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BINGO – Charleston has another lackey legislator defender of its former Fire Chief
Lee Walton

With not even a week’s respite between their Palter and Chatter pleadings, another member of the local legislative delegation has sprang to the defense of former fire chief Rusty Thomas in yet another thinly veiled attempt to divert the blood hounds of justice from the scent of criminal negligence charges leading down a three-year old trail that may ultimately end on the steps of Charleston City Hall.

This past Friday, it was Democratic Representative Anne Peterson Hutto’s turn to be the defender of former CFD chief Rusty Thomas. In his Palter and Chatter commentary a week ago, Representative Chip “RINO” Limehouse rationalized the tragic deaths of nine firefighters as unfortunate consequences of fire code violations and questionable building variances. This time around in her “Letter to the Editor”, Hutto blatantly choose the time-honored liberal, in-your-face, good-old-boy defense as she shamelessly extolled the virtues of Rusty Thomas and his family’s long service as the near century old bulwark of the CFD.

Either Hutto is the unheralded Thomas family genealogist with an amazing knowledge of every member of that family for over the past nine decades, or as is more likely the case, she had LOT’s of help from one of the Mayor’s closest closet cronies to ghostwrite her “Fine example” that dripped with strikingly familiar “world-class” platitudes and praises for her much maligned and unappreciated hero.

In case the voters of House District 115 have forgotten, Democrat Hutto received considerable assistance from the Riley Administration and Thomas during her first state house campaign two years ago. Apparently, it’s either pay-up time for these past benefits given by Mayor Riley and his stable of sycophants and gadflies, or she’s gearing up for another campaign this fall and is all too willing to jump at a quid pro quo when offered the chance by Riley.

As for Thomas, even the city’s own appointed panel of experts cited command failures as the predominant factor in the CFD’s unstructured and uncoordinated response to the Sofa Super Store conflagration that ended in the tragic loss of nine brave firefighters. Neither Riley, nor Hutto, nor Limehouse, or a thousand like sycophants can hide what is now accepted as documented and collaborated fact. When faced with the greatest professional challenge of his career, as a leader, Rusty Thomas “choked”. He simply “locked-up” and was incapable of providing the quality of instantaneous decisions necessary to save the lives of those under his command. Either through a lack or intelligence, knowledge, or professional instinct, he simply could not provide the wisdom and guidance demanded in that terrible instant of need. He failed as a leader – pure and simple.

Criminal negligence – maybe, or maybe not, but one thing is certain. On the early evening of June 18, 2007, Charleston’s fire chief came face to face with the Peter Principle, slammed headlong into it and fell far short of the demands required to prevent a terrible tragedy.

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