Sam Brinton’s alleged theft of a woman’s suitcase from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in September, and the lies Brinton allegedly told law enforcement about it, has greatly damaged Brinton’s credibility.
To take the wrong suitcase from an airport baggage carousel is one thing. To take a suitcase from a carousel at your destination after checking no bag ahead of your origin flight — and then to tell a police officer that the bag you took contained your own clothing — is something else.
And that’s only one of the lies airport police allege Brinton told about a weekend trip to Minnesota this fall.
If these allegations hold up in court, it would be, in World Cup terms, a massive own-goal for someone who seemed well-qualified to spend a career in the Department of Energy working on a challenging problem of national importance: the safe, centralized storage of nuclear waste from power plants.
In Brinton, the nuclear-waste policy crowd had something special: a dynamic, intelligent, credentialed professional whose minor celebrity could draw and hold attention to an issue that desperately needs it.
Now, that special something may be gone.
Brinton has been on leave from the Department of Energy for about a month, with Kimberly Petry standing in as acting deputy assistant secretary for spent fuel and waste disposition “for the foreseeable future,” as she told colleagues in an email before Thanksgiving.
Brinton, meanwhile, was summoned to appear Dec. 19 for a court hearing in Hennepin County, Minn. Through an attorney, Brinton asked to appear virtually, citing the financial and logistical difficulties of traveling while on leave from employment — difficulties that, according to Brinton’s own Instagram account, have not been so severe as to prevent travel to Boston and New York for choral performances, documentary film premieres and Broadway shows.
It’s a bad look getting worse and Brinton, solely, is to blame.
And there we might conclude, except it is impossible, even now, when the particulars are so well known to almost anyone who could possibly care, to make any public mention of Samuel Otis Brinton without a discussion of Brinton’s sexuality, gender-fluid identity and presentation and public embrace of kink sex — none of which, as far as we at the Exchange Monitor understand, disqualify Brinton for public service or render Brinton’s academic and professional experience irrelevant.
None of the legion of frequently hateful commentators who have said or implied otherwise has demonstrated that these things hampered Brinton’s work at DOE or affected anyone other than Brinton and consenting adults.
And remember, Brinton never hid these things from DOE hiring officials or background investigators. As has famously happened before in the federal government’s nuclear energy programs, it isn’t what you don’t hide, but what you do hide.
In this case, a suitcase.
It could not have been worth it.