonging to George White also continues to draw more attention in Mingo. It has been well-known for years that White’s sign shop is “THE” place to get signs if one is a candidate in Mingo County.


For years, I assumed that was because White supposedly had a great deal of influence with people in politics and having signs printed there would help a candidate gain legitimate votes. As the Feds see it, though, that does not appear to be the case.


White is, of course, cooperating with the authorities so I suspect sometime soon we will know as much — or more — as we want to know about sign printing in Mingo County.


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One item that will keep tongues wagging at the Statehouse during this week’s interim meetings is the story of powerful lobbyist Phil Reale.


For those who missed it, Reale was apparently charged last July with soliciting prostitution on Charleston’s West Side. In a bizarre set of circumstances, it appears that the citation written for Reale was made out to “Philip Neale.” Members of the Charleston Police Department insist the officer who wrote the ticket has a strange way of making a capital “R.” Strange indeed because it looks for all the world like an “N.”


After that little oddism is considered, reporters then learned that the head of the Prostitution Sting Unit decided to omit Reale’s name entirely from the list of those arrested because he was “suicidal.” Thus, the Reale charges went three months without being reported by anyone, anywhere.


Once reporters learned that it was former Governor Gaston Capertax’s … er, Caperton’s Chief of Staff who had been charged, they asked what the special deal was for Reale. The answer came back that the officer wanted to avoid having Reale commit suicide, so he didn’t include his name in a press release detailing who had been arrested.


All of this prompted outrage from Charleston Mayor Danny Jones, who has always stressed accountability and visibility in his public conduct. In fact, it is the Mayor himself who has detailed problems encountered by his own son with relation to drug charges. Jones promptly held a press conference to try to figure out what happened with Reale’s arrest


One thing for certain emerged. Reale has difficulty with directions.


The lobbyist told the Charleston Daily Mail, with his public relations specialist at his side, that he had been on his way to Berry Hills Country Club when he encountered a female he thought was in distress.


Reale said he decided to play Dudley Doright to the damsel and offer to assist her in her time of need. It was not clear how the perceptive Reale determined the woman was in distress, but that may not be important here.


What is particularly disturbing about Reale’s insistence that he was on his way to Berry Hills is that officers encountered him on Charlestons West Side. In fact, there are reports that he was located on Beatrice Street. Beatrice Street, for those who may not know, is a dead-end street that turns off West Washington.


Jones was quick to point out that he felt Reale was taking the “scenic route” to Berry Hills, since the country club is located past SouthRidge Center on Corridor G (United States Route 119). It might also be difficult to figure out why Reale would have been on a dead-end street heading to the country club.


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In another interesting development, the Charleston PD dropped the charges against Reale after he apparently assured the officers and the city attorney that he is getting “treatment” for his “problem.” Unless, as one officeholder said to me, his “problem” is that he cannot figure out directions, it is not clear what he is being treated for.


Jones insisted, during his press conference, that the charges will be re-filed, however. At week’s end, officials were said to be trying to determine whether to re-charge Reale in municipal or magistrate court.


In a redacted police report, about the only clear information given to the press was that Reale had allegedly asked the prostitute if she was, in fact, a police officer. She said she was not and he offered her $60 for oral sex.


I suppose there is little else I should say about this whole episode, although dozens of colorful comments come to mind. It is safe to say I thought Jones performed well and the CPD has a black eye the size of Alaska. As the Mayor said, “every person who commits a crime will become suicidal if that keeps their names out of the public eye.”


Speaking of which … no I didn’t say THAT.


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Yes, I know the name of the bail bondsman. So do you.


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Meanwhile, in Logan County, Assessor Rick Grimmett is not exactly buying the story that politics had nothing to do with his wife’s failure to win a communications director job with the School Board.


The Assessor offered to show me a text message he says he received from the Superintendent of Schools that pretty much shows politics was involved in the selection process. I will be looking at it this week.


I will say this: I have had nothing but positive dealings with Judge Eric O’Briant and his family in Logan. Actually, I am an admirer of the Judge and his step-son, Logan Basketball Coach Mark Hatcher. So, I am not an unprejudiced observer here.


Still, the purpose of this column is to tell all the truth as we know it. I will continue to look at this situation and comment, if comment is warranted.


* * * * * *


I also have a high opinion of the Assessor, for that matter.


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Mingo’s new Prosecutor, unlike her predecessor, may not be going to make many comments to the media that she later regrets. She STILL has not returned my calls a week later.


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Your comments, story ideas and rumors are welcome. Use my email address or call my cell at 304-533-5185.


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