Monday, June 29, 2015

Do you know who I am?

The county's PR guy had a county-owned car, which he and his wife drove to a wedding in a neighboring county. Alcohol was served. The wife was charged with DWI. The county PR guy -- who tried to strong-arm the traffic stop by playing the "do you know who I am?" card --  got a seven-day suspension, and can't touch his fleet car for 30 days.

Not the actual DWI stop.
By Highway Patrol Images (BN 201 VE SS
 traffic stop), via Wikimedia Commons
It's fair to say things didn't end well.

That's all we really know about Justin, his wife, and the unnamed third person in the car at the time of the arrest. The Monroe County Executive -- herself a former TV journalist -- has labeled this a personnel matter, and sealed the details from voters. So much for transparency.

But it's not about the county executive, who's ending her term-limited stint in the job. It's about the PR guy, and what should pass for judgment when your paycheck comes from local taxpayer's wallets.

Full disclosure: about 20 years ago, I worked for a different Monroe County Executive in the very same job. My "perks" consisted of a parking spot next to the county office building. Where I could park my five-year-old Ford, because no one offered me a county-owned vehicle.

I never thought to ask for a county car. I wasn't a law officer, nor was I directly engaged in emergency preparedness. My role was to offer strategy and counsel, write speeches and news releases, photograph events, pitch story ideas, and respond to reporters' questions.

Today's county PR guy pretty much has the same responsibilities. None of which require a county-owned car. Which the rules say shouldn't be driven outside the county.

Speaking of rules: the county PR guy has more of a legislative/political science background than deep public relations experience. So he might want to consider adopting the following:
  • Nothing positive ever comes of telling any police officer, "Do you know who I am?" Ever. Especially when you're far from the county where someone really knows who you are. 
  • The 24/7 media circus never stops, even when you're off-the-clock. So managing your personal brand is a more than a full-time job.
  • Don't do anything to tarnish your boss' legacy. Because she may be headed for higher office, and now it's less likely she'll ask you to tag along.
  • Don't drink and drive. Or allow someone who's had one less than you to drive. Especially when neither of you own the damned car.
Happy Motoring.

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