Those of us of a certain age often look at photos of ourselves from, say, half a decade ago and grit our teeth.
The worries, an illness here and there, maybe a breakup, a lay-off or a firing, the years themselves — they all transform that more innocent, perhaps that happier face. Place a picture of today’s face next to that of five years ago and the gritting of teeth may became a full-out grimace.
Imagine how Amy Gerstman must feel today.
Five years ago she was full of glee and hope. She was being sworn in as the Monroe County Auditor, the person in charge of the county’s checkbook, the guardian of our treasure.
Herald Times Photo
The most recent portrait of her was taken in the bowels of the county jail early Monday afternoon. She is now an accused felon.
As much as I was repulsed by her alleged misdeeds with the county’s dough when news of them first started trickling out, I have to say I feel for Gerstman now.
What is it exactly that I feel? Sorrow? Pity? Relief that it’s she and not me whose all-too-human failings are being paraded in the newspaper and even on Indianapolis television stations?
Something drove her to do what the special prosecutor says she did with county-issued credit cards. Something that could — and perhaps does — reside in any of us.
Gerstman, according to the indictment issued by Barry Brown, was so desperate for cash that she jiggered expense account claims and used county credit to pay some of her personal bills. When she was running for County Auditor, her first stab at elective office, back in 2008, local Republicans wondered why we’d turn our books over to a person who’d had a long history of personal financial irregularities.
She’d dodged a misdemeanor conviction for writing a bad check to Kroger once and, according to Republicans, had small claims and eviction actions taken against at least since 1993.
Amy Gerstman isn’t the only person in the world to find herself making panicky financial choices. But from 2009 through this past January, she was the one human on this planet entrusted with five county-issued credit cards and the responsibility to make sure Monroe County’s cash was being spent wisely and properly. She was the wrong person for the job and the voters of Monroe County knew it when they went to the polling place five autumns ago. Her actions might have been criminal, but our slavish loyalty to Democratic candidates was criminally stupid.
Perhaps it’s easy for me to criticize. I hadn’t arrived in Bloomington yet in the fall of 2008. I’m confident, though, I wouldn’t have voted for Gerstman after hearing revelations of her dicey money handling skills. Not that I’d have violated my own oath never to vote Republican after that party fought tooth and nail in the late 1970s and early ’80s to prevent passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. I’d have done what I always do when offered a choice between the GOP and a Democratic bum — I’d have voted for neither.
You may say I’m taking the easy way out when I do that. You may even say it’s a dereliction of my voter’s duty to make a choice. You may be right. Still, I refuse to give my moral and electoral approval to a candidate who doesn’t deserve it.
And Amy Gerstman deserved nobody’s approval for the job she was seeking in 2008.
A jury just might send Gerstman to the joint for a spell. I wonder what our penance should be.
The Origin Of Life
Get yourself over to Finch’s Brasserie tonight for this year’s first summer session of the Bloomington Science Cafe.
Patrick Griffin, a graduate student under Arndt Schimmelmann in IU’s Department of Geological Sciences, will talk about the origin of life on Earth beginning at 6:30pm in Finch’s upstairs room. Griffin currently is working on stable isotope ratios in protein and amino acids but don’t worry, Science Cafe speakers tailor their presentations so a layperson can know what in the hell they’re talking about.
The Science Cafe is one of the joys of living in this college town. Organizers Alex Straiker, Jim Wager-Miller, Natasha Mura, and Marta Shocket put together a usually riveting presentation featuring speakers ranging from internationally-known scientists to students working on their initial research projects. Straiker himself packed the house in February with his talk on the science of marijuana.
Funny this week’s topic should be the origin of life on Earth. Last night, unable to sleep, I threw the lid of my laptop open and logged in to Stumble Upon. One of my Interests is science, natch, and I was directed to site called Neatorama, specifically a feature on Prehistoric Oddities. There I learned about an ancient critter scientists have named Diplocaulus magnicornis — Maggie for short, I’d guess. Maggie lived some 270 million years ago in what is now Texas. I could try to describe how weird Maggie was but I’d never be able to do her justice. Trust your own eyes on this one:
See? And you thought science class was boring. See you tonight at Finch’s.
I was on the news beat for WFHB in 2008, and there were multiple red flags fanning the air around Gerstmann … but it was 2008, and so many people – including most of the IU student population – voted a straight Democratic ticket, sweeping Ms. G in to office. I wound up voting R because I wanted competence more than I wanted purity handling County finances. I wonder if we have learned anything from this. The student voters, of course, have graduated and moved on.