1416 1/2 Park Ave.
In 2011 the controversial Portsmouth businesswoman Kay (AKA Klara) Reynolds was reappointed by Governor Kasich to the Shawnee State University Board of Trustees, where she will serve on the three-member presidential search committee. More recently, she was sworn in as the Vice-Chair of the Ohio Republican Party (ORP). In view of her reputation, as least among the faculty at SSU and among Tea Partiers, I'm surprised she was chosen for either of these two prominent positions. Reynolds was and still is the owner of, among other businesses, Scioto Rental Management. In her first term as a member of the Shawnee State University Board of Trustees (1999-2008), she was suspected of a conflict of interest when she reportedly tried to interest the university in one of her troubled properties, an apartment complex at 115 Boundary Street. At that time SSU president Clive Veri was pushing hard for football at the university, and the argument was made that 115 Boundary Street, overlooking historic Spartan Stadium, would make a convenient dormitory for the team. But Veri resigned under pressure in 1998, and he was replaced by James Chapman, who decided football was not financially feasible for the university, dashing whatever hopes Reynolds may have had of selling or leasing 115 Boundary to SSU. She was stuck with the property and the headaches that went with it, not selling it until 2012.
A past president of the Shawnee Education Association, the faculty union, told me that Reynolds back in the late 1990s had voted against a collective bargaining agreement the union and the administration negotiators had worked out, saying that the SSU faculty were like children, and “even though you would like to give them what they want, you must sometimes say NO!” That apparently was also her attitude toward tenants, whom she was accustomed to saying no to, as for example, when they asked for their security deposits back. I was told by one of her former tenants at 115 Boundary that Kay, or Klara, to use her business name, refused to refund his deposit even though his mother told me she had thoroughly cleaned his apartment after he moved out.
Kay Boynton Reynold's maiden name was Klara Rapp, but having been married twice, she uses a bewildering combination of first names, initials, and last names, making it difficult to track her down in public records. But generally, Klara is the name she uses in business and Kay the name she uses as a social and political figure. The mercenary Klara makes the money and does the dirty work, so to speak, and the high-minded public-figure Kay takes the credit and gets the kudos. Klara takes the low road and Kay the high road. Read the statement she released when she was reappointed to the board and you would think she was a miracle worker and not the most divisive and obstructive member of that board. "I’m honored to be able to serve again," she wrote. "My previous term we accomplished a great deal and made a number of decisions that I feel were critical in helping Shawnee State grow. It makes me proud.”
Is she also proud of what she has done as a landlord in Portsmouth? In the last fourteen years, for allegedly failing to meet their financial obligations, her tenants have been taken to court by Kay, or more specifically by Klara, about 180 times, including tenants from 115 Boundary Street. It appears she failed to meet her obligations as a landlord to keep up her properties. I recently learned she owns a house, at 1416 ½ Park Avenue, that is not fit for human habitation. Actually, the house is not located on Park Avenue but on the alley that runs behind it, and it is not officially numbered 1416 1/2, but rather as 1416, creating confusion. The County Auditor's Office clarified things for me when they pointed out that the parcel of land at 1416 Park contains two different residences, front and back, separated by a fence. How did this confusing arrangement of two 1416s come about? Perhaps only Klara knows. Kay took tenants of 1416 into court, but of the front or the back 1416 is not clear.
I made a visit to the back 1416, to what I'll call 1416 1/2, one muggy morning with my friend Austin Leedom, editor of the Shawnee Sentinel. When we arrived at the alley, a deranged-looking man was poking through overflowing trash barrels. Barking dogs snarled at us from behind rusting link fences. The front door of the unnumbered 1416½ was boarded up with plywood, so we went to the backyard, which was strewn with debris, including a large, ratty sofa. Through the open back door, I could see the gutted kitchen which had a large mattress on the floor. (See the photos above.)
If some residents of Portsmouth think of Kay Reynolds as a slumlord, some Tea-Party Republicans think of her as a RINO, a Republican-In-Name-Only. Tea Partiers consider RINOs as unprincipled opportunists who are as big-government as Democrats. From a Tea Party perspective, Reynolds was being unprincipled when she resorted to Section 8, which is a New Deal piece of legislation passed by the Democratic-dominated U.S. Congress during the Great Depression. Under Section 8, the government pays up to two-thirds of poor tenants' rent. To conservative Republicans, the government paying rent for poor people smacks of socialism, if not fiscal insanity. But the clever RINO created a corporation called Choice Housing to take advantage of Section 8. The corporation was described as a charitable organization, as if she was a philanthropist. With the government paying two-thirds of the rent, there was less need for Klara to take tenants to court because they needed to pay only one third of what she charged for rent with the government paying the rest. Here is the rundown on Kay's Choice Housing that I found online:
Kay’s “Charitable Organization”
Voters are not children anymore than the faculty at SSU or her tenants are children. As a retired faculty member, I have an interest in the future of SSU, and I don’t think Reynolds should be on the presidential search committee or even on the Board of Trustees. If the Ohio Republican Party wants her as their Vice-Chair, that is their business, but what does that say about the Ohio Republican Party? As a presumptive candidate in the 2016 presidential race, Kasich is trying to move to the center politically to appeal to independent voters. But people like Kay Reynolds may be just what Kasich and the Ohio Republican Party don’t need if they hope to win back the White House. They may end up getting more independents to vote Republican but by abandoning sacrosanct Republican principles they may lose the votes of conservative Republicans.
From public records available on the internet (Appendix B), I have culled some two hundred names (Appendix A) from among those Kay brought into Portsmouth Municipal Court on one charge or another. Many of the names date back to the 1990s and at least some of them may have moved on and a few sadly passed away. With one exception, none of them challenged her in court, which they probably could not afford to do, but I am offering them the opportunity to set the record straight for posterity, if they can, to show they were not the deadbeats the official records suggest they were but rather Reynold's victims. I invite any of them that might read this blog, if they are so inclined, now that she occupies the number two position on the central committee of the Ohio Republican Party, to Just Say Nay to Kay.
Another decrepit Reynolds property, this one in the Sixth Ward
Bertram, Donald, Jr.
Gribble, Rev. Steven
Sprague, Clara Bell
Whitaker, Bill, Jr.