Monday, June 01, 2009


It takes a special kind of stupid. . . .

* To, if you're the incoming mayor, not conduct background checks on people you're appointing to key jobs in your administration. Like chief of staff.

To tell the local newspaper that background checks represent a "suspicious, punitive system, and that's not something I build on. . . . What goes on in private lives is private business. I don't sit down with anybody and say, 'Tell me about your past.'"

* To refuse to ask police for documents detailing accusations that your designated "community chief of staff" began a homosexual relationship with a 14-year-old boy and kept it up for two years. (A law-enforcement source told the Omaha World-Herald the teen, who killed himself after going to the police, "was credible and the investigation of the first-degree sexual assault allegations he made when he was 19 would have been pursued if he hadn't died.")

* To dismiss the allegations about the aide, Matthew Samp, out of hand as "character assassination" and tell a reporter something as dumb as "You have to set (rumors) aside and just look at whom is trying to embarrass whom. I've seen this, and this happens."

UNFORTUNATELY for Omaha, alas, it looks like Jim Suttle is going to be a "special" kind of mayor. God help us all.

Imagine for a moment that we're not talking about the chief executive of a city of 435,000. Imagine instead that we're talking about a Catholic bishop who has just named a new chancellor for his diocese.

And say there were credible allegations that the priest picked as chancellor had initiated a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old boy, who five years later reported the underage relationship to police, who found the teen "credible" and initiated an investigation, but then this tormented youth killed himself.

Furthermore, let's say the new bishop was taking a leisurely swim down the River of Denial and publicly refused to even consider looking into the matter himself. And let's just imagine His Excellency then proclaimed that he didn't believe in conducting background checks, calling them a "suspicious, punitive system, and that's not something I build on."

How do you think that would go over?

ME, I THINK an enraged public would be burning the chancery down by now -- and not totally without justification, given the recent history of these kinds of things. In fact, a Catholic priest facing "credible" allegations of the sort now dogging Samp would be immediately removed from active ministry pending a complete investigation.

What, is it somehow more dangerous (or unseemly, or unjust, or whatever) when sexual-abuse scandals occur in the Catholic Church than when they hit city hall?

But that's a rhetorical question. Here's something more concrete: Your average forklift driver probably undergoes more pre-employment scrutiny than Jim Suttle's average chief of staff.

According to this morning's World-Herald, we are not amused:

Some angry and appalled leaders and residents want Omaha Mayor-elect Jim Suttle to look further into allegations that a top aide had a sexual relationship with a teenager in the late 1990s.

The World-Herald reported Sunday that a 19-year-old Omahan told police in 2001 that he had a sexual relationship, starting when he was 14, with Matthew Samp. Samp, now Suttle's co-chief of staff, was about 23 at the time.

It is illegal for an adult to have sex with someone under 16.

Suttle said Saturday, while out of town on vacation, that he did not plan to ask police for more information and did not do background checks on employees.

Suttle, who could not be reached Sunday, plans a statement today at a 1:30 p.m. press conference, spokesman Ron Gerard said. Suttle, a Democrat, takes office June 8.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning wants Suttle to rescind his offer to hire Samp.

"We can't have someone like that working in government," he said of Samp.


A 2001 police investigation into the report about Samp stalled when the youth, Brad Fuglei, killed himself a week after filing a police report. Fuglei was 19.

Patlan said Samp, expected to handle communication with external groups such as neighborhood associations, will have no credibility unless he is cleared.

"If the kid was still alive," Patlan said, "the question remains: Where would Samp be now? Would he be in prison? There's too many questions."

Omaha resident Amy Adams, who attended high school with Fuglei, was incensed to hear that Suttle wasn't investigating further.

"That disgusts me," she said. "If allegations come up and you don't look into it, that seems ridiculous."
THAT SEEMS ridiculous because it is ridiculous. I guess Jim Suttle is just a ridiculous kind of guy.

Who is going to be our next mayor.

I think we're about to learn the hard way that not being Hal Daub is no good reason to elect somebody mayor.

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