Lucky for me I was at Ed Brand’s declaration of independence a few weeks ago when he announced his autumn retirement. Of course I didn’t realize how fortunate I was until this week when the public was told the high school district superintendent would be placed on leave beginning July 3. The leave ends Oct. 1. After that, we won’t have Ed Brand to kick around anymore.
But Brand did something for me that day his fellow board member (and Iraq war veteran, and only unindicted member of the school board, and City Council candidate, and former city councilman, and the world’s best dad/husband, and patriotic American) John McCann couldn’t, wouldn’t or didn’t know how to: he answered a simple question.
It feels like ages ago when I caught up with McCann after a City Council candidates forum where infrastructure, transparency and government accountability were some of the evening’s talking points.
I asked him if he had the school district’s attorney draft a letter to us asking for a retraction and apology regarding a column in which I’d stated a judge denied his request for a temporary restraining order against a member of the public. (A judge did grant the TRO; it was the permanent injunction that was denied.)
It was, I presumed, a simple question with a simple answer. But apparently not. McCann told me he needed to get home to his kids and that we’d talk after the election. After the election? But why? What was the big deal?
Even though I offered to walk with him to his car I didn’t get my answer that night.
But when I saw him at Brand’s retirement presser I figured great! They had offered to hang around and answer any questions we might have for either of them. Did he have an attorney draft a letter to us asking for a retraction or did he know about a separate letter issuing a cease and desist notice to a critical member of the public? In my mind those are interesting queries.
Given that the school district’s attorneys charge hundreds of dollars per hour and, money aside, why involve lawyers when a phone call — to me anyway— would have sufficed? But what do I know? Maybe if I had access to publicly funded legal counsel and thin skin I’d have them send letters on my behalf. Was McCann doing that? He wouldn’t say.
Not yes. Not no. Just references to past columns I’d written.
His kids must have been waiting somewhere because he seemed to want to leave in a hurry.
Frustrated I turned to Brand. He couldn’t recall all of the letters I referenced but the one to our office he did. And he gave me a simple, direct answer. Yes, he had it sent. And, he clarified, McCann didn’t have anything to do with it. Of course in hindsight that raises a couple of interesting follow up questions. I could ask McCann but now Brand’s no longer around to answer.
I’m going to miss him.