Furr, a school teacher by trade, then addressed Van Cott, a burly man with thinning brown hair who looks younger than his 57 years. He asked a simple question about the process.
"I believe the confidence of this commission has left me...," Van Cott said in a loud voice teetering with emotion. "I don't know that I can continue to do this. I can't pull rabbits out of hats. You have gotten the very best of me during the last nine years. My real question is if you still have confidence in me as a utility director, because if you don't, I am leaving. OK?"
Here, the public utilities director, who is supposed to advise the commission, not bully it, was threatening to quit if Schwing Bioset lost the contract.
While his words were childish, the tone was one of an overwrought parent at the end of his rope with his kids.
"You want to privatize the water plant? Go ahead, I'll let you do it," he allowed. "Maybe you need to get burned to really understand what you're doing... It really doesn't matter. Hire a consultant. You aren't going to believe me. It'll be in the papers again tomorrow. I've spent hours with reporters. I've given you the best I got. I don't believe you believe me. There's rumors I'm going to be working at Bioset. Sorry, no way. There's rumors I'm corrupt. Sorry, no way."
He looked up at Furr and asked him angrily if he knew where the city's biosolids were treated at the city's sewage plant. Furr replied in the negative.
"How can you tell me what we should be doing and who we should be talking to?" Van Cott almost yelled back at the commissioner. "... I don't want to get emotional, and I'm breaking one of Whit's rules. But the fact of the matter is, if you want to go out for another RFP, you'll do it without me. I have given these people [at Schwing Bioset] my word. They have been patient."
His voice cracked on the last word, and he seemed near tears. He didn't bother to explain what in the world he was doing making promises to a private company, though.
"I've got 30 years, been on national boards, and you don't believe me?" he continued, sounding a little like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas. "Who do you want to believe? I negotiated the best deal, I spent hours..."
Soon he was goading them to vote for another company. "You should do it. You should do it. But you will reap what you sow," he said with wrath in his voice. "And it won't be me at the helm. I promise you... I've had too many migraine headaches. I've had too much, and I'm done... If you don't have confidence in me, I'm outta here."
He glared at Furr.
"I'm not doing it again, Beam. I'm not doing it. How am I going to run that utility? I've prayed about it. I talk to my wife about it. And when I got the chance to read the newspaper article about it yesterday, I got a migraine headache over it. I've given you my heart. And I've given you every bit of my professional advice I could, and if you're going to stop taking it and you're going to go down your path, I'm out of here."
With that, Van Cott sat down, and a pall of silence fell on the room.
Commissioner Peter Bober was the first to administer some counseling. "The fact that I voted how I voted, you shouldn't take that to mean that I don't listen to your advice and that I've lost confidence in you," he told Van Cott gently. "Usually, everything you say at the podium is golden as far as I'm concerned."
Then the mayor addressed him like a soothing mommy, saying they both had "sludge thrown in their face" by their city-hating enemies. But she and Whit were good people, she said, adding, "They haven't caught you in nine years and they haven't caught me in 16 years doing anything illegal."
Not yet, anyway.
It was enough for Furr to delay the vote.
Fast-forward to last week's commission meeting. Furr again made his motion to rescind the vote, and after two hours of inane, at times surreal, discussion, the commission voted 3-2 (Giulianti and Wasserstrom recused themselves) in favor of putting out new bids. Because of a technicality involving notice given by Furr, the vote didn't count. Told you the place was dysfunctional.
There were more sparkling moments provided by the mayor. She ordered her colleagues, who worried they have lost the trust of the people, to "stop pussyfooting around what the public thinks." She also vouched for Wasserstrom, who wisely sat out the meeting. "He's incredibly naive," she said. "He's botched it every time he's been with the press because he's been so open."