The ax of retribution

Mayor's action reeks of political revenge

May 15, 2003

The resounding question echoing through the community today concerns why a reputable, talented, experienced and hard-working engineer/administrator for the city of Terre Haute could be unceremoniously fired from his job.

The administrator, Pat Goodwin, lost his job as city engineer Wednesday morning at the hands of Mayor Judy Anderson, who was defeated in her re-election bid last week.

In taking such harsh action, Anderson not only stripped Goodwin of a position in which he has performed admirably, she robbed the city and its taxpayers of a valuable and trusted public official who exhibited nothing but high ethical standards and unabashed honesty during his tenure in City Hall.

In truth, Goodwin has probably been doomed in his position since last winter, when it was reported by the Tribune-Star that the mayor's adult son, Matt Anderson, was reprimanded by Goodwin last fall for a potential conflict of interest in his job as an inspector for the Sanitary District.

Goodwin was straightforward in dealing with the matter, and went so far as to explain that he was pressured by the mayor's office to hire her son in the first place. And he also did not shy away from revealing that the mayor had overruled his efforts to bring what he viewed as a serious breach of conduct before the Sanitary District board.

A recent disagreement over which consulting firm to hire for engineering work on the proposed underpass at 19th Street and Margaret Avenue may have brought tensions to the boiling point. Goodwin was on the opposite side of the debate from the mayor.

We had hoped — even pleaded — that the mayor would not exact revenge on her perceived enemies in the wake of her miserable showing in the primary election. It's clear from her decision to wield the ax against Goodwin that the public's lack of confidence in her is well-founded.

Goodwin, an engineering graduate of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, is a consummate professional and a credit to both his profession, his alma mater and his community. While he is undoubtedly reeling from losing a job he loved and at which he excelled, we're confident he will rebound nicely from the experience.

What's more, Goodwin is a class act. Indeed, he may find that getting far away from this floundering, lame-duck administration will be best for him in the long run.

Meanwhile, the public would be wise to keep a close watch on Anderson and her administration in coming weeks and months. Just because she has already lost her election does not mean the community should not hold her accountable for her actions and for the actions of her administration.