Camel Hair Coat Meets Poor Sick Folk (Part III)


           County Legislator Tom Buckel continues to fire questions at the call-taker at Medical Answering Services and the woman continues to tell him he has to talk to Wayne Freeman, the co-owner, who will be in on Monday.  He asks her why he’s been on hold so long, and she says, “Talk to Wayne Freeman.”  He tells her that he is recording the call and she tells him that all their calls are recorded.  Finally she ends the call and hangs up on Tom.  He says, “On Monday, they’ll play back the call.  They’ve got my phone number.  They’ll trace the call back to me.”  He grins and adds, “I don’t care.”

            I ask him if he really was recording the call.  He says no.

            We talk.  He is energetic; I am tired, and therefore quite willing to listen.  He tells me that legislative committees can hold hearings and subpoena witnesses.  They might call me.  I smile, nod and murmur, “I’ll be there.”  Tom says he is on both the Social Services and Health Committees, and they don’t know which one they’ll run it through.  They’ll have to get two Republicans to work with them.

            He tells me that Sam Laguzza took money from Wayne.  Tom also tells me that Sam is on his way out.  Sam is the chair of the Social Services Committee.  I called Sam on this issue four years ago and he refused to meet with me, but that’s not how he remembers it.  He says that he took my issues to DSS Commissioner David Sutkowy.  Like hell he did.  Sam wouldn’t even let me get close enough to tell him the problems.  We only had five-minute phone calls.

            In one of my conversations with David Stott, he said that Sam told him to watch and learn how to work with Republicans.  Stott laughed in Sam’s face, saying that he—David—had gotten elected in a Republican district and he didn’t need to learn anything.  The message, further articulated, was that Sam Laguzza had been working with the Republicans so well and so long that he had become one of them.

            When I ask Tom whose district I have just moved into, he says he thinks it’s Sam’s.  The district is so gerrymandered that it’s hard to tell without a map.

            I tell Tom about the vendors.  I tell him about David Butler at TLC and Mike Ousterhout at Adams Apple, and how Wayne Freeman, et al, engage in such intimidation and retaliation that the vendors won’t talk.  David has talked to DSS Commissioner David Sutkowy and Ann Roney, the deputy for human services, and neither did anything.

            Tom tells me that Ann and Joannie Mahoney—the new county executive—are both more-or-less okay, but Nick Pirro and John Mulroy (former County Executives) passed out contracts to whomever they wanted.

            Onondaga County elected its first county executive fifty years ago—Republican John Mulroy.  He ran the county for a quarter of a century then turned it over to Republican Nick Pirro, who ran it for another quarter century.  Nick and John.

            I decide not to tell Tom that somewhere in the newspaper archives there is a full-page headline that reads, “Woodlen testimony most damaging of trial.”  John Mulroy was part of a systematic scheme to shake down county employees for contributions to the Republican Party.  It happened back when Tom Buckel was still in Cub Scouts.

            Tom, who has been scribbling in the margins of my autobiographical essay, lays out his plan.  He’s going to find out about bidding the contract, find out what the state and federal regulations are for Medicaid transportation, find out a bunch of stuff.  (He is, I think, going to find out about me, too.  I wonder if anybody has thought to Google my name on the Internet.)

            I ask Tom when I should expect follow-up.  “Two weeks,” he says.

            It’s been half an hour, and he leaves to pick up his son.  I go back upstairs, crawl into bed, and think lovely thoughts.  The guys are going to take this on now.  I can rest.

            After rest, I go to the web sites for the Board of Elections, the League of Women Voters, and the Democratic Committee.  None of them have search engines that let you type in your address and find out who your elected officials are, but it doesn’t matter.  I will find out.

            I will be present at the Onondaga County Legislature’s monthly meeting on Tuesday (which is right after the Democratic caucus), and I will find my local ward leader.  I will go to meetings.  I will sit quietly in the back and I will listen; I will learn.

            Having spent seven years fighting the Republican executive branch, I will now move into the Democratic legislative branch.

            There is time, and so much to tell.  Sam Laguzza is on his way out and I’m in his district.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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