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Shrimp 'n Grits

“Charleston – we have a problem…”
Lee Walton

But unlike the three fortunate astronauts of Apollo 13 who were highly trained, well equipped and guided by NASA’s integrated command structure, the Charleston 9 were ill prepared to overcome the tragic fate that confronted them on the evening of June 18th. Not unlike the crew of Apollo 13, the courage and commitment to duty of the Charleston 9 never wavered, but the Charleston Fire Department’s leadership and command structure was fatally flawed, and their lives were unnecessarily sacrificed as a consequence. It is now painfully evident, after four months of in-depth investigations and condemning revelations, that the tragic loss of nine firefighters had its genesis in the decades of incompetent leadership under Fire Chief Russell Thomas. It is also now blatantly obvious that Mayor J. Pinocchio Riley continues to lie to the citizens of Charleston in a shameless effort to salvage any shred of his Fire Chief’s shattered credibility.

To add insult to injury, Pinocchio has instituted costly legal challenges along with his slick Madison Avenue public relations campaign to cover-up and distort the scathing findings of SC OSHA and his own handpicked team of investigators. Pinocchio’s refusal to accept any leadership responsibility for the tragic loss of nine lives on his watch is a chilling reflection of the man behind the mask that holds the highest elected office in the City of Charleston.

The quandary now facing the citizens of Charleston is how to differentiate between “Rusty Thomas”, the buddy, loyal friend, and big-hearted “good-old-boy” and “Fire Chief Russell Thomas”, the under-qualified and incompetent political crony of Mayor J. Pinocchio Riley. These two divergent personas of Chief Thomas continue to generate conflicting public opinion throughout the Lowcountry and, most disturbingly, have all but destroyed morale within the CFD. The lost trust and lack of confidence in the continued leadership of Chief Thomas has manifested itself in countless adverse comments from firefighters within the department and throughout the country. For those who doubt the internal conflict within the CFD, checkout either firefighterhourly.com (press here) or the Palter & Chatter’s on-line comments to over two hundred articles published following the SSS Fire. Judging from posted comments being made by firefighters within the department, it is evident that Pinocchio’s “Operation Salvage Rusty” is a dismal failure. Its only consequence is to now make the fire chief look like a buffoon as well as Pinocchio’s prize political crony.

The citizens of the City of Charleston are also faced with another moral quandary as they attempt to differentiate between the lies that Mayor J. Pinocchio Riley expects them to believe and, more disturbingly, the lies he tells himself and believes. His obvious confusion between what is reality and what he himself believes to be reality now constitutes a serious question that each city voter must answer as they cast their ballot on November 6th. As this tragedy continues to unfold, it is evident that Mayor J. Pinocchio Riley lacks the maturity as a leader to recognize the necessity for change. He is incapable of accepting responsibility, accountability or ever admitting he made a mistake. Consequently, there is no longer a foundation of trust and confidence between the current administration’s leadership and the citizens of the City of Charleston.

Notwithstanding other leadership failures of Mayor J. Pinocchio Riley, there is one lesson he has learned well – if he can control what the citizens of Charleston read, he can control what the citizens of Charleston think. This covert influence is manifested in the blatant absence of critical editorial comment in the Palter & Chatter following over two hundred published news articles covering the June 18th fire. The absence of critical editorial comment speaks volumes about the dictatorial power Mayor J. Pinocchio Riley exerts over the owners and editors of the Lowcountry’s only daily newspaper.

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