GOING AWAY 

GOING AWAY

I've been a stand-up guy for two years. Tell me how it has benefited me. I've let politicians with agendas and media reporters with focus group headlines talk about me without saying anything for way too long. When I talked about the "culture of entitlements" back in February, I wasn't just talking about staff members and perks. I was talking about developers and their ownership of county government. I was talking about the hiring of relatives of political allies. I was talking about the things that are not even criticized but shape this culture. They continue. I'm not the one investigating [former Shelby county mayor Jim] Rout and his contracts for friends and his conflicts of interest in pension investments. I'm not trying to trash him or anyone else. I think in fact I've been pretty fair in trashing myself. Policies applied to me have never been applied to anyone else although they were doing the same things, and the internal audit of the commissioners criticized no-bid contracts, etc., and applied policies never applied to Rout. My recent action to get my pension has nothing to do with being caught in the act of trying to enjoy the culture of entitlement again. Actually, this time it is simply employee entitlement. I followed the rules, the county attorney said it was proper, and [Shelby County Mayor A C] Wharton politicized it for whatever purpose he had in mind. He knew this was my plan and he had approved it two years ago. I consider him my friend just as much as [recently resigned mayoral aides] Susie [Thorp] and Bobby [Lanier]. Otherwise, I would not have co-authored his campaign web site, platform, position papers, etc. I asked for the pension to which I am entitled, and [attorney] Robert Spence suggested the way to maximize it. As I have said, I am in fact taking a 25 per cent smaller pension than I would get in only a few years in order to get health insurance for my wife's heart condition. Policies applied to me have never been applied to anyone else although they were doing the same things, and the internal audit of the commissioners criticized no-bid contracts, etc., and applied policies never applied to Rout. I've always said that government does three things. First, it has to be right, and it will never admit it is wrong. Second, after being right, it must be winning. And third, it will destroy those who seek to show that there is another side of the story. Because of the futility of it, it is almost easier to take the beating than to be ground into the dirt. But I'm tired of everyone acting like it was a one-person culture of entitlement. I guess that's why, at the end of the day, my confidence is in the FBI. Maybe, eventually, someone in the media will begin to have at least a passing curiosity of what really happened in the Rout Administration. I move ahead to Forrest City with curiosity and peace of mind, looking forward to writing the book about the tornadic nexus of politics, media and criminal justice. While I was moved as punshment (but the story will have to wait for the book), I gain great strength from being moved to Forrest City, because it is my birthplace, my family homeplace, and I spent every summer with my blessed grandmother who is buried with my father, aunts and uncles in the cemetery next to the camp. As my best friend Carol Coletta always says, it's your life, it's the only one you have, embrace it and make something positive of it. That's my plan. (This is an edited and condensed version of responses to an earlier version of this week's "Politics" column made by Tom Jones, who was an aide to former Shelby County mayor Jim Rout. Jones pleaded guilty to federal and state charges alleging improper use of county credit cards and began serving his one year's federal sentence this week.)

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