By Larry Jarboe
The warm wet wake-up kiss on his forehead was a pleasant introduction to the greater challenge of arising from the dressing chair that he had fallen asleep in. Sharp stabs of pain radiated from the small of his back as Commissioner Largent pushed himself to his feet on slightly shaking legs. Though a time or two he had nodded off during long budget hearings, he was not used to sleeping upright for any extended time.
“So, you prefer the four legs of a chair over my two loving arms.” chided Carla as she dressed for her job at the Charles County Courthouse.
“No, nothing like that.” mumbled Jerry. He could not disclose his conversation with her brother in the early hours of that morning. Plus, he was two hours behind his own schedule to arrive at the Commissioners table in Leonardtown.
Without a shower or shave, he jumped into his dress pants, donned a short sleeve shirt and tie, slipped on a black pair of nylon socks and his black leather shoes. On the way out the door, he snatched the green sport coat that matched his sporty car. Prior to closing the front door, Commissioner Largent called up the stairs, “Carla, I love you!”, for her and all the neighborhood to hear.
Though he could not see her response, that peaceful smile that so entranced him in the moonlight broke forth for a few moments in the light of day.
It was 8:30 A.M. when Commissioner Largent peeled rubber out of his driveway to make the twenty mile plus run from Golden Beach south to Leonardtown. The lithium batteries in his self-engineered car had a hundred mile range so he had plenty of juice to go to the County Seat and back without having to plug in for a re-charge. The meeting would start at 9 o’clock which meant he would be on time, just barely.
Normally, Commissioner Jerry Largent would arrive two hours early for the weekly County Commissioner meeting. This was his time to organize and, once more, review his paperwork. He also took this quiet time to scan the hundred plus pages of bills that were to be paid by the authorization of the County Commissioners. Regularly, he found bills to be paid by the St. Mary’s County Commissioners for hundreds of dollars in beer and liquor receipts at the County owned and operated Canoe Neck Creek Golf Course. Any other county would have privatized the bar and grill long ago but, in the Land of the Fiddle and the Flask, the local elected officials coordinated to keep special perks beyond the public view.
Commissioner Largent’s votes against these bills and the padded expense accounts presented by his fellow commissioners did not earn him any favor at the table though he had no problem regularly winning re-election with minimal expense or signage. Everyone knew that Commissioner Largent was a little out there but he always worked to do the right thing for the taxpayers. Plus, the local bigwigs and bureaucrats hated him. Long before the emergence of the Tea Party, Jerry Largent was rocking the boat in St. Mary‘s County.
As Jerry drove in swift silence south to the meeting, he thought about the bigger boat he had rocked with his little water powered electric car. He knew about the deals that had been cut and the people who had been eliminated to keep the big oil tankers cruising on a steady keel. According to his research, Charles Nelson Pogue’s famous 200 m.p.g. carburetor was bought out by Standard Oil Company in the mid-1930’s. That device was later used to beat General Rommel when it was secretly installed on Allied tanks and Bren gun carriers during WWII. A tank that gets 35 miles per gallon can roll a lot further before refueling. The Desert Fox was outfoxed when the Allied Forces did not run out of fuel as he had calculated. Instead of shooting sitting ducks, General Rommel found his outnumbered Panzer division the central targets in the North African shooting gallery.
The inventor who made our own CIA aware of the Extra Low Frequency wave bombardment initiated by the Russians on the United States during the Cold War became their target when he discovered a way to crack the water molecule beyond Faraday’s Laws of Physics. Andrija Puharich found himself on the run as he drove a water fueled motor home around South America to escape their threats.
Perhaps, Stan Meyer was the most notably publicized person to mysteriously die after building and promoting a vehicle that was fueled by breaking water into combustible hydrogen and oxygen gases. Jerry was familiar with all these stories and many more. He knew Carla’s brother was right. “I am now in their crosshairs. It will be only a matter of time before someone is going to squeeze the trigger.” he thought to himself.
With this view of his own diminished mortality taking understandable precedence over the weekly administration of local government, Commissioner Largent made it to the table just before the camera started documenting the meeting.
Commissioner President Doris Gunn-Manning called the meeting to order promptly at 9:00 A.M. Her keen sense of personal observation noted Commissioner Largent’s second day whisker growth and his unusual lack of promptness. “Something is amiss here.” she thought as she opened the meeting and proceeded to follow the agenda according to Robert’s Rules of Order.
After Commissioner James Lyons read the weekly prayer and led the Pledge of Allegiance, the St. Mary’s County Commissioners proceeded to entertain the business they were elected to do: set policy, oversee administration, and maintain the budget of a growing County in the State of Maryland. Commissioner President Gunn-Manning called for an approval of the bills.
With a motion by Commissioner Kenny Leonard and a second from Commissioner Drake Alvey, the motion proceeded to a vote. The unanimous vote of approval stunned all the Commissioners who expected Largent to vote “NO”. Commissioner Leonard even muttered under his breath, “Gotcha Sucker!”. Neither the microphone nor the reporter from the County Sentinel picked up the quiet exclamation.
Tucked deep in the hundred and nine page listing of expenses were two bills totaling $1,431.72 to pay for liquor and beer at the Canoe Neck Creek Golf Course. Though Commissioner Largent had missed the expenditure, his fellow commissioners intended to imbibe from the public funds later that evening.
The rest of the meeting proceeded smoothly. There were minimal controversial issues as is the usual case in local governments. Commissioner President Gunn-Manning closed the meeting a few minutes before noon. Commissioner Largent thought how much his life had changed in twelve hours. He realized that this might be his last meeting.
He did not realize that the other commissioners were planning to attend their own closed meeting later that evening in Virginia.
Based on State legislative mandate, St. Mary’s County has it’s very own Open Meetings Act which requires that a majority of the elected officials overseeing a board or commission cannot meet without proper public notice. This means that no more than two County Commissioners can legally discuss an issue in private that they might vote upon . In the past, the Old Boy Democrats simply disregarded the law. With the election of Republican candidates like long term incumbent Jerry Largent and newly elected Doris Gunn-Manning, the network of bubbas had to find a way to bring the other side onboard. Unanimous votes do not stir up much public consternation.
They had given up on Commissioner Largent years ago, but Commissioner President Gunn-Manning was an easier touch. Doris Gunn-Manning was the local version of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Like Sarah Palin, Doris was a political figure who cut a striking figure in her black sequin dresses that she wore to all events. She was a beautiful redhead who turned heads and promoted a conservative philosophy. Her bullet shaped campaign signs: “A Gunn-Manning Woman” easily moved people from both sexes and parties to vote for her in this rural county.
Newly elected Commissioner President Gunn-Manning knew about the Open Meetings Act. She refused the initial invitation from Commissioners Leonard, Lyons, and Alvey to meet privately in a backroom at the Canoe Neck Creek Golf course following the weekly publicized meeting to strategize on behalf of the local Boss Hogs. Though unlikely, someone might get wind of this long standing violation of the Open Meetings Act and disrupt her political ambitions beyond the electoral killing fields of local governance.
Commissioner Alvey was probably the most crafty of all the commissioners. He came up with a plan to hold the secret meetings in Virginia. “The St. Mary’s Open Meetings Act is a State law that does not apply in Virginia.” explained Drake (often called “Duck”) to Doris. “We can hold our special meetings in a backroom in Colonial Beach across the Potomac River. It will be all legal and you’ll get a heads up on the local Boys who will make sure to pump up your campaign funds for a costly State race.”
The combination of money, power, and ruling class status sold her on the deal.