If the gay man is protected and the homophobe gets fired, does it matter to you if the “hero” who made it happen acted from a sense of justice, or used the gay man to exact revenge?
Every kid has a strategy for asking his parents permission when he expects the answer will be “no.” For me, it was to ask my dad because my mother nixed everything that didn’t have the Catholic imprimatur indelibly attached and two nuns riding shotgun. I learned very early in life the best time to hit him up was the morning, when my mother was busy downstairs with breakfast, and before the inevitable irritations of life could sour his mood. I would sit on the edge of my parents’ bed, waiting for the moment when he tied his tie and put on his cuff links, rehearsing my argument, and listening to the early morning radio program coming from their very chic pink clock radio with the black clock face.
Nine times out of ten, my timing brought me to my parents’ room just in time to hear radio icon Paul Harvey’s syndicated feature: “The Rest of the Story.” Each day Harvey, who was kind of a smaltzy Andy Rooney, would read a poignant human interest story, work the old heartstrings to twanging territory, cut to commercial, (which he read himself,) and then he’d tell the “rest of the story” – the unknown fact which changed everything, like the dog that saved the baby from the fire only had 2 legs, or the lonely old woman in a nursing home, who died hording a fortune in gold, turned out to be her nurse’s long lost sister thought to have died in Auschwitz.
I ran into a “rest of the story” situation myself this week, while researching a story I wanted to tell you. I thought it was going to be a “can’t tell a book by it’s cover” type cautionary tale about Mayor Mary McAngus, a sweet-faced great-grandmother, whose Facebook page offers knitting patterns for baby hoodies, but who is also a raging homophobe. And about Police Chief Mark Proffitt, who seems like the typical hard-ass small town cop, but who stepped up to champion gay equality. I really wanted to tell that tale, but now that I know the “rest of the story” I have my doubts that it is true.
You may have bumped into this story in the last week or two. Fourteen months into her term, 78 year-old Mary McAngus resigned as mayor of Pomeroy, a village of about 1800 in southern Ohio, after the police chief, Mark Proffitt, compiled a case documenting her homophobic comments about Kyle Calendine, the new patrol officer Proffitt hired, who is openly gay. At first blush, Proffitt seemed like a hero we could all get behind. He did hire the town’s first woman, and first black officers. So maybe. But maybe not.
In the fall of 2011, the year before Chief Proffitt hired gay officer Kyle Calendine, he suspended a patrol officer named John Kulchar. The mayor of Pomeroy at the time was John Musser, a full time insurance agent, and Proffitt friend. It appears Chief Proffitt had Mayor Musser’s full support in asking the council to fire Officer Kulchar.
For some reason, it was Kulchar’s father, Dale, who appeared before the council to defend his son, though I find it bizarre that any father who isn’t a lawyer, or possibly a hostage negotiator, would speak for his adult son in a professional dispute. We know John was at the council meeting because Chief Proffitt was reported to have warned both Kulchars beforehand not to “liable” him, but the record states it was Dale who read a letter from Officer John Kulchar, asking for an open, on-the-record hearing regarding his suspension. The letter went on to spell out accusations of corruption against Chief Proffit, and Pomeroy Police Lt. Ronnie Spaun. Officer Kulchar asked for Mayor Musser and Council President George Stewart to recuse themselves due to bias, which both declined to do. I would love to ask Dale how he came to be involved, but he died unexpectedly in December, at the age of 62.
In his appearance before the council, Dale Kulchar accused Chief Proffitt and Lt. Spaun of running a scam, in which they dismissed or reduced charges on people arrested for DUIs. News reports say the Kulchars presented evidence they claimed proved their accusation of corruption. Although I never could find a list of the charges made against John Kulchar, I did find his response to them. What jumped out at me was that Council President George Stewart originally indicated to Kulchar he was in trouble because of a brutality complaint, but when Chief Proffitt compiled his list of charges against Kulchar, brutality was not mentioned.
While the council deliberated about John Kulchar’s future, the citizens of Pomeroy elected Mary McAngus, a former council member, to the office of mayor. Chief Proffitt lost his “godfather” and protector, Mayor Musser. Two days into her term, as one of her first acts as mayor, Mary McAngus told Chief Proffitt to reinstate Officer John Kulchar. Proffitt refused. So Mayor McAngus fired him. Proffitt protested his dismissal to the council, and by a 3-2 vote, with his wingman President George Stewart supporting him, Proffitt got his job back. If human nature applies, I’m sure you can see why Chief Proffitt would not be nursing warm fuzzy feelings toward Mayor McAngus.
John and the late Dale Kulchar must not have swayed the council to their point of view. I found John working as a deputy in the nearby community of Athens, Ohio, and no mention of an investigation into Pomeroy Police corruption reported in the Ohio media. But Officer Kulchar’s exit left an opening on the Pomeroy Police Force. You guessed it, enter gay patrolman Kyle Calendine, and his “flamboyant” partner Harold Barnhart, whose visits to the police station are what seemed to have set off the 78-year-old mayor’s rampant homophobia. All Chief Proffitt needed to do was follow Mary McAngus around, and write down everything she said.
So did Chief Proffitt just happen to hire gay patrolman Kyle Calendine at that particular time in Pomeroy history by coincidence? Did he and his political cronies, Mayor Musser who ran against her, and George Stewart who served on the council with her, really have no idea Mary McAngus was a flaming homophobe? Or was hiring Kyle Calendine a deliberate chess move, not to advance gay equality, but to get rid of a political enemy?
I suppose if you are inclined to think the best of people, you will decide Chief Proffitt is a man of sterling character, unjustly accused by the Kulchars, and unjustly suspended by Mayor McAngus. You will accept the premise that Chief Proffitt, after all his years on the job, just happened to hire his first gay officer at that particular time, completely oblivious that his nemesis Mayor McAngus was homophobic. You will honor Chief Proffitt as a friend to the gay community, without a thought in his head about getting revenge on the woman who tried to fire him.
If you are less trusting, or have had experience with small town law enforcement, you may be more susceptible to the picture of the vengeful chief, plotting Mary McAngus’ fall from grace with his political cabal. You’ll have no trouble imagining him searching through the background of gay applicants until he discovers Harold Barnhart blowing kisses on his Facebook page, knowing he had found the means to send Mayor Mary McAngus, whom he knew all along to be anti-gay, over the homophobic cliff and out of his business.
If you are of a more pragmatic disposition, you will admit we will probably never know the truth of the situation, and be satisfied that the gay guy got the job, and the homophobe lost hers. I suppose that’s reason enough to cheer. But I, for one, am conscious of a lingering unease seeing Chief Proffitt lauded on the LGBT websites as a gay hero, if what he really did was use a gay officer to get an elected official out of his way, so he can continue selling DUI mark downs.
Today, Pomeroy Ohio Police Chief Mark Proffitt, and the rest of his story, are On Our Radar.
Jean Ann Esselink is a straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Columnist for The New Civil Rights Movement. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle.