The tragedy of the two nightclub infernos in Rhode Island and Chicago during the past two weeks should provide a wake-up call for Mayor Ken Murphy, regarding his confrontations with Payson's Fire Marshal Jack Babb at the Ox Bow Saloon during Rodeo last August.
A close reading of the just-released 240-page Arizona DPS investigation report leaves a reader with these conclusions, among others:
1) The mayor's knowledge of fire safety regulations and the specific limitations and crowd flows of the Oxbow was negligible, and remained minimal a month-and-a-half later when he was interviewed by DPS detectives;
2) While the mayor reluctantly acknowledges that he probably should have handled the situation differently (rather than yelling at Babb, flaunting enforcement of the regulations, and then taunting Babb to arrest him), the reality is that he never should have intervened at all. When public fire safety is weighed against foregone or deferred profits of any business (purportedly Murphy's concern), safety wins hands-down.
3) Murphy's penchant for abuse of power (to paraphrase Chevy Chase, "I'm the Mayor and you're not!") may have been accentuated by his drinking. Whether or not he appeared inebriated during the incidents on successive evenings, depends on which witnesses you view as more credible.
While "non-coms" may jump at the bark of a lieutenant colonel in the military, we're fortunate that Payson's law enforcement professionals are not so easily cowed. The DPS report is well worth reading to learn not only what transpired, but how various parties behaved toward one another; however, at $49 per copy, it would be nice if the public library had a reference copy.
Don Crowley, Payson