By David Anderson, Tillicum
At least as important if not more so at the 84th Oscars was not so much who won what but who dressed best and who outlandishly worst (she wore that?).
The Academy Awards are one of the most prominent award ceremonies in the world in which directors, actors and writers are recognized for excellence in, well, acting – pretending to be somebody they’re not (we give trophies for that?).
Meanwhile, over the river and through the woods, actually a lot of rivers and woods – it’s a long buggy ride after all from Hollywood to Sugarcreek, Ohio – there is an Oscar-worthy performance for all the wrong reasons.
“The Sugarcreek Scandal” sounds like the children’s adventure stories of Nancy Drew and the Sugar Creek Gang except in this case it’s the adult version and it has left “an ugly scar on the landscape of hamlets, farms and buggy-traveled lanes in this eastern Ohio Amish country, one of the largest clusters of Amish and Mennonite settlements in the nation.”
On the eve of the Academy Awards for acting, the New York Times is reporting that one of the Amish’s own, “the elderly Monroe L. Beachy, a respected financial figure in his community for decades”, has been arrested for acting – pretending to be someone he’s not. In her investigative report entitled “Broken Trust in God’s Country”, Times reporter Diana B. Henriques writes that Beachy is “accused by federal prosecutors of running a Ponzi scheme that betrayed his neighbors’ trust and wiped out more than $16 million of their savings.”
“More than a dozen churches, church building funds, fellowships and ministries lost money in Mr. Beachy’s downfall. One family’s losses included the emergency savings relied upon by its daughter and son-in-law, serving as missionaries in Central America.”
How could this happen – in “God’s Country” for God’s sake – a postcard community depicting “a gentler and simpler America, about as unlikely a place imaginable” for such a crime?
The same reason it can happen here – and did.
Lakewood, Washington is not known as “God’s Country”, far from it. Despite the fact that there are 52 churches serving a population of about that many thousands, Lakewood is also home to four casinos and at one time (2005, when there were six casinos) infamously hoisted the banner – “state non-tribal gambling capital”. And at one of those casinos one of our own trusted police officers – treasurer in fact – of the Lakewood Police Independent Guild is charged by federal prosecutors with 10 counts of wire fraud for allegedly having withdrawn $4,000 in $500 increments from an account that was meant for the children and families of fellow officers killed in 2009. While some of the money paid for toys, “a bigger chunk went to gambling – 50 withdrawals from cash machines at casinos in Pierce and Thurston counties.”
But that’s not all. KIRO-TV reports a new investigation in which the officer also “stole campaign contributions from fellow officer Brian Wurts, who ran unsuccessfully for a state House seat in 2010.”
And that again is not all. There is a “significant amount” of money missing from the dues the guild receives – about $70 a month, $76,600 a year – from the more than 90 police officers, detectives, investigators and sergeants that make up the guild. Eric Bell, new guild president who has replaced the recently resigned Wurts, says both treasurer Skeeter Manos and Wurts “thwarted” repeated requests for review of the guild’s accounts.
And even that’s not all. Adding significant insult to substantial injury that continues to unfold and unravel in our hamlet of a community, the state legislature will soon hold a public hearing in Olympia on a bill that would expand gambling in Lakewood and throughout the state. Like a washer in spin cycle, HB 2786 would further wring dry from citizens money that is hard-earned and hardly-expendable.
Not a few large organizations in Lakewood – in addition to the police department – have hitched their gambling-revenue-filled wagons to the cash-cows of their citizens – their very own people they were sworn to protect and serve. The gambling lobby in turn has convinced the legislature – some of the elected representatives anyway – to in affect exacerbate the problem in the name of raising money for education. Meanwhile across the country the serene silence and simple lifestyle of Sugarcreek has been shattered by a pretender.
How will the watching audience judge the performance of our state, let alone our city?
The envelope please?