Governments' Lighter Side

Year in Review: Mishaps, mistakes, missteps

Dumb crooks and other tales from Governments' Lighter Side in 2012

People who work in government have experiences that are often unusual, sometimes humorous and occasionally downright wacky. As we head into the new year, here’s a look back at some highlights from Governments’ Lighter Side in 2012.

A recurring theme of the past year was the seemingly endless saga of Dumb Crooks, as law enforcement officials related encounters with not-so-bright criminals. There was the pair of inept burglars in Manatee, Fla., who got lost and wound up driving back to the crime scene — where the cops were waiting. Or the hopelessly incompetent counterfeiter who passed off fake $100 bills with the wrong picture on them. And how about the several felonious nincompoops who actually tried to get sent to the hoosegow, including one woman who tried to climb over a barbed-wire fence to get into the Butler County, Ohio jail. Like we said at the time, you couldn’t make this stuff up.

Another theme was that of the Hero Sewage Workers, as several local officials shared tales of sanitation employees who went above and beyond. That included retrieving, and returning, jewelry flushed down the toilet or otherwise lost in the waste — a wedding band in Attleboro, Mass., a gold necklace in San Rafael, Calif., and a diamond ring in Kuna, Idaho. In Dearborn Heights, Mich., meanwhile, sanitation crews sprang into action to rescue a baby raccoon after it got stuck head-first in a sewer grate. Must be something about those sanitation workers.

Sometimes in government work, things go awry, as borne out by several tales last year of the Perils of Public Service. Like the slip of the tongue by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who often refers to his lieutenant governor as a “rising star,” but instead introduced him as a “rising sex star” — to an audience of 40 kids at a Denver elementary school.

Then there was the story of an Iowa Republican congressional candidate who gave a no-doubt stirring stump speech at what he thought was a county Republican convention — but it was actually the Democratic convention. Finally, someone in the audience raised his hand: “I think you want to talk to the Republicans.” Oops. 

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Derek Prall

Derek Prall is a professional journalist who has held numerous positions with a variety of print and online publications including the New Jersey Herald. He is a 2008 graduate of Furman University...
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