Audsley, it turned out, had been arrested on a DUI charge back in October.
As director of the city's Division of Regulated Industries, Audsley licensed cabs and kept his official eye on strippers. Mostly, though, he controlled where and when people could buy drinks. Yet Officer Brian Leslie's police report reads like a junior-high handout on lack of liquor control. At around 9 p.m., after spending three hours "working and meeting with [his] lawyer," Audsley was on his way to an address near Garozzo's restaurant just northeast of downtown. Leslie writes that he watched Audsley's car stop at a green light and make a couple of turns without signals. When Leslie flashed his lights, Audsley reportedly ran his Taurus over a curb before stopping. Leslie smelled booze on Audsley's breath; outside the car, Audsley couldn't keep his balance, failing Leslie's sobriety test. At the police station, however, his blood alcohol concentration measured only .048 percent. Because that reading was, Leslie writes, "inconsistent with his level of impairment," a drug test was ordered.
We'll have to wait until Audsley's January 22 court date for those results. But Audsley told Leslie that he hadn't been drinking, that he had a cold and had been taking Benadryl. The city "can't make a case," says Audsley's lawyer, William O'Sullivan. "He tested .048. That's one beer and two O'Doul's." O'Sullivan says Audsley came up clean on two drug tests and that the whole situation was "a set-up deal." So we'll presume Audsley is innocent.
But that won't prevent us from having a good guffaw at the loaded irony that he was even arrested.
Or from wondering why city hall department heads don't at least try to save themselves future embarrassments by submitting to the same dopey drug tests they require of more lowly city workers.
These are workers with "safety sensitive" jobs, as defined by the city's drug-and-alcohol-testing policy, jobs in which "any essential function" could be dangerous to a worker or the public if an employee did it stoned. Last year, 863 out of 6,800 city employees -- people like firefighters, tree-trimmers, welders and, yes, microfilm operators -- were escorted to a "collection site" and told to produce warm samples.
City bosses can also force non-safety-sensitive employees to pee for the record if there's "reasonable cause."
But close reading of the city's rulebook shows there's "reasonable cause" for making everyone at city hall take a drug test. A safety-sensitive city job is also defined as one that, if you did it loaded, "could impair the integrity of the workplace."
And city hall's integrity is looking pretty impaired these days.
Mayor Kay Barnes certainly has been behaving erratically. She blew a bunch of smoke around a $1.8 billion plan pretending that suburban stadium rehabs could be part of a downtown revitalization. That idea lasted until the buzz-killing state legislature convened last week; then, suddenly, Barnes blotted the stadiums out of her vision for downtown. Was the mayor being shrewd, knowing legislators would prefer to take their stadiums straight, or had she been hallucinating all along?
Hard to say. Let's give her a drug test.
And how do we know City Manager Bob Collins wasn't high on December 20 when he submitted a balanced budget based on the assumption that "the recession will be short"?
No one has required Collins or Barnes to take a leak -- even though city policy mandates a prehiring drug test for everyone "as a condition of employment."
"We haven't done that in years," admits Gary O'Bannon, the city's deputy director of human resources. He says the testing policy, which the city wrote to comply with the federal Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 and which was first approved by two unions in 1996, is due for revision. When it comes to the "integrity of the workplace" clause, he says, "we're looking into that because we're not comfortable that it would withstand a legal challenge."
He should tell that to the owners of Kansas City's 750 regulated bars, restaurants and liquor stores, which don't have the luxury of ignoring oppressive, ill-conceived rules.
"[Liquor control officers] play games with their authority," says one club manager. During Audsley's reign, "when we did events outside, Audsley would wait until the last minute to sign our catering permit. You were always afraid you were going to put a lot of time and money into a project only to be held at bay by the powers that be."
Audsley was the one who, after 2000's Coyote Ugly came out, issued a memo warning bar owners that dancing on tabletops was a no-no. Last summer, his men shut down a play at the Westport Coffee House because they deemed its artistic nudity objectionable.
Another bar owner says Audsley was "better than his predecessor," but that the city's "whole liquor-control department needs to run less like a gestapo." For example, when it's time to renew his liquor license, he has to send "a copy of our letter from the city showing we've paid all our city taxes. Not only the letter but also a copy of the cancelled check and a copy of the form we sent in," the bar owner says. "If the city's already sent me a letter saying I've paid my city taxes, why do they make me jump through another hoop? It's like we're little kids being punished or something."
Nothing like getting smacked around by a city drunk on its own power.