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Of pepperoni and pledges


Of pepperoni and pledges There's one thing you can say about Charles Wingate: everyone knows this is a man who knows his pizzas.

When we last heard from the fallen city councilman, he had resigned his position midterm facing 16 felonies and two misdemeanors. The charges accrued during months of "Pizzagate," starting with Wingate illegally charging meals to a city-owned credit card, including a five-day Pizza Hut binge, and finally ending with his resignation from public office.

As a result, more people in Colorado Springs can pick the councilman out of a lineup than they can, say, John Andrews, the powerful president of the Colorado Senate. A few weeks back, Andrews was a big defender of unconstitutionally forcing teachers and students to recite in lockstep the Pledge of Allegiance in every school in the state. This week, Andrews emerged a key player in plans to craft an "Academic Bill of Rights" to force state-supported colleges to hire faculty and invite speakers with conservative views.

"This is about tolerance," the Associated Press quoted Andrews saying. "It is extremely important that all viewpoints are protected. ... If you frame this as, 'who is in favor of tolerance?' everyone should be for it."

This is the same Andrews who got everyone so worked up exactly a year ago because Hanan Ashrawi, a prominent Palestinian legislator and former spokesperson for the Palestinian negotiating delegation, had been invited to keynote a post 9-11 symposium at Colorado College, a private school, and to speak at the University of Colorado at Boulder, a state-financed institution. Andrews was so apoplectic about Ashrawi's appearance that he helped organize the biggest protest in anyone's memory at CC.

So much for tolerance. But who cares about Andrews and his hypocrisy?

We caught up with Wingate on Monday, the day he pleaded guilty to one count of felony public embezzlement.

Readers will be positively titillated to learn that after his resignation from council he got a job as a waiter at California Pizza Kitchen!

But wait, there's more. Wingate has already been let go.

"I don't even know why I got fired," he said. "A visiting manager who doesn't work there called me into an office and said, 'We just don't think this is going to work out.'"

Oh, and yes there was the celebrity. People started calling. Customers recognized Wingate and wanted to shake his hand, even if they weren't seated in his section. His colleagues seemed annoyed, and Wingate believes that one fellow waitron in particular got a grudge going.

"It was getting kind of embarrassing; there were days that I just wanted to crawl under a rock," said Wingate. "I think, honestly, some of these guys were intimidated."

On the bright side, the experience elevated Wingate from a mere pizza delivery aficionado into a true connoisseur. For those who are currently unaware of the newest chain to town, California Pizza Kitchen produces the type of pie that has taken this basic food group to a new level.

"It's not like going to Pizza Hut," Wingate reports. "It would be hard to go and eat a normal pizza again. It would be kind of a letdown."

Visualize, for example, a pizza made with pears and Gorgonzola cheese. That pie momentarily left Wingate speechless. "It scared me; seeing sliced pear on a pizza was kind of weird, and didn't work for me. It's not a bad concept, but pear on a pizza was a hard thing to see."

Wingate was also stymied every time he served the Carne Asada, topped with steak. "I couldn't get the thing about steak on a pizza; that was weird, seeing steak on a pizza."

However, he raves about the vegetarian, which can be ordered with goat cheese and smoked Gouda. "That's a pretty good one, and the honey wheat dough made it even better."

His personal favorite is the meat-laden Sicilian, with ham, salami and sausage over a Bolognese sauce. "It's a huge pizza; I like that one."

The restaurant's signature barbecue chicken pizza also was a hit, though Wingate was surprised by its sweetness. Ditto for the Jamaican jerk pie; he thought some pineapple could have balanced the sweet with a nice tart. Managers disagreed, however.

As a result of his antics while on Council, Wingate is now on probation for two years. He's looking at serving 240 hours of community service, and searching for a new job.

His best bet would be to change his name to John Andrews and open his own chain.

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