Whoever supplied The News & Observer and WRAL with a secret police report on the unsolved Goldman jewelry caper of 2010 didn't think to send it to me. Rats! But when Debra Goldman, Wake County school board member and Republican candidate for state auditor, "fired back" in The N&O using her recordings of some private conversations with other school board members, it spurred me to act on a mysterious message I'd received hours before. (OK, I didn't receive it but I wished I had.)
This is Gus at Players Retreat. When we closed the place last night, we found a pink cardboard box under the booth where you, uh, conduct your interviews. It's taped shut, and the message "Deliver to Bob Geary ONLY!" is scrawled on top. There are no other markings.
When I claimed the box and opened it, I was shocked to discover a trove of CDs with recordings of what sounded like additional Goldman conversations. Apparently Goldman's model for school board service was Richard Nixon in the White House. Did she, too, have an enemies list?
If there's one thing I already knew about Goldman, it's that she came to the board with her guard up for the double-dealing and back-stabbing ahead. Hey, she was no chump. When the going got rough, she obviously reached for the record button. Frankly, I don't know why I was surprised.
As it turned out, some of the recorded conversations were banal. Others, though, hit me like—how did that radio dick put it? Like a hot kiss at the end of a wet fist?
I was in a tough spot. Like the police report, I had no idea who wanted me to have the box. I didn't know if what was in it was legit, fiction or some combination thereof. For all I knew, the woman with the lilting voice and flat Pennsylvania accent was somebody imitating Goldman. The two guys who sounded like the cast of the Jersey Boys could've been Frankie Valli stand-ins, not my old friends John Tedesco and "Papa Ron" Margiotta. I couldn't shake the feeling that this might be a set-up.
Finally, I decided to follow the N&O's lead and publish the salacious details, true or not. Because as N&O Executive Editor John Drescher explained, Goldman and her family "deserve compassion." But not when the story's this hot.
This is Claude Pope Jr. from the Wake Republican Party. It's about your interest in running for the school board. You've lived here for four years?
I'm very well qualified. I have three children in school. In Pennsylvania, I was a volunteer firefighter.
I'll be the judge of your qualifications, thank you. If you were elected, would you ever support a tax increase?
Congratulations, Debra. May I call you Debra? You're now on the Republican ticket.
Later in 2009
Hey, beautiful, I'm John Tedesco. It's great to meet you. I'll be the brains of this operation. Follow my lead, and we'll go places together.
Not likely, buster. Who the hell are you? Anyway, I do a solo act.
And may I introduce Chris Malone? He's on the ticket with us from Wake Forest.
I do a solo, period. And Mr. Malone, I'll be at the Clarion Hotel in a few days if you'd like to see me in action.
Debra, Debra. You disappoint me. I thought we agreed we were all for neighborhood schools. Johnny's plan! Chris and Deborah Prickett came through for us. But where were you? And after I put you in as vice chair.
Get over it, Ron. The way I count it, you've got four votes and the Democrats have four votes. Which means I'm calling the shots now!
Is it because Johnny called you the prom queen?
I still can't believe I lost.
Or because you and Chris are, you know, on the outs?
News flash, Ron. Chris Malone and I were never in. He didn't steal my jewels, put it that way.
Later in October 2010
Debra, it's Harvey. You're the best. Thank goodness you can think for yourself. And vote with the Chamber of Commerce.
Harvey, I'm picking up now. Tell your fellow CEOs, if they're going for the gold, they should go with Goldman and lose Margiotta's crowd.
Right. I'll put you on the program at our next meeting.
Will you hold for General Tata?
Yes, of course.
It's Tony, Debra. I hate it when they call me General. I'm just trying to run the schools like a crack infantry battalion on maneuvers, but it's not like I'm giving orders.
I know, Tony. I think everybody's in formation with your plan.
Yes. I can't see a single flaw in my choice system. We won't need as many tanks, er, buses, when we bring it to the battlefield next fall. I see a tax cut coming!
I'm very detail-oriented, Tony. Nothing is too small for me to question. And according to my audit, you haven't missed a thing.
Miz Goldman, this is Robin Hayes. I'm the new chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party.
Mr. Hayes, you're one of my heroes.
I hear you're planning to run for state auditor. But you're not a CPA, are you?
I'm a watchdog.
And you don't have much business experience?
I was a volunteer firefighter. Besides, if John Tedesco can be superintendent of public instruction, I sure as heck can be the auditor.
I do have one question. Would you ever support a tax increase?
Excellent! You'll be the perfect auditor for a Pat McCrory administration.
Sometime in 2012
Miz Goldman, this is Fred down at the bank.
I'd really like to encourage you to put your money in the bank and your jewelry in a safe deposit box. Considering all the police calls to your house, I think they'd be a lot safer.
I like to audit my assets the old-fashioned way, Fred. I count them before I go to sleep.
I'm sorry about Tony Tata, ma'am.
Don't call me again, Fred.
Debra, it's Pat McCrory.
You threw me under the bus at that debate, Pat. Saying Beth Wood's done a good job as auditor? And how you're "concerned" about my behavior?
It's true, Debra. But I've been running for governor for freakin' ever, and I just can't afford to get caught up in your mess. The good news is, you're still on the school board, and that's a great form of public service.
When you put it that way, Pat—I think I'll look for a burning building to run into.