Sunday, August 12, 2007

Old days, same as the new days!

Indianapolis may not be an exceptionally corrupt U. S. city, yet last week it found itself in a situation even more idiotic than a game of button-button-who's-got-the-button into which a rowdy player has inserted a second button. Last week, Indianapolis had four "mayors."

It all began some years ago when Indianapolis welcomed the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan brought gutter politics. Last month Mayor John L. Duvall of Indianapolis was found guilty of corrupt office-getting in his 1925 election. The City Council asked him to resign. He refused, and appointed his wife City Comptroller. In Indianapolis, the City Comptroller automatically succeeds the mayor should anything happen to him.

Last week John L. Duvall felt that something was going to happen to him, so he put his resignation in the mail. Mrs. Duvall then served as mayor—for 15 minutes—long enough to appoint a new City Comptroller and then resign herself. Her appointee was one Ira M. Holmes, lawyer.

The Duvalls and Lawyer Holmes performed this shuffling before the City Council knew what they were up to; before the Council formally ousted Mayor Duvall and named Council President Claude E. Negley as mayor pro tempore.

That evening, Mr. Duvall ordered a burly police squad to guard "Mayor" Holmes's office against invasion by "Mayor" Negley. When "Mayor" Negley arrived in the morning, he found that "Mayor" Holmes had gone out for breakfast after an early morning vigil. Mrs. Holmes sat in her husband's chair, jealously immovable. "Mayor" Negley eyed her dubiously and loitered around the office. In his pocket he had a court injunction, temporarily restraining "Mayor" Holmes from functioning.

Then "Mayor" Holmes came in from breakfast, "Mayor" Negley grinned with relief. He flourished his injunction. "Mayor" Holmes grinned. Joking, giggling, each "mayor" drew a chair up to the mayoral desk and sat down.

"Mayor" Negley made a speech. "I think I'm Mayor. I appreciate the honor the council has bestowed on me in making me Mayor for a short time. I realize the responsibility that rests on my shoulders. I realize I will not be able to handle the situation by myself. I am going to consult with the various boards. . . ."

"Mayor" Holmes strolled away and made a speech himself. "I'm Mayor of Indianapolis, but I do not propose to function or interfere in any way with Mayor Negley till 10 o'clock tomorrow. Then I'll say to him: 'Come on over and sit down, Claude.' "

Two other "mayors" of Indianapolis were one Joseph Hogue and one Walter Myers. They contended that, by Mayor Duvall's conviction, his election in 1925 was voided. Joseph Hogue claimed office on the ground that he was City Comptroller in the administration of John L. Duvall's immediate predecessor, the late Lew Shank. Walter Myers claimed office because he ran second to John L. Duvall in the 1925 election.

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