New York's latest financial criminal mastermind -- and remember, we now have one a day being unveiled -- is Paul Greenwood, 61, the bow-tied town governor of North Salem, New York's horsey area. (Until recently it's where the American Olympic equestrian team trained.)
Greenwood spent the alleged $500 million he is accused of siphoning off from his money management business, which he was supposed to invest for universities and pension retirement funds, on an elaborate stable of valuable show ponies -- oh, and a $70,600 teddy bear.
Who knew that teddy bears could fetch $70,600? Certainly the residents of North Salem did not. They amused themselves the day after Greenwood's arrest by FBI agents last week by passing around a stuffed toy bear dressed in a T-shirt emblazoned with the words "jail bait." You have to hand it to the people of North Salem: 10 points for humour. Zero for your choice of governor.
Locals told me that they'd voted for Greenwood for governor last year even though few of them actually liked him. "He was aloof," said one. "Odd," said another. Patricia O'Neill, a local teacher, spent every New Year's Eve with him -- and noted he sat in a corner and didn't speak to anyone. Not, one would have thought, a man shouting out to win a popularity contest, let alone to run for town governor.
Yet when he ran for office he was unopposed. "We all thought he'd got the most clout to lead the community," a resident explained. Loosely translated, this means he'd got the most money.
Well, at least now everyone's getting poor we can recorrect our vision and see people for whom they really are. Heck, we can even label them for what they really are. Gone are the days when we sycophantically described people who were rich as "nice" -- or, when desperate, "interesting".
I hope the good people of North Salem hoist their new teddy bear high before they vote for their next governor (after Greenwood does the right thing and resigns, which he hasn't yet).
That bear should remind them that odd people should not be put in charge of communities. It doesn't matter if, as Greenwood did, they hold Bible study sessions and give (allegedly illegal) money to charity. Odd is just odd, no matter how much money such people have.
This article was originally published by the London Evening Standard