Imitation they tell me, is the sincerest form of flattery. But I'm really not all that sure.

Recently, it has come to my attention that there are those, well to be a little closer to the truth, there's been one who's fancied himself a bit of a reincarnation of your's truly over Warren County way.

Now it seems this Stiles wanna-be has gotten to thinking that what I once did there in Monmouth and have done elsewhere to a certain extent, was simply a matter of climbing on top of a given subject and whipping it just short of puppy chow.

Now that is an approach that works for some. But they usually have a little bit more to go on than what I'm told has been emanating from this guy's computer recently in Monmouth.

So, I want this so-called flatterer of mine to take what follows in these many lines as sort of on the job training, as it were. You can consider this as nothing more than a round about ''letter to the editor, once removed'' and more or less destructive criticism.

In the little over three years since I've been away it seems that Maple City politics haven't mellowed much -- if at all. And, as I've often noted, just the names change requiring new scorecards.

Now, lemma get this straight, because the last thing I want to do here is make any factual errors.

It seems that current Mayor Shawn Gillen, the product of the last political mess to blow through Monmouth when I was still in town, managed to make a few hundred dollars worth of unauthorized purchases on the City's credit card. And for this bit of stupidity, it has fallen on a local Willie-come lately to call the mayor to task, which, I am informed he has done.

I must confess here to a little jealousy, as there is nothing I like better than the sight of a politician with his pants down around his ankles in the midst of an embarrassing mistake. However, once the deed is done and the blame assessed, I always found it best to simply move on to a new case, of which there are always plenty.

So, at the risk of piling on myself, I will point out that Mayor Gillen displayed a definite lack of judgment and even less intelligence in this farcical faux pas.

Now, that having been said, I would next like to point out that there are few, and I mean a minuscule amount, of elected officials I'd throw a rope to if they were sinking in a mountain of outhouse leavings. And one of the very few is current Warren County State's Attorney Chip Algren.

If Chip says he could prove little more than stupidity in the actions of Mayor Gillen, then I believe him. And since that is tantamount to saying that he could find no ''criminal intent,'' as there is no proof of same, then I would be the last one to try and publicly read his mind as to whether he may or may not have believed such intent existed.

And thank God. If stupidity, especially among elected officials, were an indictable offense, we'd need twice the prison space to hold the idiots.

Furthermore, I never ever let my sense of the hunt overrule my sense of proportion, which brings me to my next point of order.

Now, while I would have a great time making fun of Gillen or any other politician caught in similar circumstances, I would certainly never presume to try and tell reasonably intelligent individuals in Warren County or anyplace else in the state of Illinois that this silly credit card caper made Gov. George Ryan's tenure as our former Secretary of State pale by comparison.

And that is essentially what is being passed for acceptable journalistic reason in the birthplace of Wyatt Ear these days.

Someone, who calls himself a journalist by proximity and writer by virtue of the fact that as a publisher he can command someone under him to print his offerings, expects us to believe that Gov. Ryan, a man whose reputation and approval ratings are plummeting faster than a thermometer in January in a 40-mile-per-hour north wind, is of unimpeachable moral character because he comes to Monmouth and stands before a stacked GOP audience and waxes poetic about his problems with the state's media?

We are told that at least Ryan made himself available to the citizens of Monmouth in his hour of scandal and ''was ready to answer their questions.''

Well, I have a question of this scion of print; How many of those citizens, yourself included, asked any questions on this matter of this pillar of political piety?

You tell us you have ''seven questions'' that you practically dare Mayor Gillen to answer. How many questions did you have for Gov. Ryan?

By virtue of the fact that the good governor got away with at least $170,000 in ill-gotten bribe receipts, turned over to use in his run for governor, he's at least entitled to a commensurate number of inquiries, don't you think? How many questions should a man of such high character, office and bank account be subjected to?

And the guy over in Monmouth trying to do a lame imitation of me can't even bring himself to ask one question of a man who oversaw a statewide office that allowed hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bribes to purchase unearned commercial driver's licenses? Not to mention a man who quite probably should be held at least partially responsible for the deaths some of those licenses ended up causing.

And instead of asking even one of these so-called ''seven questions'' of a man who is clinging to his current office by the proverbial skin of his teeth, this bulldog of the press wants us to believe a small town mayor who misspent $365 is somehow of lesser character?

This journalistic amateur in Stiles' clothing sans red hat tells us he asked one of Gillen's defenders at what point does the amount of ill-gotten gain make a mountain out of a molehill? And I believe that supposed amount was a mythical $5,000.

So then tell me, just where does at least $170,000 fall on this sliding scale between misadventure and criminal intent. I would suggest it's quite a long way past $365.

Look, a man who had the opportunity to ask the scandal-ridden chief executive of this state one question and did not, but whips himself into a foamy lather over $365 in credit card debt which was eventually repaid, has, as another old saying puts it, absolutely no room to talk.

Because, while Gov. Ryan, in your estimation at least displayed this great ''conviction of character'' by simply lashing out at ''all the negative press and publicity'' surrounding his problem, you sir have displayed none at all, let alone very little in the way of courage. I can only assume that you were not wanting to find yourself counted among those members of the press who have the journalistic integrity to know the real difference between rooting out scandal and a witch hunt.

It is clear you neither did your thinly disguised job as a journalist when you had the opportunity in the presence of the state's biggest scandal, and your incessant whipping of your mode of conveyance in a much lesser instance has left you afoot.

My advice?

If you want to be like me, do a little more homework. And it's about time to call the dog food factory for that dead horse you're continually beating. It's starting to smell, and I don't care how many calls, cards and letters you get to the contrary.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online May 9, 2000

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