ON THE AVENUES: David Duggins’ violent “jokes” will continue until the New Albany Housing Authority’s morale improves – or Duggins is fired. We advocate the latter.


ON THE AVENUES: David Duggins’ violent “jokes” will continue until the New Albany Housing Authority’s morale improves – or Duggins is fired. We advocate the latter.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

(Randy Smith provided significant assistance in writing today’s column)

At last.

It took a few days, but finally a local journalist has gotten around to covering an important story about the inexcusable abuse of power by a public official.

Jtown Attorney To Thieneman: “I’ll Do My Damned Level Best To Break Your Neck”,by Rick Redding (Louisville KY)

Jeffersontown city attorney Schuyler Olt ignited a firestorm of controversy Jan. 23 when he started an online fight with Chris Thieneman over the treatment of police in the media.

The post that started the brouhaha by Thieneman was simply a screen shot of a story by Joe Gerth in the Courier-Journal headlined, “Police must root out racist officers.” It concerned Prospect police officer Todd Shaw’s racist remarks that led to his firing.

Olt, who claims on his Facebook page to be a minister at Carlisle Presbyterian Church, responded first with a comment claiming that Shaw’s behavior was “horrible” but adding that the job is stressful. The two traded comments until Olt ended that part of the discussion with “You, quite frankly, kinda suck” …

… The most damaging comment from Olt came later. Thieneman took a screen shot of the damaging post, which Olt has since deleted. It amounts to “terroristic threatening” as defined by Kentucky law: KRS 508.080(1)(a) covers the most commonly encountered form of terroristic threatening and requires (1) a threat to commit any crime, which is (2) likely to result in death, serious physical injury, or substantial property damage to another person. “Crime” means any misdemeanor or felony.

Here is that comment: “I’ll do my damned level best to break your neck.”

Olt eventually apologized for his threats, saying his anger got the best of him. Thieneman called for Olt’s resignation; after all, can Olt be trusted any longer to tame his anger?

There’s a line in the sand, and when a public official pole-vaults over it, an apology simply isn’t enough. Rather, we see the misbehavior as clearly marking the transgressor as temperamentally unfit for the job; if he or she also is professionally and intellectually unsuited for the job, then it’s an even easier call.

At least Olt actually appears to be an attorney, although it remains to be seen if the business of preaching is best served by the use of brass knuckles as opposed to Bibles.

And this brings us to Monday’s eventful meeting of the Synod of Sanctimonious Sycophancy, otherwise known as the New Albany Housing Authority’s handpicked board of current and former Gahan for Mayor campaign donors.

This is very serious, indeed.

After the board’s Monday meeting, David Duggins threatened a client by suggesting that a New Albany police officer “shoot” the client, who is a resident of a New Albany Housing Authority (NAHA) property.

In the meeting, Duggins — appointed on an interim and well-remunerated basis last year by New Albany mayor Jeff Gahan to direct the affairs of the annexed housing authority — was challenged by a spokesman for We Are New Albany, the activist group seeking to prevent an announced program to demolish publicly owned properties and to reduce the number of clients served by as much as half.

Duggins offered a lengthy defense, which was videotaped and shared on social media by Brandon Brown, a resident, a client, and the Vice President of We Are New Albany.

(This writer, too, is a member of that organization.)

By late Monday, I had been made aware of the incident and by mid-day on Tuesday had verified the events to the best of my ability.

The question arises: Did Duggins threaten Brown? Did whatever Duggins say cause Brown to feel threatened?

Brown had just videotaped Duggins’ very public speech, which dripped with condescension. It was less a reply to a question than a self-aggrandizing polemic. There is no dispute that Duggins is annoyed with, if not dismissive of the We Are New Albany group.

Brown was holding a conversation with the city police officer assigned to NAHA, Officer Schneider, when Duggins interrupted from across the room: “Brandon, are you on my side?”

Duggins approached Brown and Schneider, then said that if Brown were to videotape a meeting again, Officer Schneider should shoot him (Brown).

Brown was startled at the casual, offhanded violence of the instruction, which Duggins promptly amended: “Well, just shoot him with your Taser,” the interim director told Schneider.

(In the vernacular, Schneider was told to use his law-enforcement-approved Taser™, or generic “tazer,” to inflict an electric shock designed to temporarily disable Brown.)

Subsequently and outside the building, Brown approached an acquaintance and told her what had happened. As she looked on, Duggins ran hurriedly from the building, yelling “You know it was just a joke, right?”

Officer Schneider is not strictly under the direction of Duggins, to be sure. He is a sworn officer under the direction of the New Albany Police Department. Yet, his current job is full-time service to NAHA properties, and it’s reasonable to believe that both Brown and Schneider felt that Duggins, as the mayor’s appointee, would be able to exert at least some compulsion toward Officer Schneider.

In any event, Schneider did not rebuke Duggins. The threat was retroactively diminished, almost certainly because both Duggins and Schneider knew it was, at a minimum, completely inappropriate – and this recognition came within a few minutes of the interaction.

Did Brown feel threatened? Did he believe Duggins could direct retaliation toward him? Brown says with certainty that he did, on both counts, and the tone of Duggins’ laughter suggested the interim director was intrigued with the idea of hurting him.

I believe him. Three days later, is Brown safe?

We can’t know for sure. It worries me. He has filed an incident report with the NAPD. He has filed a complaint with the mayor’s office. The Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has been informed of the incident. Assistance and counsel from civil rights attorneys have been sought. And Duggins’ employers, the board of directors, have certainly been informed in anticipation of a formal complaint.

Context does matter. Brown is a vocal and visible opponent of the mayor’s plan to demolish public housing. He is not a “buddy” of Duggins. In fact, as a client, he and his family are vulnerable to myriad actions that could affect his well-being.

I’ve spoken to Brown and others this week. There is no question that Duggins’ instruction was inappropriate. None. Zilch. Nada.

But it raised a question in my mind – a question that has dominated public discussion for several months. What is inappropriate behavior and what is the proper consequence to mitigate it?

Imagine for just a moment that Duggins had made a crudely sexual suggestion to a client, then downgraded it just a bit from, let’s say, sex to groping, only then to come back at the client to say it was only a joke.

Would a man or woman be within their rights to complain?

The question now must be put to Mayor Gahan. Is this type of conduct to be tolerated in city government? Isn’t this something that requires a public response? Does the city have a zero-tolerance policy for threats of violence, sexual assault, abuse, and harassment?

And finally, will disciplinary action be taken by the mayor or the NAHA board of directors? By HUD? Via legal action?

Or, yet again, it is to be swept beneath the increasingly bulging bunker throw rug? Gahan never has been in a hurry to animate his Human Rights Commission, the enabling ordinance of which was written by none other than Stan Robison, currently one of Duggins’ sworn enablers on the housing board.

Now we know why the HRC is up on blocks in the street department’s garage.

For today’s column, I’m soft-pedaling the polemics, although it should be said that in recent weeks, Duggins has comically rushed between Egg McMuffins at various area McDonald’s, pathetically spluttering about “fake” news and “false” rumors.

But rest assured there’s nothing fake or false about Duggins’ blatant unsuitability for his current position. Had Brown “joked” about shooting or tazing Duggins, would he have gotten away with it? Would he even have made it from the meeting room uninjured?

Only with power comes the “right” to say it was all a joke, and make no mistake: Duggins’ threats to Brown were all about power. So was Gahan’s hostile takeover of public housing. People? They’re just in the way.

Perhaps you remember the entertainer’s explanation last fall of why he masturbated in front of women:

“When you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them.”

If, like Brown, you find yourself wondering whether a highly paid public official with a policeman standing by his side is joking – that’s a bit of predicament, isn’t it?

Jeff Gahan owns this predicament. For too long, Duggins has been empowered, and we see clearly what this means to him. Duggins needs to go, and he needs to go immediately, before someone gets hurt.

We’re looking at a dick, Jeffrey. How can Duggins ever be trusted after this?

Recent columns:

January 18: ON THE AVENUES: During our State of the Gahanaissance Address for 2018, feel free to resort to hard liquor. I did, and will.

January 11: ON THE AVENUES: Return to sender; decency is such a lonely word … the sounds of silence reign o’er me.

January 4: ON THE AVENUES: Opposition? It is defined as resistance or dissent, expressed in action or argument, and in New Gahania, now’s the time for it.

December 28: ON THE AVENUES: It’s the beginning of the end of insipid Gahanism, so let’s look back at the Top Ten columns of 2017.