Op-ed by Peter Children of Mason City –
Comes now Eric Bookmeyer; problem drinker, some time trouble maker in Clinton, Iowa where he and his physician wife migrated from. No one could have imagined it at the time but when the Mercy Hospital hired this woman and her husband Eric tagged along, what catastrophic consequences it would create in this city. The effect was diabolical and it was immediate.
At the time no one was aware of the danger that lurked around us. Bookmeyer was nondescript, did not stand out in anyway….but once he was thrust onto the scene as mayor and his first order of business was to do away with the public forum at the council meetings, this turned out to be a foreboding signal that caused people to take a longer look at this stranger amongst us…..but it was too late, the infection had already spread. By March of 2010 three department heads filed complaints against the mayor for harassment and hostile working conditions. The city administrator Trout brushed it off; he had already assumed the role of baby sitter for Eric. It was Trout who helped carry the mayor out of the O.P. after the establishment had refused to serve him further.
So now the real Eric begins to unravel before us; and it isn’t a pretty picture. It turns out he’s a stumble drunk, walks into tables, knocks over drinks……and at times can’t walk on his own. And it does not happen once, it happens over and over in one bar after another; now this points to possible illusions of impunity, or privilege, or maybe he thinks he’s invisible. There was one incident that happened in a beauty salon east of town. This incident has been totally verified. The story begins when Eric entered a hair salon east of town with the intent to have his hair cut. When the beautician who was to cut his hair informed him that there was one other person ahead of him, he asked her if “She knew who the f**k” he was. Then and there in no uncertain terms he informed her that he was the “f**king” mayor and he demanded to be seated forthwith and without delay. Who knew he was that important?
The first item on his agenda in 2010 was to cut the budget of the Human Rights Department to the point it could no longer remain open. He thought he had the necessary votes needed with Tornquist, Hickey along with Solberg & Weaver….but Weaver decided to go a different direction and the vote ended up tied causing the measure to fail. This stumble drunk was relentless, he became fanatical in his quest. When commission members’ terms expired and needed renewal, he refused, when understudies were ready to fill the seats of retiring members he refused to appoint them, instead he used the opportunity to install people of his own ilk to fill the seat. This is a nine member board, and his thinking was to put enough of his own appointees on the board to shut it down internally by having them vote to shut the doors. At this point I should interject some facts; Cohl Bultje served as his campaign manager during his run for mayor. Bultje was the son of the director of I.C. Systems, a debt collecting agency located behind Wal-Mart. This agency had several complaints on file against it listed at the Office of Human Rights….need I go further or can you figure the rest out by yourself?
His obsession grew like a malignant tumor; when Sandra Servantez -a long time understudy on the commission- applied to fill a recent vacancy….she was denied. When she attempted to address the issue at the council meeting he had the police remove her from the podium. He had that department audited, the only one, no other departments were subjected…..then he got his dream council. Nelson and Marsters terms on the council expired and Weaver lost in his re-election bid. After the new council was seated, research has showed that after close to 100 meetings of the new council, a no vote was never heard. Eric was now more dangerous than ever.
Travis Hickey wasn’t satisfied to merely be another lap dog, he wanted to be recognized as something he could never achieve….that of being looked upon as intelligent. He then set out to disrupt more than one city department with threats of extreme upheaval…..and he had a perfect mayor to pitch to. Bookmeyer was and still is eager to construct a legacy, something that he will be remembered for, something besides being a spectacle in the local watering holes.
Bookmeyer then announced that the sanitation department would be open for bids from the private sector to haul the city’s trash. Of course the council fell all over themselves to accommodate him, but few bids came in and none were lower. It meant absolutely nothing that the fate of 11 families hung in the balance, long time loyal city employees….and it meant nothing to those on the council as well. Next in line was the Fire Department; Hickey had figured it out that by changing the work shifts the city could save money; but as expected Hickey was out of his element and the city walked away. Somewhere in there was an attempt to spend $20,000,000.00 on a hockey rink. We already had a hockey rink at the fairgrounds….but it wasn’t good enough. He immediately named a hand picked panel who would decide if we needed it and if the city could support it. This panel consisted of more than one whose business could benefit from this edifice quite nicely. I don’t have to tell you what their finding were……
Next to come to town was a company that burned municipal waste. They had been trying to find a community that would welcome them, they promised upwards of 50 jobs, but their methods were untested and the emissions could possibly cause cancer…this was considered a serious threat to the people living here. Bookmeyer wanted the facility built, this could be his legacy…cancer perhaps. He cared little about the poor and downtrodden by closing the Human Rights office, why then would he care about anyone else? There was a school yard and daycare near where the burning plant was to be built….he didn’t care……..
Weaver’s term had expired as the city’s representative on the landfill board and in his place Eric installed Tornquist his #1 lackey and someone cut from the same cloth. The landfill board consisted of 13 members with weighted votes proportioned by their individual usage; Mason City’s vote carried one third of the total vote and was the largest….but there was still two-thirds of the vote made up with the remaining communities. The Clear Lake member cast the deciding vote that defeated Bookmeyer’s wishes.
What I have chronicled here is but a brief sketch of what certainly purports to be a much larger problem, one which lies under the surface of someone who is floundering on the pathway of life…. maybe it’s the shock of moving from the back seat of a squad car to the front seat, maybe it is paranoia brought on by copious amounts of alcohol, maybe it’s the need to prove something to himself. Each of you who read these words will come to your own conclusions. As for me, I see the mayor as acting with malaise and purposeful disregard as in the case of the HR department. This also would be the case in interfering in the city departments…. families jobs were at stake. This is a small town, we all know one another…what difference would have 2 or 3 dollars have made in the cost of picking up our waste…..would you throw 11 families to the wolves for that kind of money?
The money spent to move a desk, along with money used to fund a failed business program at NIACC equaled that of the HR department budget…..the $265,000.00 given to the Museum could have been halved. Stop the bullshit; tell the truth….this was the most vicious form of malice; total disregard of those who need our help…unimaginable.
As a community we don’t need this turmoil; we have a weak mayoral form of government headed by a city administrator. Eric has not conformed to whatever that is….and Trout is incapable of taking charge. Just remember the final facilitator is the city council; this is were the real malice lives. This city is a prime example for study in every civic class in the country; it shows the effects of what can happen to a quiet community when people leave the voting to others…..let this be a lesson to everyone who stayed away from the voting booth. Nothing you may own, nothing in your house, not the money in your bank account, nothing is more precious than your right to chose…..to vote; my God look out the window and see the price we’re now paying.