Saturday, September 17, 2005

My Brother's Keeper

From Daily Times Election Supplement

On November 2, 2004, in the recall election to decide who would replace Carol Caudill as Ward 3 representative on the Portsmouth City Council, Michael A. Malone lost to Robert Mollette by a single vote. That Malone came that close was surprising because he has a long criminal record, previously having been arrested for writing bad checks and for drug-related charges and for having served a jail term for theft, forgery and receiving stolen property. In 2000, he had been arrested for stealing checks from another brother and forging his signature. For that crime Malone served time in the state prison in Orient, Ohio. (For Michael A. Malone’s city and country arrest records go to and to or view the rap sheets below.)

How did a man with Malone’s criminal record come so close to winning a seat on the Portsmouth City Council? Part of the answer is that Malone himself and the relatively few people who knew about his criminal background said nothing about it during the election campaign. Malone’s brother, Councilman David A. Malone, said nothing about it, at least not publicly. The City Solicitor David Kuhn, and the City Clerk JoAnn Aeh said nothing about it publicly, as far as I know, although Malone said he had told them about it because he wanted to know if being a convicted felon would prevent him from running. They told him he could run and hold office, Malone claimed, but they did not publicly let anyone else know what they knew about him.

Malone later claimed he had “a campaign attorney who guided him through various stages of the campaign.” Perhaps it was his “campaign attorney” who advised him to wage the stealth campaign that very nearly won him the election. If you are advising a candidate who has an extensive criminal record, you don’t want to put him in public forums where he might have to answer questions about that record. Robert Mollette told me Malone was pretty much a no–show during the campaign. Malone did not participate in debates or make any public appearances that Mollette knew of. The Portsmouth Daily Times had very little to tell its readers about Malone. In its special Oct. 31 supplement “Election 2004,” the Daily Times gave readers Malone’s age, names of his family, his education, and his political experience, which was none. It also reported what his hobbies were – sports and church – and what his favorite team was. That was one of the six questions the Daily Times asked all candidates: What is your favorite team? In future election supplements the Daily Times might do well to add another question: “Do you have any felony convictions?”

Public officials at the Scioto County Courthouse and at the Portsmouth Municipal Building knew of Malone’s long record, but the Daily Times and the Community Common never got wind of it, or if they did, they chose to hold their noses. There are some stories our local newspapers don’t cover. It is part of our local cover-up journalism. If the over-privileged of Portsmouth are going to continue to be able to eminent domain other people's property and unload their own distressed properties on the public, the city council must continue to operate in its traditional corrupt manner. Faced with the alternative of having a chronic criminal or an honest and able individual representing Ward 3, those in power appparently preferred the criminal, since he probably would be replaced anyway.

Harold Daub worked for many years with another Malone brother, so when Michael Malone asked him to serve on his election committee, Daub agreed. Daub told me he knew nothing of Malone’s criminal record when he agreed to be one of the five people on Malone’s election committee. Daub did not know of Malone’s criminal background until after the election. A week after the election, on November 8, 2004, Daub wrote a letter to Stephen Mowery, the attorney who is the chair of the Scioto County Board of Elections, saying, “I am distraught to discover 3rd Ward Council candidate Mr. Michael A. Malone has been charged and convicted of a theft/forgery felony (00CR000361) and spent time in prison in the state of Ohio.” Daub also wrote, “I just recently discussed this issue with Mr. Malone and discovered he had informed the City Solicitor David Kuhn and City Clerk JoAnn Aeh, of his felony record prior to obtaining petitions. Per Mr. Malone both Mr. Kuhn and Ms. Aeh stated, he could run for City Council.”

Since Malone was running as a candidate who was opposed to the recall movement, which the Daily Times also opposed, it is not likely a Daily Times reporter would ask Michael Malone about his criminal record. It was also unlikely that a flyer would appear in the Daily Times or the Community Common identifying Malone as a convicted felon, though such a flyer had appeared in the Community Common in June 2004 in the form of a wanted poster, identifying three people supporting the recall of Mayor Bauer as felons. None of those three, it should be noted, was running for office.

Malone came as close as he did to winning a council seat not only because he waged a campaign that successfully avoided having to face questions about his criminal record, but also because he was opposed to the recall movement. In speaking before the Portsmouth City Council a month after the election, Michael Malone praised Carol Caudill and Ann Sydnor, the two councilwomen who had been recalled. “Saying he wanted to put one thing in perspective,” the council minutes report, “Mr. Malone acknowledged the absence, in the room, of former Council members Ann Sydnor and Carol Caudill due to recall. He pointed out that both Ann Sydnor and Carol Caudill served the City well, saying ‘They’ve served the city for many years and although not sitting in a Council seat they are still active in the community.’” Malone told the Daily Times' Jeff Barron, "The recall is a bad thing" (Oct. 31, 2004).

If he was opposed to recalling Caudill, why did Malone run as a candidate to replace her? Because he wanted to offer voters an alternative to Mollette, who was active in the reform movement. In reporting election results in the Community Common, Mike Deaterla reported “Malone, the brother of 2nd Ward Councilman David Malone, had originally opposed the recall but had wanted to give voters another choice” (11/3/04).

I have heard rumors that Carol Caudill advised voters in Ward 3 to vote for Malone, because he was preferable to Mollette, whom she accused of being in the race only for personal reasons. If elected, Malone could be counted on to do what Caudill had done on the city council: be a rubber stamp for the SOGP and the over-privileged of Portsmouth. Election petitions on file at the Board of Elections show support for Malone was very strong on Baird St., where Caudill had formerly lived and where she had a number of supporters. But I doubt that many of the sixteen people on Baird St. who signed Malone’s election petitions knew of his criminal record.

In 2004, at the time he was running for Portsmouth City Council, Michael Malone was in court again, this time for not paying money he owed to Auto Now Acceptance Co. The court docket shows that on Monday, November 1, 2004, a day before the election, a certified letter that had been sent to Malone and his wife had been returned unclaimed to court (Case Number: CVF0402141). Consequently, Auto Now’s case against Malone could not begin because the defendant could not be located. The docket reads, “THE ABOVE STYLED CASE IS INACTIVE DUE TO THE UNAVAILABILITY TO ACCUSED.” In the unlikely event that someone, say the Daily Times, might have discovered and reported that a candidate for city council who was being sued for not paying his debts had failed to show up in court on the eve of the election, Malone’s prospects for becoming a member of city council might have been reduced. The court did not attempt to reach Malone by mail until Nov. 15, two weeks after the election. It should be noted that, in his previous appearances before the courts, Malone pled indigency, so an attorney had to be appointed for him at public expense. However, in the legal trouble he was in with Auto Now during the last election period, Malone was represented by George L. Davis III, who is reputed to be one of the best lawyers in Portsmouth.

In speaking before the Portsmouth City Council on Dec. 13, 2004, a month after the election, Michael Malone, responding to a question by a member of the public, addressed the issue of whether a felon could run for a seat on the council. According to council minutes, “[Michael Malone] said that no matter whether you are a convicted felon or not, you can still run and hold a public office. Mr. Malone said he researched, got a campaign attorney who guided him through various stages of the campaign and was found to be qualified and able to serve.”

Sounding like a Daily Times editorial, or a speech by a member of the Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce, Malone in speaking before the city council on Dec. 13 criticized the negativity that prevailed in Portsmouth, including the critical comments that had been expressed by citizens earlier at that same council meeting. Malone said negative attitudes needed to be changed. “He said ‘The City of Portsmouth is a city or prosperity but it starts with the individual, again saying individual attitudes needs [sic] to change to the positive.'”

I was in the council chambers that night and heard the neatly dressed and articulate Michael Malone make his speech. The slogan “Portsmouth: City of Prosperity,” which I have since seen on several bumpers, including on David Malone’s automobile, was not the creation of Michael or David Malone. The source of that slogan was Bishop Arbrey Harley, of the Deeper Life Church, in Baltimore. Harley had preached in 2004 in Portsmouth at a religious tent meeting that had been sponsored by David Malone’s church.

According to Portia Williams, a guest columnist in the Daily Times who reported enthusiastically on Bishop Harley’s City of Prosperity sermon (10/3/04), the idea of having Bishop Harley preach in Portsmouth came from Linda Phipps, a pastoral associate of Rev. Malone. Ms. Phipps claimed to have received “the initial word from God to have the tent revival . . .” And Bishop Harley, presumably not coincidentally, claimed to have received a prophecy from God that Portsmouth would soon become a prosperous vibrant city. That was the good news he brought to the tent meeting. However, for God’s prophecy to be fulfilled, people had to be positive about Portsmouth. “Just as Bishop Harley suggested,” Williams wrote, “when we speak of the city of Portsmouth we must say, ‘Portsmouth: The City of Prosperity!’”

Bishop Hartley had prophesied that Portsmouth would become a city of prosperity, where businesses would thrive, but that turned out not to be the case for Malone, for as recently as March 2005 he was back in court, being sued by Ritchie’s Food for not meeting his financial obligations as the operator of the Big Top Malt Shop (05MC000407).

The first Deeper Life Church had been founded in Florida by a preacher whose sexual and financial improprieties were exposed in a series of articles in the Tampa Tribune in 2003. One of the rules of the Deeper Life movement is that members must be positive, not negative. Members of the Tampa Deeper Life Church were told they must not criticize the leaders of that church. The Tampa Tribune reported that at one evening prayer service, “a visiting evangelist warned that the bishop and his wife are sacred angels. Do not provoke or criticize them, he said.” (For more on Tampa’s Deeper Life Church, click on )

I had not yet seen Michael Malone’s criminal record, so I could not appreciate the irony of his speaking before the city council about individual responsibility and his preaching Bishop Harley’s gospel of prosperity through positive thinking. Michael Malone’s previous attempts to achieve prosperity through crime had been unsuccessful. So the candidate who missed a seat on the Portsmouth City Council by only one vote and spoke before the city council urging more individual responsibility and less negativism, had a criminal record that included being in possession of drug paraphernalia, receiving stolen property, taking out loans he would not repay, writing bad checks, and stealing paychecks from a brother. Anyone who may have thought that the Michael Malone who advocated individual responsibility before the city council last December had turned over a new leaf was mistaken. As recently as Feb. and March of this year, 2005, Malone was in trouble again for theft and passing a bad check. (See items numbered 1, 2. and 3 on the third rap sheet below.)

The Daily Times did not report that Malone had a criminal record until more than a week after Harold Daub had raised the issue in his Nov. 8th letter to Steve Mowery. Malone’s criminal record is not hard to find: it is on the internet for the public and reporters alike to see. Finally getting on the trail of the Malone story, the Daily Times’ Jeff Barron reported on Nov. 19th that “Malone did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment about the conviction.” When contacted by Barron, David Malone admitted his brother Michael had spent time in prison “but said he didn’t know what for.” It seems hard to believe that Rev. Malone, in Nov. 2004, would still not have known why his brother Michael had served time in prison in 2000, because Michael had stolen and forged checks of a third Malone brother. "Am I my brother's keeper?" is the biblical passage that comes to mind. Was David Malone trying to separate himself from his brother, or was he trying to shield him, as he and others had during the campaign?

Rev. David Malone preaching on steps of Municipal Building

Contrast the way in which Michael A. Malone was encouraged to run for city council and provided a campaign attorney and protected from public scrutiny with the way Joe Perry, an honest hardworking electrician and African-American property owner has been treated by Neal Hatcher and the politicians who do that developer’s eminent domaining for him. Or compare the treatment Michael Malone got as a candidate for Portsmouth City Council to the treatment Russell Cooper got. A Native American candidate seeking to replace David Malone on the city council, Cooper was summarily arrested and charged with a felony for alleged forged signatures on his petitions. The suspicion is high in the reform movement in Portsmouth that the arrest of Cooper was part of a move to protect the politically vulnerable David Malone from being recalled. Even before it was learned Rev. Malone had been having an adulterous affair with a member of his congregation, the voters in his ward were becoming disillusioned with him as their councilman.

Are the people who were willing to elect a convicted forger, Michael Malone, to the city council, no questions asked, trying now to use a forgery charge to destroy the campaign of David Malone’s challenger?

In another blog I will deal with the bizarre mess that allowed Michael Malone to run for an office that he would not have been legally able to continue in if the Scioto County Prosecutor then enforced the state laws prohibiting felons from holding public office. Stephen Mowery is quoted by Jeff Barron as saying Malone “may not be able to serve because of a prior felony conviction.” Yes, in Ohio a felon can legally run for public office but not legally occupy it. Mowery told me that if Malone had been elected the whole thing would have likely ended up in the courts, where the legal costs to the taxpayers were potentially enormous.

But even if Michael Malone had been elected but not allowed to join his brother David on the city council, the opponents of the reform movement would probably have succeeded in their ultimate objective, which was preventing a reformer from joining the city council. The Portsmouth city charter (Sect. 144.f) calls for the candidate's election committee to appoint a replacement to the city council in case of the death or withdrawal of the candidate. If a victorious Malone had been considered a member of the council but had then been removed by the courts, the city charter (Sect. 3) in that case calls for a majority of the council to appoint someone from that ward to serve on the council. In either case, whether Malone's election committee or the city council made the choice, Mollette, as reform candidate, would have had about as much chance of being appointed as Portsmouth had of miraculously suddenly becoming a City of Prosperity.

Considering how heroically and stoically Mollette has served on the council, his one vote margin of victory over Michael Malone might seem providential to those who believe God gets involved in such matters.

Rap Sheets for Michael A. Malone