Yes, there’s a double-meaning here. Wilkerson is now a footnote in Boston’s checkered and too often sordid political history. A sad end to a career that once had real potential. But throughout the incident that finally did her in, Wilkerson displayed behavior that is all-too-similar to other political miscreants. Here’s a footnote on that.
In 1980, Gerald F. O’Leary, then a member of the Boston School Committee, tried to extort money from a bus company that was vying for the lucrative Boston school-busing contract. O’Leary demanded, and got, an initial payment of $25,000. The company then contacted the FBI, who filmed O’Leary receiving a second $25,000 payment in a room at the Sheraton Boston Hotel. (Sound familiar?) He was convicted and sentenced to 18 months.
Political wags drew two morals from this incident. First, if you are going to get $25,000 in cash in a hotel room, be sure that YOU rent the hotel room. Second, if you are going to take a chance like O’Leary did, make sure it’s for more than $50,000. Because it’s not only your political career, but your whole life that’s on the line. $50,000 is not enough.
When you look at what O’Leary did and what Wilkerson allegedly did, one of the things that registers is how paltry the ill-gotten gain was. Wilkerson apparently wanted a few thousand dollars. Although all the evidence isn’t in; perhaps she was aiming higher. But how high? $50,000? $100,000? Still not enough. There is a kind of pathology here that is akin to compulsive thrill-seeking. The probability of getting caught is fairly high; the consequences of getting caught are definitely large; and the monetary payoff is low.
It’s not, as some have said, pure arrogance. There’s a strange conflation of ignorance, arrogance, and incompetence at work here. A complex stew that is probably immune from the reforms that Governor Patrick’s new ethics task force will likely recommend.