Friday, April 11, 2008

Scams: 1980 and 2008

Casket and
"Wanted" sign
used in 1980

It is instructive to compare the Marting Scam of 2008 with the Shopping Mall Scam of 1980. One of the connections between the scams is that local lawyer C. Clayton Johnson was a key figure in both. The differences between the two scams and the differences between 1980 and 2008 are also worth noting. The nine blocks that were supposed to revive downtown Portsmouth in 1980 have been reduced in 2008 to one pathetic building that is supposed to revive downtown Portsmouth, the 125-year-old leaking and unwanted-by-anybody-else Marting Department store. Even when it comes to scams, Portsmouth is not what it once was.


  • Working with City Manager Barry Feldman and others, but behind the backs of the City Council, Clayton Johnson is instrumental in the creation of a scheme to develop a $63 million dollar mall in nine blocks of Portsmouth’s depressed downtown area.
  • The city of Portsmouth enters into negotiations with a Cleveland-based developer Jacobs, Visconsi, and Jacobs. A Memorandum of Intent was drawn up.
  • Local unions and the Ohio Civil Services Association in particular back the 1980 Mall Scam.
  • Harold Daub votes in favor of the mall. He is hailed "Man of the Hour" by the general manager of WPAY Tom Reeder, but after flying to Cleveland to talk to the developer, Daub concludes the proposed mall is a castle in the air and a scam by backers of the mall hope to reap millions.
  • Daub, councilman Mark Price, and Mayor Andrew Clausing, publicly oppose the mall plan, claiming it could cost taxpayers millions of dollars with no likelihood that the mall would ever be built.
  • A media campaign is waged to harass, vilify, and recall Clausing, Price, and Daub. WPAY and its general manager Tom Reeder and the Portsmouth Daily Times lead the media campaign for the Mall and against the three councilman, including Daub, Reeder’s former “Man of the Hour.”
  • After a concerted campaign by the local media, Clausing charges that “We have government by the press and the radio.” “There could have been a riot initiated by the news media,” Clausing told the Portsmouth Daily Times.
  • A pro-mall Ku Klux Klan-like parade is held in downtown Portsmouth, with marchers carrying caskets bearing the likenesses of the city councilman opposed to the mall.
  • Ann Sydnor and Jo Ann Aeh, whose husband was active in the KKK, get their start in Portsmouth politics by becoming invovled in the campaign to recall the three city councilmen. Aeh and Sydnor become permanent political fixtures in Portsmouth either as office holders or employees of city and county government.
  • The three councilmen are recalled and replaced by pro-mall council members, but the proposed mall never materializes. City Manager Feldman slinks out Portsmouth not long afterwards for another job in Michigan, and for the next 25 years the myth is perpetrated that Portsmouth missed its one chance to regain prosperity because of three councilmen.
  • Even with a subservient city council, Neal Hatcher in the period 1996-2006 fails to get his proposed mall off the ground.
  • The city school system, with a plan to build a downtown athletic complex, steps in to purchase the land that Hatcher had acquired by knavery and eminent domain for his mall.

Portsmouth Daily Times, Jan. 23, 1980


  • Mayor Bauer and two councilwomen, Ann Sydnor and Carol Caudill, who were part of the original Marting Scam, are recalled from office by angry citizens.
  • The purchase of the Marting building by the city is ruled invalid by the courts in a case brought by Bob and Teresa Mollette.
  • Clayton Johnson negotiates a new scam on the Marting building with Mayor Kalb, but voters by a nearly 3 to 1 margin in a 2 May 2006 referendum demand a stop to all renovation work on the Marting building.
  • Clayton Johnson sees his plan to convert the 125-year-old Marting building into city offices stymied by concerned citizens and by the courts.
  • At a luncheon in a Portsmouth restaurant, in October 2007, Johnson is overheard bragging about the 1980 campaign that recalled the three councilmen who opposed the 1980 mall, saying that one of the councilman, Harold Daub, was still around and still causing trouble.
  • Johnson is allegedly overheard saying the time had come to begin another campaign like the 1980 one, but this time in favor of converting the Marting building to city offices.
  • Local talk jock Steve Hayes of WNXT and managing editor Art Kuhn of the Portsmouth Daily Times mount a media campaign, criticizing concerned citizens and two City Council members, Bob Mollette and Rich Noel, who are opposed to the Marting Scam.
  • 81-year-old Sixth Ward Councilman Rich Noel, who voted against the Marting Scam, is accused of not paying for city trash collections, even though he was never billed for those services.
  • The story on Rich Noel first appears in the Scioto Voice, which is trying to outdo the Portsmouth Daily Times in its servility to the powers-that-be in Portsmouth.
  • On 25 March 2008, six city employees and four vehicles converge on Noel’s property on Dunlap Road, looking for violations of city codes. They find none. The city had not made a single visit to Noel’s property in the previous twenty-five years.
  • The Shawnee Labor Council endorses the Marting Scam.
  • On Monday, 14 April 2008, the city council is expected to pass an ordinance to authorize the renovation of the 125-year-old Marting building into city offices.
125-year-old unwanted-by-anybody-else Marting building