Tim Gordon was, for some people’s money, the perfect state legislator, the kind who gets nothing much done — nothing, at least, of any great consequence.
Consider this: While a lot of politicians these days push for nanny laws and regulations — think smoking bans, think trans-fat prohibitions, think Mayor Mike and his heavy-handed push for breast milk (just so long as it’s less than 16 ounces) — the former assemblyman left a mark at the Capitol that is delible (I know “indelible” is a real word, but “delible”?).
How darned disappointing, then, was the news that Tim got himself canned from the $87,500-per political plum he had plucked upon his defeat two years ago by current Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin (who insists that I always explain that we are not related. I mean, this guy Steve does not even spell the name right).
After four brilliantly unremarkable years in the Assembly, Gordon had gotten himself appointed head of the New York State Breeding Development Fund, one of those so-called public benefit corporations, the benefit of this one accruing to the standardbred industry: in other words, harness horses. It was sort of a parting gift for a lawmaker who said he was “independent” but never rocked the boat, always voted the right way — with the Sheldon Silver-led Democratic majority.
Sources say Tim got fired for repeatedly flouting the rules of that equine body and many warnings from his board of directors.
They say he tried to hire his buddies and then listed them as consultants on the payroll, plus he allegedly signed contracts for slightly less than the $15,000 limit that would require board approval.
Tim was quoted pleading innocent: “Everything I did was appropriate and ethical.” He said the board of directors simply decided to “go in another direction.” That one, the “go in another direction” explanation, is the third favorite of all time. One and two are “planning to spend more time with family” and the ever popular “exploring other opportunities.”
But consider this, politicians firing a fellow politician! Egads, unheard of — it just does not happen! Think Disney ousting Mickey! Think Katie Holmes dumping Tom Cruise (no, wait a minute, forget that one ’cause it really did happen).
But even during his salad days at the Capitol, Tim Gordon struck his fellow politicos, even the Democrats he caucused with, as a bit of an odd duck. Insiders tell me that Tim spoke little in those closed-door caucuses and was paid attention to even less.
He wore cowboy boots on the Assembly floor, probably reinforcing downstate perceptions of us upstaters as cow-chippers. They were probably the same cowboy boots Gordon wore, along with a western hat, when he uprooted McLaughlin’s (no relation) campaign signs. The whole dirty deed was videotaped by McLaughlin’s (no relation) people (3,182 hits on YouTube), and Tim, who is six feet, several inches tall, resembled no one more than Randy Quaid as Cousin Eddie in “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”
There was the time when Gordon showed up at a public gathering in Troy wearing a kilt. He had just come from an affair having to do with Scottish heritage, but I’m told that few in his Troy audience seemed to have any clue about the reason for the skirt.
And talk about awkward. TV reporters would be interviewing lawmakers outside the Assembly chamber and all of a sudden Tim would be skulking about, asking, “Uh, you wanna interview me?” Tim was not the only legislator looking for face time, but the others would at least try to be marginally subtle about it.
But my favorite Gordonian moment was Tim’s mowing of the grass at Thacher Park in May 2010, supposedly to protest Gov. David Paterson’s closing of some parks and benign neglect of others due to budgetary constraints. Critics cried “shameless exploitation” as Tim brought his little, walk-along Lawn Boy mower to the park, in the middle of a campaign, TV stations all alerted, and viciously attacked a grassy knoll under a brutal sun that would not yield. Steve McLaughlin (no relation) hurried to Thacher and told reporters that Gordon might better focus on the budget. Volunteers who did the same chore anonymously week in, week out, grumbled about “grandstanding” but were reluctant to criticize this sitting assemblyman publicly. Privately, they predicted to me that the Tim-Man never would return, and I have to say we never did hear about the Lawn Boy going on tour again.
However, I like to think that with 178 state parks, Tim would still be visiting and mowing each and every one of them, were he able to run for re-election only 177 more times.