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Dose of common sense needed in Angels Camp

    Some fascinating stories unfolded last week in Calaveras County.
    •  First, there’s George Fry, an Assembly candidate from Angels Camp who took a 44-year-old brain-damaged woman with him to a conference in San Diego last month. Five days later, unable to find her, he drove back to Angels Camp without telling her family, the police or anyone else that she was missing.
    • Then comes Carol Woolf, Angels Camp’s chief water plant operator. She was reprimanded by the City Council for having the temerity to attend a meeting with state officials for discussion of plant improvements. That Woolf knows more about the Angels plant than anybody seemed lost on the council, whose members had a different agenda and wanted no interference.
    After their strange stories wound down, Woolf resigned, but Fry remains a candidate for the Assembly. Neither of which seems quite right.
    Consider Fry, whose story is bizarre enough for one of those true-crime TV shows. Except that the would-be lawmaker committed no crime beyond having poor judgment, barely believable naivete and questionable character.
    Because Fry is a member of the Calaveras County Mental Health Advisory Board, it is somewhat understandable that he would journey to a conference with Marita Anttila, an acquaintance having problems receiving proper benefits.
    But that he traveled with this woman for nearly a week, then abruptly left San Diego on a Friday without her (but with her luggage) defies logic. That he searched for her for just 90 minutes before driving off makes little sense. Making even less is saying he had to leave Anttila behind because he was without cash or credit sufficient to pay for even one more night at the hotel.
    Fry only dug himself a deeper hole on returning to Angels, not reporting Anttila’s disappearance to the police, not contacting her family, then abruptly selling the car in which he had driven her to the conference.
    Although San Diego police found the missing woman unharmed 10 days later, and Fry has been cleared of any wrongdoing, a deeper mystery remains: What reasoning or motives led Fry to make the inexplicable decisions he did?
    Both Angels Camp Police Chief Dale Mendenhall and Anttila’s family question his behavior, with the chief labeling it “irresponsible.”
    More clear, however, is that Fry’s is not the kind of judgment voters in the 25th Assembly District want or need in Sacramento. To cut his own considerable losses and spare us a campaign full of distraction, Fry should immediately withdraw from the race.
    Carol Woolf has no such issues. As Angels Camp’s chief water plant operator, she had a right to be at a December meeting with state health department officials in Stockton.
    In fact, a key state official had asked her to be there.
    Trouble is, Councilman Rick Downey and Mayor Jack Lynch didn’t want her there, were surprised and dismayed to see her and claimed her presence “undermined” negotiations between the city and state.
    The council members hope to avoid installing a $1.5 million fourth filter at the Angels water plant and feared the operator would be at cross purposes with them. The filter issue has yet to be resolved, but Woolf was disciplined last month for “insubordination.”
    Specifically, the council members faulted her for failing to notify them she would at attend. Woolf countered that city protocols required only that she inform the head of administration, which she did.
    Nevertheless, she was issued a warning letter and last week resigned: “I don’t think I could work in good conscience with the existing council,” she said.
    Unlike Fry, Woolf has logic and character on her side. Her expertise merited a place at the table in Stockton, and council members’ efforts to exclude her lead to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that they had something to hide.
    As for Woolf, she was wronged and has nothing to apologize for.
    A host of job offers since the resignation show that her reputation, deservedly, is intact.
    The City Council’s, on the other hand, may need some rehabilitation.

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The Union Democrat 05/22/15

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