When Department of Public Safety lieutenant colonel Charlie Warner summoned the troops in the Criminal Investigations Bureau to an emergency meeting on February 14, many officers believed a St. Valentine's Day Massacre was at hand.
"We thought the Hells Angels had declared war," says one DPS officer.
But instead of strapping on the riot gear, Warner read his officers the riot act--for talking to the media, specifically New Times.
Warner's knickers are knotted over a New Times cover story ("DPS: Department of Political Safety," February 6) that recounted Warner's remarkable rise to power. On orders from Governor J. Fife Symington III himself, Warner, once a member of the governor's security detail, rose from a lieutenant in early 1995 to assistant DPS director in December 1996. He's now in charge of two key divisions, the Highway Patrol and Criminal Investigations Bureau.
Warner, who told New Times his greatest asset as a manager is his interpersonal skills, had that velvet touch working on February 14. He told the assembled officers, some of whom were called in off surveillance operations, that if they had a problem with him, they should settle the differences by stepping outside, man to man.
"He threatened physical violence rather than going to the press," says one DPS officer.
Warner isn't the only top dog at DPS who's pacing the kennel. DPS director Joe Albo issued an electronic message to DPS employees on the day the New Times story hit the streets.
"The article painted a false picture of what is happening in the agency and subjected some of my friends and co-workers in the department to criticism based on jealousy, rumors and innuendo," Albo's e-mail complained.
Albo seems to have forgotten that it was he who stated (in a taped interview) that Symington directed him to promote Warner with unprecedented speed.
It is Warner's lack of experience and rapid rise to power that have infuriated the rank and file at DPS.
Warner and Albo are so upset about the swelling rebellion within DPS ranks that a review of DPS telephone records is under way to see who has been making calls to New Times.
Meanwhile, DPS employees and their families keep New Times' phone ringing off the hook. Perhaps Warner and Albo will order a tap.
It was aptly billed as "Canyon Creek Capers," a conservation workshop hosted each year by the Arizona Game and Fish Department to give the general public a chance to rub shoulders with Game and Fish personnel and commissioners, not to mention actual game and fish.
The most recent was held in August at Canyon Creek, just below the Mogollon Rim. As part of an "aquatic education" program, it included a fishing clinic. Which is a lot like calling baby-harp-seal clubbing "fur orientation."
The clinic was held at the department's Canyon Creek fish hatchery, where rainbow and threatened Apache trout are bred for release into state streams.
However, according to the game laws, fishing is strictly forbidden at "Posted boundaries of State or Federal hatcheries." This was truly a Canyon Creek caper.
Last week, somebody slipped The Flash a videotape chronicling the clinic. The tape opens with a close-up of a "No Fishing" sign, then pans out to the happy pupils holding fishing poles around one of the hatchery's ponds. Allegedly, even some commissioners were shown, though it's hard to identify anyone.
Catching fish in a hatchery could be compared to shooting them in a barrel. But, hey, all fish caught were released, and the fishing clinicians used hooks with barbs that had been bent to render them less damaging to the fish.
Red-faced Game and Fish officials admitted the gaffe.
"I think it was a very honest mistake," says Rich Beaudry, the department's information branch director. "I think the intent was right and the feelings were that it was legal."
When Beaudry perused the state game and fish laws, he had to admit that there was no special dispensation for Game and Fish personnel to fish at a hatchery. And accordingly, Beaudry thinks that the law will be rephrased to allow more such clinics to take place.
The Flash assumes that if the clinics are successful, the department will consider other long-overdue educational opportunities: out-of-season elk hunting with state legislator Jean McGrath; annual aerial antelope stampedes on the Barry M. Goldwater Gunnery Range; or even an owl-fricassee class with the Fifester.
Shameless TV Hype
Does KNXV Channel 15--the station formerly known as "No Chit Chat"--need to have its mouth (both sides) washed out with soap?
The Flash can't help wondering, following a bizarre phone call received at home last Thursday night. Pioneering a new low in sweeps-week ratings grubbing, the station hired a bank of phone solicitors to promote a sleazy segment on that evening's 10 o'clock newscast. Randomly calling would-be viewers, the operators then delivered a lurid come-on about the "13 million" sex addicts wandering amongst us--a stale story fleshed out with strip-joint footage and porno movie clips.
As of press time, station manager Mike Kronley wasn't available for comment about his tawdry brain child. However, one insider whispers that more than a few station staffers are privately shaking their heads over the intrusive gimmick and reports that viewer complaints are piling up.
Still, KNXV wasn't the only station to resort to carnival hucksterism to lure viewers last week. Who needs a news hook when you've got footage of a tattooed man with a giant scorpion crawling across his face? Not KTVK Channel 3.
During Wednesday night's 10 p.m. newscast, Patti Kirkpatrick and company almost chucked their Chee-tos after treating viewers to a taped performance by the Jim Rose Circus--in Denver. All the on-camera talent was so busy gagging that no one ever got around to mentioning that just two days earlier, the stomach-churning crowd-pleasers had performed at Electric Ballroom in Tempe.
Cooler heads must have prevailed after a memorable KTAR-AM staff meeting several weeks ago at which the station's frenetic California import, news director Andy Friedman, came up with the sort of idea that made staffers wonder whether Friedman was hired to make news or cover news.
To raise money and donated equipment to replace baseball gear stolen from the West Central Little League, Friedman suggested--and general manager Marc McCoy approved--that KTAR sports commentator Brad Cesmat be buried up to his chin in the pitcher's mound on a West Central Little League diamond.
The wheels began grinding in KTAR's public relations department as visions of headlines and a spike in audience ratings were anticipated.
But then someone wondered how Cesmat would take care of his, er, bodily functions if he were buried in a pitcher's mound until adequate donations came rolling in.
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It might be hours, maybe days--as it was when Cesmat camped out in KTAR's Road Runner One at America West Arena until the Suns won their first game of the season.
The Little League promotion came off, but without burying Cesmat. KTAR conducted a sedate remote, with appropriate donations more or less lined up in advance with plugs for Jerry Colangelo and the Diamondbanks, Pepsi and others for donating equipment and money.
One KTAR staffer groaned that the original buried-alive gimmick should've been done--but with news director Friedman stuck in a hole.
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