Monday, July 16, 2007

The bar fight

I don't know how much, if any, Kingston Mayor Jim Sottile had to drink the other night before he got into that dustup with the wife of a district attorney candidate.

Maybe he didn't have a sip on either of the two political fund-raising cruises he hosted over a period of several hours. And maybe he didn't imbibe afterwards when the party shifted to Mariner's Harbor.

Doubtful on both counts, according to those who say they know, but maybe.

Even if he did partake, there's no legal evidence of which I'm aware that alcohol played a part in the confrontation (other than when drinks were tossed in both directions). After all, the mayor has been known to have a short fuse (although I'm told it's not as bad as it used to be), so news of him getting into a heated argument does not exactly come as a shocker.

But let's face it, there's no excuse for his role in this mess. I don't care what was said and who said it first. A level-headed public official, certainly one who's been around the block as long as this mayor, should have sensed he was treading in dangerous territory as soon as his discussion with Mari Ann Sennett took a sharp turn the wrong way.

If Mrs. Sennett was the physical aggressor, as the videotape seems to indicate (and remember, we don't know what he said to prompt the first swing), the mayor absolutely had to turn his back and walk away. He could have nipped this problem in the bud. He didn't. His bad.

Meanwhile, consider this: Suppose the mayor did have a few pops. Suppose his judgment wasn't, shall we say, 100 percent. I'm not saying that was the case; just suppose. Now suppose Mrs. Sennett never stopped by to exchange pleasantries and the party continued uneventfully. Suppose a crisis arose somewhere in the city, something that required the chief executive's immediate attention. Would the mayor have been in any position to address it?

See, the way I look at it is like this: There are certain jobs for which the phrase "off-duty" does not apply. Unless vacation or illness temporarily separates a CEO from office, and a backup is appointed to fill his/her responsibilities, the head honcho is always in charge and must be ready at all hours to climb on the saddle. Do you have to be a teetotaler? No. But you have to know when enough is enough.

I'm hoping the mayor has hosted his last "booze cruise." I'm sure he can find other creative and fun ways to raise campaign cash.
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