Hall Monitor 

A former PD editor still makes great headlines.

Ever wonder what Plain Dealer reporters do in their free time, besides making fun of the preening politicians, corporate bores, and narcissistic jocks they're forced to write about? They sit around and make fun of the preening, corporate, and narcissistic editors they used to work for.

Take the latest source of newsroom snickering, which arrived care of The DePauw, the student newspaper of Indiana's DePauw University. Last fall, administrators began investigating the school's Eugene S. Pulliam Distinguished Professor of Journalism, a.k.a. David Hall, a.k.a. Plain Dealer editor from 1992 to 1999.

According to The DePauw, the inquiry was initiated after a female student complained that Hall had inappropriately kissed her at a campus event. Hall, not surprisingly, had a different take. "I leaned over and was just glad to see her," he said. "I gave her a peck on the cheek. She felt otherwise, and I respect that."

In his time at DePauw, Hall seems to have taken the trip from professional newsman to professional weird guy. A year ago, he admitted to showing up for class under the influence of alcohol and prescription medicine. He eventually had to be escorted away and later wrote an apology to his students.

Despite his bouts with the bizarre, Hall remains at the school. Apparently he has taken away some important lessons from the ignominy. When The DePauw asked him about the classroom incident, Hall replied: "I was told not to use alcohol with pills . . . I knew better than that." Which just goes to show the importance of higher education.

Wrong Number

Pop quiz: You've just filed the biggest corporate bankruptcy in history, after revealing that you cooked the books to inflate earnings. How do you start making real money again?

If you're MCI WorldCom, you stick it to a captive audience.

The company, which has a contract with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to provide phone service to state inmates, recently began calling people who receive collect calls from prisoners.

The message: Pay us $50 up front, or forget about talking to your loved ones anymore.

An MCI spokeswoman claims that the company isn't getting paid by some local phone providers for collect calls received by their customers. Yet MCI refuses to say how much it's getting stiffed for. (Apparently, that whole bankruptcy thing didn't provide any new lessons on openness.)

So, to avoid the cumbersome task of taking its beef to the companies actually stiffing it, MCI is demanding that customers of those local providers pony up $50 up front. Those who don't will no longer hear from their pals in the pen.

It's not like customers have the option of going with a competing carrier, since MCI has a monopoly on inmate calls. "You don't have a choice but to make a collect call from jail or prison," says Emily Edwards, director of the Women's Re-Entry Resource Network, which advocates on behalf of inmates. "You can't even use a calling card. You have to call collect."

But, as always seems to be the case with consumer issues, the state claims its hands are tied. "MCI is authorized to set up their billing any way they want," a DRC spokeswoman says.

Bitchin’ in Brook Park

The juiciest gossip at Brook Park City Hall revolves around allegations that Mayor Mark Elliott holds a bias against the city's female workers. Police Dispatcher Robin White claims that Elliott demoted her after she complained about the safety director, who she says was leaving her out of safety meetings.

Another dispatcher, Mary Lou Dunn, is furious because patrol officers, all of whom are men, get training pay, while dispatchers -- mostly women -- do not. Both filed separate claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission earlier this month.

"They don't like females to be in the higher echelon, and so I'm thrown somewhere where I don't belong," says White, who went from supervising the city's police dispatch to running the service garage dispatch. Her chief offense, she believes, was expressing an opinion to male higher-ups. "They didn't like that a woman spoke up -- and that she was right," says White.

Maybe so. But in the same conversation, White expresses suspicion that a mutiny was afoot among her underlings. Dispatchers were going over her head to complain about her to Safety Director Michael Von Duhn, White admits, so they may be responsible for her fall from grace.

Dunn also admits that there may have been a rebellious faction. But what upsets her is that, not long after Dunn demanded training pay for dispatchers,Von Duhn ordered her to see a counselor. Von Duhn told her it was due to one incident when she had a nervous breakdown on the job and another when she cussed out a colleague over the public address system, she says. But in her eyes, it smacks of "retaliation."

Neither Elliott nor Von Duhn returned Scene's calls.

Fortunately, both Dunn and White promise to sue the city, so there is a chance that this fascinating snafu will play out in excruciating, court-documented detail. To see your tax dollars at work, join us at the trial.

Adventures in Babysitting

Jim Jenkins has the coolest job God hath conceived: He is paid to follow around his friend/hockey star/flaming alcoholic Theo Fleury, for the singular purpose of keeping him off the drink -- and on the ice. For this, the Chicago Blackhawks pay Jim $200,000 a year.

First Punch knows lots of professional drunks. None, unfortunately, has converted his pursuits into a patronage program for his friends. But Jim's job may be available soon.

After an early season suspension for violating his rehab agreement, Fleury seemed safely on the wagon this winter. Then he arrived in Columbus last week. At 4 a.m. on the day before he was to play the Blue Jackets, Fleury was thrown out of the Pure Platinum strip club. Being a good hockey player, he promptly got into a brawl with the bouncers. And he was, according to witnesses, very much wasted.

This obviously won't look good on Jim's performance review. So First Punch phoned the Blackhawks, asking where one might apply for the best job in the world. Spokeswoman Barbara Davidson greeted our query with a long, cold silence. "Bye bye," she finally said. Click.

Apparently the team isn't accepting applications yet. We'll keep you posted.

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