Sunday, August 28, 2005

800 Pound Gorilla


It has become a mantra of Howard Baughman and the Portsmouth Daily Times: We have to put the Marting scandal behind us. We have to move on. The people of Portsmouth are not going to forget that fast, nor should they. It is not that easy forgetting, for what "moving on" really means is "We pulled off this scam, we won, so get over it!"

By “Marting scandal” I refer not only to the original sale of the empty leaking decrepit building to the city but also to the outrageous way in which the Portsmouth City Council and acting-Mayor Kalb, once the sale was declared illegal, allowed Clayton Johnson to dictate the terms under which he would return to the city the money he had illegally obtained from it. It is like someone who has stolen your wallet getting caught and then saying what you have to do to get the money back; and incidentally, you are not going to get all of your money back because the thief lost some of it as a result of gambling, in this case through bad investments in financial markets.

The Marting scandal is the 800 pound gorilla who sits in at every council meeting. All the searches and metal detectors have not kept out the gorilla. Howard Baughman and Marty Mohr know the gorilla is there, which is why they’re so nervous, and why they want to stop anyone from saying anything at council meetings to stir up the gorilla. Mayor Kalb also knows the gorilla is there, which may be why he looks so chronically depressed. They obviously wish everyone but especially that gorilla would go away and never attend another council meeting. They would like to return to the bad old days, when hardly anyone showed up for council meetings. They would like to go back to the days when council sessions were not broadcast on the radio. They would like to go back to the days when Marting’s deals were pulled off routinely, without so much as a grunt from any gorilla. They would like to go back to the days before every council meeting was a standing-room-only potential Irish wake.

Because of the Marting’s scandal, and the recalls that resulted from it, Portsmouth politicians and their supporters at the Daily Times fear the voters of Portsmouth even more than Dracula feared the cross, because they know that if the voters had an opportunity to vote on the city accepting the Marting building they would reject it, as they would also reject several councilmen by recalling them, if the recalls were not thwarted in one way or another.


When people in Portsmouth in 2030 look back to 2005, as we now can look back twenty-five years, to 1980, I think the Marting scandal will stand out as the defining political event of this era, just as the recall of three councilmen who tried to fire City Manager Barry Feldman stands out as the tumultuous and defining political event of that past era.

Consider what the Marting scandal has led to. It led to the birth of the recall movement. It led to the recall of Mayor Greg Bauer. It led to the recall of Carol Caudill and Ann Sydnor from the city council. It led to the election of Bob Mollette and Tim Loper to the city council. Marty Mohr might have been recalled if he hadn’t come out against the purchase of the Marting building, which he said at the time “ain’t worth anything!” He of course has since changed his tune, and become one of the biggest fans of the Marting building, which is why he is now the object of a recall effort in Ward 6.

The Marting building remains as Portsmouth's bad dream, a distorted House of Usher/Dorian Gray/Freddie Krueger landmark lurking just behind that 1950-ish phony facade.

Marting's: Portsmouth's Bad Dream

The Marting scandal led to Lee Scott becoming a relentless leader of the recall movement. The Marting scandal reenergized such veterans as Richard Noel, Harold Daub, and Jim Wilson. The Marting scandal led to the involvement of a number of people who were not previously involved in city politics, such as Bob and Teresa Mollette. The Marting scandal led to the Mollettes standing up to the over-privileged as no couple in the last twenty-five years have been able to do. The Mollettes have spent much of their free time and over $24,000 of their savings to see that justice was done in the Marting matter. Judge Marshall’s decision invalidating the sale of the Marting building because of the underhanded tactics used by Clayton Johnson is a landmark decision in Portsmouth’s legal history, and the people of Portsmouth, whether they know it or not, are in debt not only to Judge Marshall but also to the Mollettes, who were instrumental in bringing it about.

The Marting scandal increased the readership of the Shawnee Sentinel, whose number of visitors have grown eye-poppingly while the Daily Times continues to wallow in the circulation doldrums along with alleged ducks in storm drains. The Marting scandal inspired John Welton and Austin Leedom to dig even deeper into the corrupt activities of the over-privileged of Portsmouth. The Marting scandal has attracted younger people, such as Julie Stout and Andrew Feight, into the campaign for honest government. The Marting scandal even led Joe Ferguson to become an investigative videographer and for Claudette to use her writing skills in on-line forums to good advantage.

The Marting scandal led to websites and blogs, including River Vices. In the fourteen years I had lived in Portsmouth, I had almost always voted in state and national elections, but I had never once voted in a city election, that I can remember. I used to think it was only Shawnee State that was in control of the over-privileged of Portsmouth. I knew nothing of Portsmouth politics prior to the Marting scandal, but as a result of making a video, The Recall of Mayor Bauer, I became very interested in Portsmouth politics and, like others had much earlier, became outraged at what I learned. I became one of the angry voters who went to the polls a year ago June. I created River Vices as a way of making my voice heard and trying to make amends for years of ignorance of and indifference to who the mayor or the members of city council were, or what was going on beyond the boundaries of the university, even while the university was using eminent domain to expand its boundaries by destroying surrounding neighborhoods on behalf of local developer Neal Hatcher. It was politically unconscious people like me that made it possible for the over-privileged of Portsmouth to continue to control and exploit the city. A large number of Portsmouth voters (and not just those the Daily Times dismisses as a handful of malcontents) are not asleep any more, and neither am I, and neither is that gorilla. Not yet anyway.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Viagra Chronicles

Monsignor Eugene V. Clark (shown above left waving to the faithful), the 79-year-old rector of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, in New York, recently resigned as the head of the most famous Catholic church in the country. Monsignor Clark resigned after it was reported in the New York Times and other news sources that he was accused of having an affair with his married, long-time secretary , who reportedly annually earns between $70,000-$100,000. Though no spring chicken herself, she is 33 years his junior.   The monsignor did not pull a Rafael Palmeiro; that is, he did not unequivocally deny having an affair as the baseball player had denied using steroids. He did not say “never ever,” as  Palmeiro did about steroids. He did not accuse his accusers, as Palmeiro did,  of being “crap.” But the monsignor has not admitted to having the affair, either. In a statement released by his lawyer, he said “events and circumstances have been portrayed in such a false and sensational manner that I will no longer be able to effectively serve the archdiocese.” “False and sensational” may refer, among other things, to the video footage  showing  monsignor and his secretary going into a motel room during the day and then leaving five hours later (shown above center) dressed in different clothes. If he listened  to her tell her sins for five hours in the motel, it might go into the Guinness World Records for confessions.  But what he was doing for five hours in the motel room may have more to do with Viagra (shown above right)  than absolution. His secretary, accompanied by her two children, sometimes spent weekends with the monsignor in his beach retreat, leaving her husband at home. Her husband is suing for divorce, charging her with adultery.

Palmeiro hawking Viagra on TV
The almost-octogenarian monsignor may be suffering from an overdose of the same recreational drug that Palmeiro hawks on TV, the same Viagra  that appears for long spells in ads behind home plate on televised baseball games where they imprint themselves on the brains of millions of aging, unathletic American males interested in improving their sexual performance when they step up to the plate, so to speak. Those old enough may remember the 1978 so-called “Twinkie defense,” when the homophobic San Francisco supervisor Dan White shot and killed Mayor Moscone and Harvey Milk, and the best defense White's lawyers could come up with was that he had done it because he was deeply depressed as a result of  binging on junk food and Coke.

I would not be surprised if the monsignor’s lawyers come up with a “Viagra defense,” which may include testimony from an underpaid Latin-American immigrant housekeeper that the monsignor is a baseball nut who constantly watches games on TV. His lawyers could argue that the Viagra ads behind home plate had brainwashed him and that the monsignor had fallen victim to one of Viagra’s widely publicized dangerous side-effects. “Warning! Erections may last up to four hours.” Not to be outdone or outsold, a rival product’s warning goes Viagra more than one better: “If erections last as long as 24 hours, seek immediate medical assistance.” These of course are intended not so much as warnings as enticements, but if the monsignor had been using the rival brand he might not have gotten out of the motel room except on a stretcher.

Not only does Viagra cause blindness in some men, the defense will argue, but it can turn pious old prelates who watch too much TV into Brad Pitbulls, men who abandon their families for more alluring sexual partners, and priests who betray their flock and break their celibacy vows. So that’s what it could come down to: the monsignor was a vulnerable senior citizen victimized by Viagra.

When I was the president of the Shawnee Education Association, the faculty union, and on the union negotiating team, I suggested that we exclude Viagra and other costly recreational drugs from coverage under our faculty insurance. The administration appeared to be very determined to cut the costs of faculty medical coverage during the negotiations, but they were unwilling to accept my proposal, perhaps  fearing a backlash from older male faculty.

This story of the amorous monsignor should be of interest to Portsmouth residents because a prominent Portsmouth cleric, David A. Malone, was reported to be having an extramarital affair with a member of his Kingdom Builders Evangelistic Church. Malone did not deny he had the affair. He reportedly admitted his adultery to his congregation. But instead of resigning, he asked for their forgiveness. Not everyone was willing to forgive, and some left his church. I know how those who left his church feel, because I was one of those who had hoped Malone would see the light and stop voting with the corrupt faction on the Portsmouth City Council, and that he would lead a cleansing moral crusade in Portsmouth.

When I say Malone’s adultery was reported, I am using the term reported loosely, for as far as I know, the “professional” journalists who work for our two local newspapers, the Portsmouth Daily Times and the Community Common have not written a word about this matter. The Daily Times considers a duck that was caught in a storm drain front-page news, but a local preacher who is also a member of the Portsmouth City Council, getting caught in an extra-marital affair, that is not fit to be printed on any page of the Daily Times.

Perhaps one of the reasons for the absence of any reporting on Malone’s infidelity is sexual squeamishness. The Boston Globe reported just today (August 12) about two celebrated swans at the Boston Public Gardens, nicknamed Romeo and Juliet, who had become a symbol of the inspiring life-long sexual faithfulness that has been observed among some bonding pairs of the animal kingdom. It turns out that tests have proved the two swans are both females, so that it would be more accurate to call it not a Romeo and Juliet but a Juliet and Juliet relationship. If a same-sex bonding pair of swans were discovered in the Scioto River, would either Portsmouth newspaper dare to report it? I doubt it.

But it is not sexual squeamishness alone that explains the Daily Times silence on Malone. Even more to the point is political sqeamishness. Rev Malone is not just the minister of the Kingdom Builders Evangelistic Church on Waller St. He is also the Ward 2 representative on the Portmouth City Council, and there’s the rub. A political struggle for the very soul of Portsmouth has been going in the last several years, and Malone has not hesitated to use his alleged closeness to God as a justification for the political positions he has taken. Last year, claiming to be divinely called by God to do so, he opposed the recall of Mayor Bauer. Again, claiming to be divinely called to do so, he held public prayer sessions on the steps of the Municipal Building, with his wife praying in tongues at the foot of the steps. In his prayer “Protection and Deliverance of a City,” Malone said, “Father, thank You for sending forth Your commandments to the earth . . .” Among God’s commandments is “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” One of the impressive things about Malone's congregation is how bi-racial it is. But the fact that Rev. Malone is African-American and his mistress white probably does not impress God.

If Malone was only a minister, a case could be made that it is nobody’s business but his family’s and his congregation’s if he commits adultery. But because he is also a politician, and a politician who has conspicuously mixed religion and politics, he should be held to account by more than his wife and congregation. A man who stands on the steps of the Municipal Building and thanks God for the commandments and then turns around and breaks one of them is a man capable of betraying not only God but the constituents who elected him.

Malone preaching on the steps of the Municipal Building

On the sale of the Marting Building, Malone is perhaps voting not his conscience but his pocketbook, or rather his wife’s pocketbook, since she is the breadwinner of the family. And where she earns her bread may be relevant, for I'm told she works for the Portsmouth Metropolitan Housing Authority. In other words, she works in the public sector, and in Portsmouth that carries a great deal of significance, given the degree of control the over-privileged of pork-barrel Portsmouth have over the public sector. As a member of the Portsmouth City Council, Malone is of enormous usefulness to Portsmouth’s over-privileged, especially since he claims to speak in the name of God. In a religious community like Portsmouth, God carries a lot of political weight.

But now those of us who had looked to Malone as a possible savior have to admit he might not be all he claims, that he might in fact be one of those who use religion as a cover for misdeeds. No church, no religion, is free of wolves in sheep’s clothing. No church is too imposing, or too humble, whether it is located on Fifth Avenue or Waller St., to be free of deviltry, though of course there is always the possibility that it was a popular prescription drug, presumably available through the PMHA health plan, that may be the real culprit. If only there were some investigative reporters in this town who were allowed to ask probing questions about something more important than a duck trapped in a storm drain.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Grim reaper or real estate developer?

In other towns they call it eminent domain. In Portsmouth we call it "Hatchered."

Headlines we will not see in the Daily Times: "Elderly homeowners Hatchered as they sleep." "African-American family attempting to make living in real estate Hatchered."

Eminent domain is a hot-button national issue. Getting Hatchered is a local one.

domain abuse cartoon

Mrs. Lela Perry spoke at the Aug. 8 city council meeting. She complained about the way poor black people in Portsmouth are treated by rich white males. She complained about the abuse of eminent domain. I heard it all on WPAY (1400 AM). She said she and her son Joe had been treated badly by city officials and by Neal Hatcher. Yes, she named Hatcher. Specifically. Explicitly. I turned up the radio and held my breath, waiting for council president Baughman to gavel them out of order and possibly expel them from the meeting. But no gavel sounded. Perhaps it is only the names Kalb, Baughman, Mohr and Kuhn that cannot be pronounced before the city council. Or perhaps it is only Harold Daub who cannot mention any public official’s name without getting kicked out.

1149 4th
Joe Perry home at 1149 4th St., soon to be Hatchered?

Joe Perry cited a letter he had received from lawyer and former city council member John W. Thatcher informing him that the city was taking his property by eminent domain. This is the same John W. Thatcher whose white elephant of a house on Franklin Blvd. was taken off his hands back in the early 2000's by the obliging Shawnee State U. board of trustees, which his wife Jo Ann had formerly been a member of. In buying the Thatcher house as a temporary president’s house, SSU and the state of Ohio took a $50,000 loss, a deal that documents show university lawyer Stephen P. Donohue (now vice president and Judge Donohue) had rushed through for the Thatchers. It is a shame that Joe Perry does not have connections on the city council or SSU board of trustees, a shame he does not have the kind of connections that would allow him to sell his property to the city or the university for $50,000 more than its market value.

Thatcher house
John W. Thatcher house on which state took $50,000 loss

Another speaker at the council meeting last Monday was Harry Kyle, of 4th St. Kyle was one of those who would not allow himself to be Hatchered when the developer, in collusion with the city, was using eminent domain to destroy the 3rd St neighborhood back in 2002 to make way for Hatcher’s dormitories in the section of Portsmouth that residents who still live there call “Hatcherville.”

Kyle refused to be Hatchered in 2002, and he said at Monday’s meeting he was going to continue to resist as long as he could. He said that next fall’s mayoral election, which will include possible recalls of several council members, might change the political climate in the city and stop the ruthless eminent domaining of private property. In speaking at the 13 May 2002 meeting of the Portsmouth City Council, Kyle had said that the city had deceitfully and ruthlessly driven people out of their homes to make way for the expansion of Shawnee State, and that the whole business was a “horrible, horrible thing.”

Last Sunday on the ABC program This Week, I heard commentator Cokie Roberts say the power of eminent domain had put developers in virtual control of city councils all across the country. That is certainly the case here in Portsmouth, and another speaker at last Monday’s council meeting, SSU President Rita Rice Morris, bears out the truth of Cokie Roberts’ observation, for kowtowing to Neal Hatcher was obviously the main reason she came to the council meeting.

I have waited several years before forming any firm opinion on President Morris, hoping against hope she would turn out to be a worthy leader of the university. But I knew the odds were against her, or any president, who dared to buck the corrupt system in this town, the same corrupt system SSU is an integral part of. I resisted the opinion that some faculty have that she has become the kept woman on the Hilltop. Former SSU president James Chapman is a reminder of what happens to individuals who don’t go along with those who rule Portsmouth. SSU has its first woman president, but the university, like the town, is still in control of the same corrupt rich white males Lela Perry complained about. Rita Rice Morris is not part of the solution; she is part of the problem. The rich white males have put her in a money-pit on the top of the Hilltop, miles from campus. The way in which George Clayton purchased the Camelot money-pit she now lives in was a scandal, and like the purchase of the Thatcher house, the Camelot house is reminder that in Portsmouth poorer people get eminent domained while the over-privileged of Portsmouth get bailed out when they have property they can’t sell. The Thatcher house, the Camelot house, the Marting building, George Clayton’s Kenrick building, the Adelphia building – it’s the same old story. The poorer folk get Hatchered, and are forced to sell property they value and want to retain; the rich sell to the government or the university property that they don’t want and that is practically worthless for millions or at the very least, hundreds of thousands.

3060 Camelot. The presidential money-pit at the top of the hill.

In her appearance before the council, Rita Rice Morris dared to laud Neal Hatcher as a benefactor of the university and the city. She attributed the growth of the university directly to his willingness to risk money in student housing. Risks? I have already shown in the blog, whose url is given below, that Hatcher is not taking any risks. A Portsmouth businessman like him does not take risks: he takes abatements and pork, he takes guarantees from the university that he will be paid rents even if the student occupancy of his dorms ever falls below 92%. The picture of the wonderful conditions at SSU that Morris presented to the council is a crock. Her claim that students love his dormitories is also a crock. They are required by the university to live in Hatcher’s dorms. Serious students have told me they wanted to get out of them because they are so noisy and, on weekends especially, dangerous. Female students have told me they wanted to get out of them because they run the risk of being sexually assaulted. Students were instructed to call the university police, not the Portsmouth police, if there is trouble. The university does not want any bad publicity getting out to the media, though they could count on the Daily Times to bury any adverse publicity, as it did the anthrax mess.

Where Hatcher's dorms have been built shows little regard for the safety of students. Once the new bridge is completed, 3rd St. traffic will become even more of a hazard than it now is, as I warned President Rice in the first formal meeting I had with her when I served as president of the faculty union.

In contrast to Morris’s pollyanna picture of a Neal-Hatcher-blessed university, SSU continues to be ranked annually among the worst colleges in the United States by U.S. News. Should that be a surprise? The university for almost a decade, except for Chapman’s presidency, has been run not by educators but by a university lawyer who was hired on the basis of as fishy a resume as I have ever seen, by a committee that did not follow accepted hiring procedures; the university is being run by a lawyer who after he was hired would not permit a Daily Times reporter to interview him about his past; the university is being run by a lawyer who was rumored, in Portsmouth’s Republican circles, no less, to be trouble from the start; the university is being run by a lawyer who I was told, was fired from the last job he had held prior to be hired at SSU; the university is being run by a lawyer whom the board of trustees, I was told, almost appointed president, and only after warnings from faculty leaders about the dire consequences of such a move were they dissuaded. This is what happens at a university that has the likes of Neal Hatcher as godfather.

If I sometime speak or write intemperately, it is because I, like a number of others, am outraged by the brazenly corrupt and mendacious political establishment in this city, three members of which the voters of Portsmouth recalled from office last year. The members of the SSU board of trustees are not elected: they are appointed by the governor, and – O, woe is us! – his recent appointment of Kay Reynolds as chair of the board of trustees would justify the faculty wearing black armbands for the rest of the year. The combination of Reynolds and Donohue conspiring together to undermine Chapman as president had to be seen to be appreciated. The combination of Donohue, Reynolds, and Hatcher – that will be something to behold. Members of the SSU board of trustees cannot be recalled but elected members of the city government can, and many of Portsmouth voters, including those who spoke at the city council on Aug. 8, are determined that they will be.

For more on Hatchering, see my earlier blog at

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Lying Addicts


In his book Juiced, Jose Conseco confessed to using steroids and claimed a number of other baseball stars had as well. He said he gave some fellow athletes steroid injections in the buttocks. One of those Canseco accused of using steroids was first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, who testified before a Congressional committee last March 17. When asked under oath if he had ever used steroids, Palmeiro said emphatically, “I have never used steroids. Period!” He repeated “Never!” Now we learn that Palmeiro did test positive for steroids this season, prompting New York Times sportswriter George Vescey to write, “I have come to regard athletes as essentially an addicted sub-society, even worse than the general population because the rewards are so high.”

Palmeiro is a member of the privileged sub-society of athletes who are addicted to steroids. Most addictions are accompanied by denial. Most addicts lie to others and sometimes to themselves about their addictions. Sometimes they even lie under oath and perjure themselves. If Palmeiro had been a Pinocchio, his nose would have stretched all the way up to the congressmen and poked out a congressional eye or two. Instead, inveterate liar that he apparently is, he convinced most of those on the committee, as well as his friend and former Texas Rangers employer, George W. Bush, and most viewers watching on TV, that he was completely innocent. Well-groomed, clean-cut, and righteously indignant, Palmeiro offered to lead a crusade against performance-enhancing drugs as a way of protecting American kids. But after testifying positive for steroids, Palmeiro has qualified the answer he gave the Congressional committee. He now says not that he has never used steroids but that he has never “intentionally” used them.

I bring up Palmeiro because he reminds me of the over-privileged of Portsmouth, another addicted “sub-society.” What the Portsmouth over-privileged are addicted to is pork, not steroids, but pork, like steroids, is a performance enhancing substance. It has kept the over-privileged of Portsmouth in the game. As bad as Portsmouth’s economy is, where would it be without pork, without the public funds that the over-privileged are attached to in so many different ways? Pork keeps not only those in the public but also some in the private sector in business. If they had to compete without local, state, and federal pork, they would be batting so far below the Mendoza line they would be out of the game. They can’t compete without pork, and having depended upon it for so long, they have created a culture of lies to deny their dependency. They lie every bit as earnestly and convincingly as Palmeiro did.

Some time back in the late 1990s, an over-privileged couple, a local businessman and his wife, told me at a dinner how tough they had been in raising their children, never pampering them but rather instilling in them the philosophy of rugged individualism and self-reliance I associate with stalwart Republicans. At the time I wished that I was capable of such “tough love.” Feeling guilty for not having been able to employ that philosophy as a father, I was somewhat in awe of any parent who could. What I subsequently learned was that this same businessman porks and lies with the best, or should I say, the worst, of them. In fact, he is a master of the art of milking public cows for the benefit of himself and his over-privileged cronies, and if there was a Hall-of-Fame for liars, he should qualify. I can believe he preached self-reliance to his children, just as the Republicans who are now in control of all branches of the Federal government continue to preach fiscal responsibility and less government spending at the same that they go on record porking sprees.

Jeff Jacoby, a conservative journalist for the Boston Globe recently wrote a column, titled “Republican Pork Barrel,” in which he said, “it might surprise younger readers to learn that spending discipline was once a basic Republican principle. Hard to believe in this era of bloated Republican budgets and the biggest-spending presidential administration in 40 years – but true.” The $2 million of public money that Clayton Johnson nearly bilked the city out of as payment for the Marting building is the most notorious but by no means an isolated example of porking by Portsmouth’s over-privileged. It is merely the tip of the iceberg, or perhaps I should say it is merely the schnozolla of the swine.

A culture of lies has been created in Portsmouth as a way of conning the public into thinking public officials and public agencies are honest and fiscally responsible. It is my observation that most top management in Portsmouth’s public sector operate within the culture of lies. Instead of solving problems, they deny and deep-six them. In a truly competitive environment, such behavior would result in failure. But in the public and semi-public sector of Portsmouth, incompetence and dishonesty are sustained through feeding tubes to public treasuries. Top administrators are on the same team, in league with each other and with Portsmouth’s top porkers. They constitute a network of mutual suppork. The team that sties together lies together. They give each other shots in the ass. Got some property you need to unload? Got a relative or friend who needs a public-sector job? Need an abatement? Need a tax write-off? Need to raze a neighborhood? Whom would you say is the first person in Portsmouth the over-privileged turn to? To whom do they go to get juiced, or should I say porked?

Portsmouth has its unfair share of bush-league Palmeiros who hide behind prayers, patriotism and protestations of innocence. On the city council, nobody pulls off this deceitful act better than city council president Howard Baughman, though his unctuous style is cramped by the crudeness of his close ally, council vice president Marty “I did not have sex with that woman” Mohr. If the mayor, solicitor, auditor, city clerk, and several members of city council had Pinocchio noses, the council chamber would be a virtual jungle-jim of noses through and over which only the most athletic of citizens would be able to climb to find seats.