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Thursday, Dec. 18, 2003 10:47 am

Aldermania: Dog time

Sure, there’s news at City Council — behind closed doors

Sometimes, size really doesn't matter. Take, for example, this week's City Council session, which was so lengthy that Mayor Tim Davlin wondered aloud if it set a new record. Such a long meeting must mean major controversy, right?

Yup, that's why the lead story the morning after was Davlin's 10 percent budget cut -- not even mentioned at the marathon meeting.

How long was it? About three hours, in "real time." But the mayor may want to check the books; in dog time, this meeting clocked in at 24.5 hours.

You know dog time: Getting a root canal. Waiting in line for your kids to ride bumper cars -- again? -- on a steamy August day at the State Fair. The eternity between the moment you hand the nice officer your license and the moment he returns with your speeding ticket, while your spouse says, "So tell me again, what was your big hurry?" That's dog time.

At council meetings, dog time can be triggered by a variety of scenarios. A person who talks for 15 minutes without making a point -- dog time. A person who makes a point, and then keeps making it over and over again -- that's dog time too. Same goes for a person who makes an assortment of points, all of which just happen to be irrelevant.

So congratulations to the guy who exceeded the five-minute limit by 300 percent Tuesday night. I doubt that your testimony about functional transoms, the smell of barbecue and the dullness of modern architecture clinched your eventual victory, but I could be wrong.

Perhaps the most aggravating aspect of dog time is the nagging knowledge that there's something better you could be doing. Like, instead of reading this ramble, you could be reading actual news.

So here: There was something exciting at City Council, only it happened in executive session. According to multiple council members, plaintiffs in the lawsuit known as "the Frazier case" may have discovered some explosive information.

As loyal readers recall, this case was filed by seven black current and former police officers against Springfield Police Department, claiming, among other things, a racially hostile work environment. Plaintiff Renatta Frazier had resigned her job after the State Journal-Register published numerous stories that internal affairs was investigating Frazier's handling of a routine call to see if she had failed to prevent the rape of a white officer's daughter by two black men. A cover story in Illinois Times subsequently revealed that the rape had actually occurred before Frazier was dispatched to the scene.

Tuesday night, the council heard that plaintiffs now claim SPD bungled the rape investigation itself so badly that the perpetrator identified by the victim was never charged, while the man imprisoned for the rape may have been "coerced" to plead guilty. They also question SPD's handling of DNA evidence.

Wait, I'm having a City Council flashback. A year ago, then-mayor Karen Hasara's response to questions about Frazier was, "It will all come out in court." She'd cluck sadly, as if to suggest the city would be forced to reveal some kind of sordid information about a woman who has always maintained she had nothing to hide. With these latest claims, can the City say the same?

Ironically, the same day this drama unfolded, a Wyoming man visited City Hall to interview police officials. The man refused to confirm or deny a rumor that he was here to check references on John Harris, the former SPD chief in charge during Frazier's tenure. However, a source inside the department says Harris is a contender for the job of chief in a small Wyoming town.

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