In the pantheon of Modellian greatness — the one over on Brookpark Road, just past the Fox's Den — there is but a short list of qualities that ensure an individual's rightful membership.
Honor. Determination. Gratitude. It sure ain't any of those, but damned if we can remember what they are.
And through the years, no man has more tirelessly exemplified those principles of exacting stewardship than the incomparable Art Modell. It is in his honor that we gather today to celebrate those who, in this year gone by, climbed the ladder of depravity straight into the penthouse of incompetence, where they gleefully sipped from the goblet of malfeasance and viewed the basic-cable network of ineptitude.
Sadly, Art could not join us for this year's festivities, given that he has died, or gone into hiding at a Boca Raton Waffle House. Anyway, he hasn't returned our telegrams in decades, so we're bracing for the worst.
But though our grand honoree could not be with us today, his spirit burns bright in the deeds and handsome caricatures of the noble imbeciles whom we honor today.
Art, as we all know, had an enduring fondness for the expression "People? Screw 'em. Let's round up some broads and have 'em make sandwiches."
It is in keeping with this timeless sentiment that we proudly present the winners of the 2011 Art Modell Awards for Incompetence & Depravity. As Art would surely say, if he weren't hiding in a broom closet, or possibly dead: Broads and sandwiches for all!
C. Ellen Connally
As Cuyahoga County's gloomy cloud cover of corruption gave way to the scattered skies of reform, C. Ellen Connally rode a lightning bolt of righteousness, singing the praises of open government as she jockeyed for a seat on the first county council. But C. Ellen specialized in that classic brand of campaign-trail goodwill: the kind that ensures happy election returns, followed by free rein to draw dirty cartoons in the county's new ethical playbook.
So it was that C. Ellen earned a plum seat on the council. And for her first act of business under Cuyahoga's fabulous new government, she organized a closed-door session with a select group of her open-government friends, such that they could secretly conclude that C. Ellen would make a fine council president. Because, technically, the "open" part doesn't start till January 1, right?
When word got around that C. Ellen had launched Cuyahoga's new era with a vaguely illegal meeting, she sagely responded with a shit fit suitable for a Lehman Brothers boardroom.
Quoth C. Ellen: "Leadership is not the public's business."
As the smoke settled from her inaugural tirade, the new president made headlines again when talk turned to acquiring software that would allow the public to — horrors — keep an eye on what their government servants are up to. This notion, too, did not sit well with C. Ellen, who had been rather enjoying the peace and quiet of zero scrutiny and saw no reason to ruin a good thing. In a bout of verbal diarrhea, she noted the new system would be too damned expensive, then followed that with the admission that she had no idea what the actual tab would be. But it was sure gonna cost way more than free secrecy.
Better that we worry about feeding the poor, she said, in a deft change of subject. Knowing what elected leaders are up to, she rightly pointed out, does not serve the public good.
The C. Ellen highlight reel included shouting down the authority of the county's newly created inspector general — the gig charged with making sure the public dime is fueling a functional candy machine. She noted that it's in nobody's best interest to share the county's in-house dirt with the kind of meddlers who might want to actually do something about it.
C. Ellen capped her year of open-government adventure with a secretly proposed shift of all council meetings from evening to mid-afternoon. If it was an ace move to free up her schedule for Dr. Oz, it was also another opportunity to spray shaving cream down the pants of her adoring public: 3 p.m. meetings tend to be a tad difficult to attend when you're out working or caring for kids. Alas, your kids are not C. Ellen's problem.
Yes, hers is a most refreshing brand of cantankerous cluelessness, a beacon of folly in an era when political theater in these parts has been reduced to fond memories of fat guys in bad suits being kissed by bricklayers. It is with this in mind that we present C. Ellen Connally with this year's Modell Award for Nostalgic Reverence to When Scumbags Ran This Dump.
For 22 years, venerable Vern Hartenburg was Mother Nature's chief lieutenant in Cleveland. As executive director of the Cleveland Metroparks, he was charged with making sure the grass got cut and that CVS and Walgreens kept their asses up on the hilltop where God intended. By all accounts, he was pretty good at this.
During Hartenburg's tenure, the park wiped out lingering memories of scandals within the department and grew the place by 2,300 acres. Under his watch, the RainForest was built at the zoo, followed by Elephant Crossing this year — twin projects that cost the system $55 million and were greeted with great fanfare and new jobs for dung sweepers.
Widely regarded for his honesty and commitment to volunteering with religious groups, Hartenburg also stepped up security in the parks. He fashioned a phalanx of 75 rangers, whose duties included random, twice-monthly stings aimed at snuffing out the perverts and creeps who intrinsically love to ply their trade in the company of Bambi.
It was the kind of career that gets guys' names on signs out front of important buildings — and that's exactly what the Metroparks did for Hartenburg at its Valley Parkway headquarters.
All of this would properly set the stage for anything other than what came to pass on the afternoon of November 4. It seems the 64-year-old Westlake resident was enjoying his first autumn in retirement by parking at the Memphis Picnic Area of the Big Creek Reservation and communing with nature in that ages-old fashion: by sitting by himself in his car. With his pants weasel hanging out.
For today's savvy pervert, Craigslist and various weekly news sources have elevated the art of skankiness to a more nuanced and calculated undertaking. But King Vern always was an old-fashioned kinda degenerate.
Unfortunately, he had chosen to air out his acorns on the very day his former employer happened to be operating a sting. An undercover ranger pulled alongside Vern's car. When the ranger approached on foot, Vern treated him to a peek. Alas, this gesture did not achieve the desired effect. The ranger arrested his former boss' ass and charged him with public indecency.
Hartenburg has entered a plea of not guilty in Parma's Municipal Court, where proceedings will get under way this month. In the meantime, it is with great reverence that we present him with the Award for Distinguished Service Followed Immediately by Incomprehensible Acts of Pervitude. Remember, Vern: All exposure is good exposure in The Book of Modellian Achievement.