Maybe it was because the meeting started at 4 p.m. and lasted until 11 p.m., but Tuesday night's Suffolk Legislature meeting was especially raucous. The highlight -- or lowlight, if you will -- was a four-minute monologue from Legis. Jack Eddington (I-Medford) in which he 1) compared Levy deputy Ben Zwirn to Hitler propoganda minister Joseph Goebbels, 2) insisted a bill was not about his ego in the same sentence in which he referred to himself in the third person and 3) insinuated that County Executive Steve Levy's ego takes up the entire 12th floor of the H. Lee Dennison building.
It only makes sense to cite the entire thing in full, and thanks to WSHU radio's Charles Lane, we secured an audio clip of the five-minute speech and transcribed it below. For context, Eddington was attempting to make a cogent defense of his bill to require the police commissioner to secure legislative approval before making major policy changes like eliminating the highway patrol unit.
"I don’t think I’ve ever talked about a bill more. Although my wife is tired of me saying it, I just wont be bullied, bribed or threatened.
"As soon as this hit, there was a big press release that I’m the anti tax payer golden child or something. I have to tell you, I’m just not going to bend, I’m the chair of public safety. We’ve been working together with the committee for over three years. We asked for information. We don’t get it, we read it in the paper, major policy changes.
"I haven’t been here as long as some people. My understanding is that we make policy, and the county executive enforces policy. That isn’t what’s been happening. I asked nice, and then I subpoenaed and I still didn’t get stuff. We still read in the paper changes. I know that the deputy county executive is going to say that we want to micromanage. If anybody knows me, I’m not looking for more work. I don’t want to micromanage and I don’t know anybody on my committee that wants to. But if you’re going to make major changes, I would like to know about it.
"And, I think, if the commissioner asks the county executive whether this is good or bad, I think he should ask us. I don’t want to know about changing five officers from here to there. But I am concerned when you tell me that we’re going to put a new group of people on the highway. And I’m not saying whether, I’m not criticizing the sheriffs and what they’ve done. But when that happened, it had to make us stop and look.
Because the reason we were putting untrained officers on the highway was because they were cheaper. I am appalled when I hear that somebody that straps on a vest and a gun is put in harms way because they’re cheaper. But that’s been the tenor that we’ve been hearing for three years. It’s cheaper. Cheaper doesn’t make it right.
"And so I’m asking that we pass this so we can have some say in major fiscal changes, major changes in the department. Not minor changes. What I’ve been hearing, having the deputy here is interesting, because I want to quote another deputy, Joseph Goebbels, who was Adolf Hitler’s deputy. Because you know what he said, if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.
"Well I have to tell you, I’ve been seeing it in the press, I’ve been hearing it at committee. You can continually tell a lie saying we want to micromanage, it doesn’t make it true. What I would say to my colleagues is this, if you do what you’ve always done, you’re going to get what you’ve always got. I’m not happy with what we’re getting. If you are, then don’t support this.
"I think I’m seeing two or three other legislators putting in legislation that fits perfectly with this. we’re looking to change some policies that have been done over and over. We’ve all griped about it and all of a sudden there’s pressure from outside. There’s constituents telling us. People who have been on board with this legislation have mysteriously disappeared and phone calls all over the county with threats and innuendo. Well ill tell you im not buying it. If you don’t want to be on board, then don’t vote for it. But I think this is the right time and the right thing to do, and that’s why I’m putting it here.
"This is not about Jack Eddington. It’s not my ego. You want to look at an ego, there’s a whole 12th floor containing one. This is not about me, it’s about the public safety of the citizens. And that’s where we go wrong, when we lose sight of that. This is what its about. Now I have faith in the legislature that were going to do the right thing."
Later on, after Zwirn, who is Jewish, said from the Legislature's podium: "Never have I been so offended in the six years I have stood in this spot. It's improper and unbecoming of an elected officials. I was shocked, I found it absolutely reprehensible."
At this point, Legis. Jon Cooper announced his intention to introduce a bill to fire Police Commissioner Richard Dormer. This did not calm things down.
Later in the evening, Eddington apologized to Zwirn privately and then to the entire Legislature.
"I did want to apologize to him for my inappropriate historical reference," Eddington said. "It was unintentional and hurtful. I wanted to put on the record that maybe I should stick to saying less. I apologize to Mr. Zwirn."