Scott McNutt's Snark Bites: Hydra discovered to be working in local governments

By Scott McNutt

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Local political paleoanthropologists last week announced an astonishing find: The so-called Lernaean Hydra, the many-headed serpent that supposedly dwelt near the Greek lake called Lerna and long thought to be mythical, has been discovered alive and well and serving in the governments of Lenoir City and Loudon, Roane and Sevier Counties, drawing multiple taxpayer-funded salaries.


The hydra purportedly was slain by Hercules as the second of the demigod's 12 labors, but it seems it was mistakenly identified as the hero's victim through a mistranslation of the original Greek. The hydra, being from Lenoir City, is the Lenoirian Hydra, whereas the thing that Hercules slew is now thought to have been the Lernaean Hydrangea.


The Lenoirian Hydra was happy to answer questions about its many roles in several governments. It turns out that its heads do double or even triple public service.


The hydra's head named Antonio, for instance, serves as Lenoir City mayor, chief deputy for Loudon County and chairman of the Lenoir City Utilities Board, drawing pay for all three positions totaling about $69,000 per year. Antonio doesn't view his three government salaries as triple-dipping from taxpayers.


"My service in several different publicly funded positions benefits taxpayers; I'm multitasking to maximize government efficiency," he explained. "Like most Loudon Countians who approve of the job I'm doing, by the way I oppose big government. That's why it's critical to have one hydra head working assorted government roles, which cuts down on overhead, too."


Hydra heads Robby, Robby Jr., Billy, Biddy, Rosemarie, Teddy, Early, Ritchie, Stevie, Harry, Briana, Penny and Kimmy all hold two or more taxpayer-funded positions in Loudon County or Lenoir City. The heads agreed that their overlapping taxpayer salaries maximize efficiency. No noggins saw any conflict in holding sundry government billets.


Head Teddy, who works for Loudon County and holds a seat on the Lenoir City Council and LCUB, noted that the hydra's father, Smaug, served as the government of the Lonely Mountain region for many generations, maximizing government to its most efficient.


"Daddy was mayor, sheriff, judge, jury and executioner," he said. "Whatever ostensible conflicts of interest he may have presented by consolidating all government powers unto himself, he more than made up for by efficiently discharging his duties especially that of executioner."


Head Rosemarie, who was just elected to the Loudon County Commission and serves as chairperson of the Lenoir City school board, sees benefits to the same noodle serving different government entities.


"School board Chair Rosemarie can help Commissioner Rosemarie better understand school issues," she explained. "Plus, if any conflict of interest arises, we can resolve it internally, so externally, Rosemarie can smile a little smile for thee."


Head Julie, who is a Sevier County commissioner and works for the county's school system, has no problems with conflicts between different constituencies because all constituencies look alike to hydras. But if she ever encounters difficulty separating her duties, she has a simple solution: Different hats.


"If a task requires my full focus to be on school system duties, I just put on my 'school matters' hat," she said. "I have an 'I work on commission' hat, too. These chapeaux also help citizens recognize which me they're dealing with."


Head Roy, who serves as mayor of Kingston and was for many years a Roane County commissioner, agreed that conflict-of-interest charges are overblown regarding one head occupying manifold government functions.


According to Roy, all that's needed to avoid conflicts of interest is choosing the right head for each job, even if the right head for different jobs is the same head.


"As county mayor, I worked closely with myself as county commissioner to ensure we were never conflicted about any decision we made," he said.


Conflict doesn't arise in the concentration of power, Antonio said. Conflict springs out of the separation of powers in government.


"Consider the 'fiscal cliff' stalemate between President Obama and U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner," he said, observing that all government problems could be easily resolved if President Barack Obama simply controlled the House, Senate and Supreme Court.

"Believe me, separation of powers is overrated," he concluded. "All people really want is things to get done."