Joe Henderson Columns
Henderson: Faced with crises, judge did it right, Hoe didn't
Two public figures in our fair city were involved in separate but highly embarrassing situations in the past week. One of them handled it properly from the start. One of them had to be hounded to do the right thing. Circuit Judge Tracy Sheehan was forthright after she was arrested in Ybor City and charged with DUI. She has admitted her guilt to anyone who asked, and she plans to do that in a real courtroom as well when she stands before a judge. She didn't hide behind her robe or lash out when asked awkward questions by reporters.She didn't even ask for a blanket while she sat shivering in her cell while waiting to be released. She didn't want any appearance of special treatment. And then there is William A. "Hoe" Brown. Until Friday, he was the Tampa Port Authority chairman and big political operative, although a better title would be slumlord. He owned and operated an illegal and disgusting trailer park in Seminole Heights to which police had been called 76 times in the past year for a variety of problems. He resigned from the port board and others late Friday, but it was hardly an act of contrition. He was all but chased out by people wielding pitchforks and flaming torches. In his resignation letter to Gov. Rick Scott, Brown noted, "Simply said, this is the right thing to do." Ya think? His credibility was in such tatters, even Sheehan, in a brief moment of levity Friday, told me, "At least I'm not Hoe Brown. Talk about a crisis management situation run amok." Let's take a moment to examine how Sheehan managed her crisis. It began as she was sitting handcuffed in the back of a squad car, waiting to be taken to jail. "Fortunately, I wasn't so deluded by alcohol that I couldn't figure out right away that I couldn't hide," she said. "The officer, very professionally, says, 'I am asking you to submit to a breath test.' The lawyer in me is going, 'Don't do this.' I mean, I knew darn well I was going to blow over the legal limit. "But then I thought, wait a minute. You're a public person and don't have the luxury of due process. I needed to take ownership of this and the public deserved to know what was going on." The public found out soon. Her blood-alcohol content was about twice the legal limit. "I was at the gym after this and a friend said, 'I'm so mad at the newspapers. How dare they put this in there.' I told her no, be mad at me. I put myself in this situation and I deserved a public outing. "As a public figure, that's what I have to expect when I do stupid things. It's not like it will just go away if I pretend it doesn't exist." That's the way Hoe Brown should have approached it from the start. Like Sheehan, he created his own mess. It shouldn't have taken increasing public pressure to make him do the right thing. Tracy Sheehan made a big mistake, but from the start she realized something important. There is a higher standard when you're in the public eye. Yes, even for Hoe Brown.