The SOGP: “It’s dead! It’s dead!”
The headline of a story in Monday’s Portsmouth Daily Times (2 April 2012) was “Gampp: SOGP to Fade Away.” Mike Gampp, president of American Savings Bank, who just recently replaced the disgraced Bob Huff as president of the SOGP, told the PDT, “I believe you are going to see the SOGP fade away. It’s not going to exist anymore.” Yes, Gampp, Portsmouth's most politically active banker, and the rest of the SOGP gang wish the corrupt Southern Ohio Growth Partnership, of which they were an integral part, would just fade away and never be heard from again. But from a public relations point of view, the demise of the SOGP is not what Gampp should have been trumpeting and not what Frank Lewis, if he had been doing his job at public relations correctly, should have used as his lead in Monday’s PDT.
Bob Huff was recently fired after it was discovered he was using Portsmouth Murals Inc. (PMI) monies to pay operating expenses for the SOGP. But that’s really old news—at least a week old. The negative impression Gampp’s inept attempt at a whitewash made on Monday had to be corrected on Tuesday. The day after the “Gampp: SOGP to Fade Away” story appeared in the PDT, another more upbeat story appeared the next day, Tuesday, with the headline, “Community Action to Buy Welcome Center,” the opening sentence of which was, “The future of the Scioto County Welcome Center is brighter after Community Action of Scioto County announced Monday it was purchasing the building for $300,000.” Instead of negative words and phrases like “fade away,” “discrepancy,” “defunct,” “concerned,” “SOGP’s time had probably come and gone,” tell-tale words in Monday’s story, Tuesday’s story had words and phrases such as, “This is a win win,” or even better, this is a “win win win,” “it’s an opportunity that came along that we couldn’t pass up,” “brighter,” “collaborative effort,” “asset to the community,” come to “fruition,” “excited” [twice], “relieved,” “complete reorganization,” “great thing,” “something to celebrate,” and last but not least “bingo.”
Yes, providing bingo is one of Community Action’s public services, and it is considering moving that most boring of all addictions for the elderly to the Welcome Center. But won’t that interfere with the questionable coin auctions that occasionally take place at the Welcome Center? Perhaps those two things—bingo and coins—could be combined into a more “exciting” game, which might be called bunko instead of bingo. In case you forgot, bunko is a swindle perpetrated by two or more con artists on a naïve victim. Portsmouth may be not only the Oxycontin but also the bunko capital of Ohio. Bunko-games, as they are sometimes called, are usually accompanied by a lot of bunkum, or hot air, which appears to be Gampp’s speciality. Incidentally, Gampp’s nickname among CAVE people is “Double Pee,” in keeping with the CAVE people’s nickname for the SOGP—the “Soggy Pee.”
American Savings Bank, where “Double-Pee” is president
I and other CAVE people were shocked-shocked when we learned Huff had been dipping into PMI funds to pay SOGP operating expenses, and we were shocked-shocked that businessman Chris Lute, who thinks the minimum wage is un-American, and former city council member Ann Sydnor, who has been feeding at the public trough since the Stone Age, had no idea that squarepants Bob was sponging on PMI, even though Lute and Sydnor are vice presidents of PMI. You would think Sydnor in particular, after all her years in public service, at city government, at PMI, and at Community Action, would have been a better financial watchdog since she knows as well as anybody that the city has been illegally using funds intended for capital projects to pay operating expenses, such as salaries and benefits of city officials and employees, for a long time, letting the Municipal Building fall into disrepair in the process. Why pay for the upkeep of the Municipal Building when salaries and benefits for the mayor, the auditor, the city solicitor, members of city council, and all city employees can be persistently increased, even when the city is operating at a deficit?
The SOGP has been a bad influence in Portsmouth for a long time, as far back as the 1960s (under another name), but it could not have done so without the money provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, millions of dollars that the SOGP then loaned out to favored parties as a form of political patronage, including reportedly to members of the SOGP inner circle. The SOGP was a private organization doling out public money without being obligated to disclose what they were doing since open records laws don’t apply to private organizations. The SOGP was the main means by which greedy lawyers and developers in Portsmouth evaded the bothersome constraints of democracy.
The Scioto County Welcome Center: Another Portsmouth Pork Project
On Tuesday Lewis recovered his PR stance and made the bad news sound like good news. Nothing had happened between Monday and Tuesday as far as the Welcome Center was concerned. The sale of the Welcome Center to Community Action was mentioned Monday, but it was not spun the way Gampp and the rest of the SOGP gang would have liked. Frank Lewis had got carried away on Monday and apparently forgot that his primary job at the PDT is public relations, not reporting news. Jeff Barron lost his job at PDT for reporting that somebody arrested for dealing drugs was employed as a mechanic at Glockner’s. That’s when angry Andy called the PDT and Barron was fired. I wonder if someone contacted the PDT after the Monday story “SOGP Fading Away” appeared?Lewis better watch his step. Even somebody as adept at spin, and as eager as he is to be a tool, can anger the SOGP gang, or should they now be called the Public Spirited Citizens, or the PSC: Gammp, Thacker, Morton, Walton, Lute, Sydnor, etc.? Lewis better remember the cardinal rule of public relations: he can’t be frank; he can’t be critical—not of the people who control Portsmouth, not if he wants to keep his job.
Rob “Porkman” Portman, godfather of Welcome Center
I once compared the Welcome Center to one of those “social clubs” in lower Manhattan that are fronts for Mafia families. Huff will fade away, possibly right into jail, but the other usual suspects will still be at the Welcome Center. The bipartisan corruption for which Portsmouth is notorious, the same lack of competition, the same toothlessness at the Portsmouth Daily Times, will continue. The SOGP is gone but the Chamber of Commerce, which fathered it, will be up to its old tricks, and Senator Rob Porkman, the godfather of the Welcome Center, and the Attorney General, Mike DeWine, whom I once photographed in the gutter outside of Clayton Johnson’s office, may turn the usual blind eye and the SOGP will, as Double-Pee predicts, fade away and be forgotten.
Mike DeWine in gutter outside office of Clayton Johnson
Earlier postings on SOGP: