“Under the Influence” by James Jay Schifrin


image017The big news last week in Patronage County was the grand-jury indictment of former Commission er Victor Spoils.

“It’s shocking!” said special persecutor Marvin Mandamus at a tearful press conference on the courthouse steps. “Spoils actually tried to use his influence to get a county job after he left office.”

Spoils administrative assistant denied the charges. “I’ve known Commissioner Spoils for ten years. His only fault might be that he’s too naïve and trusting of the people around him. I’m confident he’ll be cleared of any willful wrongdoing,” he declared.

But the present commissioners echoed the outrage:

Commissioner Pilfer, who arrived from his other job in a county welfare car, said, “It’s the worst case of fraud I’ve ever seen. He must’ve asked every official in the county for a job. Guys like Spoils five the system a bad name.”

Commissioner Filch returned from the Inauguration in Washington in time to meet the press. “How disgusting,” he said. No wonder the taxpayers of Patronage County think we’re all a bunch of crooks.”

Commissioner Swindle, who defeated Spoils in the November election, said, that he hated to see this happen to anyone, even a Democrat. But he added, “If we don’t draw the line, the next thing you know, people will be conducting political campaigns from the courthouse.”

Then they all agreed, “We wouldn’t be surprised if Spoils had been using his influence the whole time he’d been in office.”

Spoils was dragged out kicking and screaming. Then they ran him out of town on a rail. He offered no apologies. But in an exclusive interview with TV anchorman Rick Schottleclooney, Spoils asked a curious question that no one has been able to answer.

“Damn!” he said. “If I’d been using my influence all these years, why would I need a job?”

image015This op-ed column first appeared in the feisty Mt. Washington Press on February 4. 1980.