Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Marting Foundation

The Marting Foundation: The Scamarting of Portsmouth

Statement of purpose of the Marting Foundation on its first filing with the IRS for the year 2002

The death of the crooked SOGP (the Southern Ohio Growth Partnership) is a blessed event  in the history of Portsmouth, just as May 29th, 2002, the day the Marting Scam was perpetrated, was “a day that should  live in infamy,” as Andrew Feight put it in “‘Follow the Money’: A History of the Marting’s Scandal.” The SOGP is dead, but its partner-in-crime, the philanthropic front entity known as the Marting Foundation, continues to feebly live on, further tarnishing the once respected, even beloved, Marting name. According to official documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service, the Foundation was established as a charitable organization: “For the purpose of promoting and advancing economic betterment in Portsmouth and Scioto County on a not for profit basis.” That’s what the official statement says, but I believe the Foundation was established  for the economic betterment of the corrupt clique that controls the city on a for-profit basis. I believe the  Foundation was established by the nearly bankrupt Marting Brothers Company with the aim of  liquidating that company and paying  off its local stockholders, especially the largest shareholder (26%), Richard D. Marting, by laundering  the $2 million dollars the company acquired in 2002 from  its  illegal sale to the city of the decrepit and scandalously over-appraised Marting department store building.
The Foundation worked closely with the Marting Company  to deceive the public. Working closely was not hard to do since the trustees of the Foundation were also the trustees of the Marting Company, and for all we know they were also trustees of the short-lived front, the Marting Brothers Acquisition Company, also created in 1996. The overall scheme was so incredibly complicated and convoluted it  was like a distorting mirror in a fun house. It was not just a conflict of interest; it was shameless collusion. From 1996, when the Foundation was created,  to 2010,  Wisnieswski, Johnson, Arnett, Jenkins, and Payne  were also trustees of the SOGP, making it a trifecta: The Marting Company, the Marting Foundation, and the SOGP.   Julia S. Wisniewski, the chairperson of the Foundation, is the owner of Smith’s Drugs, in downtown Portsmouth. Randal M. Arnett is the CEO of the Southern Ohio Medical Center (SOMC). Gerald R. Jenkins is the former president and member of the board of the American Savings Bank. Roy Payne, now deceased, was the first dean of the College of Business at Shawnee State U. Clayton Johnson, was the lawyer who represented the Marting Company and masterminded the  sale of the Marting building to the city. Together, Julia Smith, as Chairperson and Johnson, as ringleader, were the Bonnie and Clyde of the Foundation, only they didn’t rob banks: they borrowed money from them, which was not hard since Johnson was on the board of directors of two of the banks involved: Bank One and the Oak Hill Bank.

The money that the Foundation dispensed from 2002 to 2010 went principally to two organizations. (1)The primary recipient, the Portsmouth city government,  received a $200,000 “kickback,” as Feight called it. Those who follow the machinations of the city council more closely than I do tell me that exactly where and to whom in the city government the $200,000 went is something of a mystery. When asked in a city council meeting, neither Mayor Kalb nor City Auditor Williams could say just where the money went or how it was used. (2)The next highest amount granted was a total of $65,000 to the  Southern Ohio Museum, a pet project of Johnson’s wife, who was its executive director. The Foundation’s 2003  filing with the I.R.S. (below) shows the first down payments, of $100,000 and $5,000, to these favored recipients. Note that the highlighted second column asks if the recipient of a grant is an individual, has he or she any relationship to  any manager of the foundation. The museum is an organization, of course, not an individual, so “NONE” is listed, but it still appears to be a conflict of interest, if not nepotism.

What gets publicized are the smaller grants the Foundation makes to other groups and organizations, such as those that make shelter available to homeless pets and people. The Foundation’s more public-relations-minded, smaller grants get publicized while the much larger grants to the pet organization of Johnson’s wife and to the crooks in city government are not considered front page news. Conceived in scandal, dedicated to the laundering of the illegal money from the sale of the Marting building, the Marting Foundation should give back the money it robbed back to the city and dissolve so the Marting scandle can finally be put behind us. The Marting name is now mud and Wisniewski and the others will be too as long they are associated with the Foundation.

Julia Wisniewski ( right) giving Marting Foundation check to Sierra Haven Animal Rescue Center, in 2011.

To read Andrew Feight's outstanding article on the Marting Scam, "Follow the Money," visit his Lower Scioto Valley website : click here

To read Clayton Johnson's testimony before Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation on Teresa Mollette's terrific website, click here