September 16, 2017

The Update Desk: Grains of Salt (v24)

The other day I told you that Onondaga County's District Attorney-for-Life William Fitzpatrick did not have sex with that woman.

Oh - sorry - my bad. I told you he "did not endorse" Derek Shepard, the incumbent County Legislator for the towns of Elbridge, VanBuren and Baldwinsville, in the primary against challenger Ken Bush Jr. (Bush won.)

What Fitz did, rather, was to "criticize those policies that undermine public safety and support those policies that advance it, by freely and vigorously speaking out and writing on criminal justice issues and the individual involved in those issues" which he's entitled to do under a code that he helped write.

Here's the transcript of the message, which you can listen to here:
Hi. This is District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick. I'm sending you this message on September 11th, when many of us are remembering the horrible events of sixteen years ago. And I of course think about the death of my cousin who was a firefighter in New York City and died on the 40th floor of the North Tower. Jeff Olsen was a man who loved public service much as I do. I've been lucky enough to be your DA for 25 years, and I care passionately about public safety.
One of my great allies in that concern has been Derek Shepard, your county legislator. Derek is a great American who has allied with me on many, many issues involving your safety and the betterment of this county. He understands that fiscal responsibility has to be balanced with a goal of keeping us safe, and no one has done that better, in my opinion, than Derek.
Thank you, Derek. I look forward to working with you for many, many years in the future. And thanks to all of you for your support over the years in keeping me your district attorney. And remember, on Tuesday, when you pull that lever, how lucky we are to live in the greatest country on the planet Earth.  (Paid for by RLCC.) 
Now, I've listened to Fitz's message a few times, and I've gotta tell you, it's far from vigorous. Does that recording even remotely resemble any of these 'vigorous' synonyms and related words?

Come on -- Fitz is a guy who will scream in court until he's hoarse - and we're supposed to believe this is him criticizing anything? Or speaking out about any kind of policies?

Heck no. This is him endorsing Derek Shepard, plain and simple.

The fact that he was oh-so-careful to actually say 'public safety' in the message was him doing exactly enough to pass 'official' muster, but it just as clearly shows how close he will get to crossing the line and doing something he, as a DA with 25 years of experience, knows he's absolutely not allowed to do.

Anyone in the ethics business understands that perception is reality - and the damage from the perception can be even worse than damage from the actual bad act.

If you get caught doing something wrong, you can apologize, try and convince people you didn't know better, throw yourself on the mercy of the court and public opinion, and generally people will forgive you. You can even do your time and come out on the other side as a better person.

It's much harder to change a perception - especially when you don't even recognize the possibility that it might be correct.

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