Friday, December 26, 2014

Judge Mowery and the First Amendment

The Mowery property at 1327 Kinney's Lane

The First Commandment of Portsmouth real estate is that when a person of influence has a piece of property that is difficult to sell in the chronically depressed Portsmouth real estate market, a public or semi-public entity will take it off his or her hands and, drawing directly or indirectly on public monies, pay appreciably more than the property is worth. (For more on the First Commandment, click here.) The Marting Foundation infamously unloaded the empty, leaking, unmarketable Marting building off on  the city a dozen or so years ago  for almost $2,000,000, and that building has been an albatross around the neck of the city and its taxpayers ever since.

A more recent, smaller scale example of the First Commandment apparently at work is the house at 1327  Kinney's Lane  (shown above) owned by Judge Steven Mowery and his wife Leasa. In a public notice in the classified section of the Portsmouth Daily Times (PDT), it was announced as required by law that Scioto County Counseling Center/Compass Point Housing intended to purchase 1327 Kinney's Lane and another house at 644 4th Street and convert them into  "dormitories" for "residents." In the lexicon of the burgeoning drug addiction treatment industry, addicts with some kind of coverage are "clients" and halfway houses for them are "dormitories," and drug clinics to dispense drugs to them are "counseling centers."

The misleading classified ad that was buried in
 the classifieds of the Portsmouth Daily Times.

Before 1327 Kinney's Lane and 644 4th Street in Boneyfiddle could be sold to SCCC/Compass Point, 4th Street residents learned about the notice buried in the classified section of the PDT and became politically galvanized, appearing at the 16/9/2014 meeting of the City Planning Commission at the Municipal Building to make clear they didn't want  the Counseling Center owning and operating any more property in their neighborhood, which was already saturated with tax-free, socially toxic Counseling Center properties. By protesting, Boneyfiddle residents had made the Mowery house on Kinney's Lane and the 4th Street house political hot potatoes. In my interpretation of what happened, in an attempt to squelch the controversy,  SCCC/Compass Point tried to drop the political hot potatoes as quickly as possible. Toward that end, Craig Gullion, the Executive Director of Compass Point Housing, appeared at the hearing in the Municipal Building to announce his organization was no longer interested in acquiring 1327 Kinney’s Lane because  it was too small for the number of "residents" that Compass Point had wanted to house there. Gullion's  explanation was fishy. Hadn't he, as the Executive Director of Compass Point Housing,  or hadn't someone else in his organization, ever been inside 1327 Kinney's Lane before deciding to buy it?  Isn’t the size of a house one of the first things a prospective buyer, especially the Executive Director of a housing company, would notice? Even if his sense of size was faulty,  wouldn’t the County Auditor’s website have provided the exact square footage for him to determine whether 1327 Kinney’s Lane was big enough to suit Compass Point's purposes?

The size of the house at 1327 Kinney's Lane may not have been the problem. The size may have been a smokescreen Gulllion  raised to cover his tracks.  Since the purchase of 1327 Kinney's Lane by the Counseling Center had become controversial, wouldn't  the fact that Judge Mowery was the potential seller raise eyebrows? It raised more than my eyebrows when I examined the fiscal year 2012-2013 federal form 990 that SCCC/Compass Point was required as a non-profit to file with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. What form 990  revealed was that Judge Mowery's wife Leasa, the co-owner of 1327 Kinney's Lane, was the president of  SCCC's fifteen-member Board of Trustees. Because of her important position at SCCC and because of her husband's role as municipal judge, their sale of 1327 Kinney's Lane to SCCC would have appeared to be a glaring conflict of interest. But hardly anybody would have known that if the SCCC hadn't been required as a non-profit to publicly reveal who was who and what was what financially in that somewhat secretive corporation. Non-profits are held to a higher standard and can't get away with the unethical hanky-panky private corporations can. Just what the legal and organizational relationship between the SCCC and Compassing Point Housing is cannot be determined by the 2012-2013 990 form. Who is who and what is what financially at Compass Point needs clarification for it looks like the tail that is wagging the SCCC.

In addition to a couple of the usual suspects, such as Julia Wisniewski,  what follows are the names of the fifteen members of the Board of Trustees of SCCC:

Board of Trustees of SCCC 2012-2013
Leasa Mowery,  Pres.
Brady Womack, VP
Barbara Burke, Secty-Treas.
Mark Cardosi
Karly Estep
Susan Fitzer
Joan Flowers
Asa Jewett
Wm. McKinley 
Dr. Robert Nelson
Wm. Plettner
Barry Rodbell
Rev. Sallie Schisler
Dr. Ronald Turner
Julia Wisniewski

How much might SCCC/Compass Point have overpaid the Mowerys for the Kinney Lane property if the sale had taken place? That is anybody's guess. But if the First Commandment of Portsmouth real estate was followed, as it was with the Marting building, it might have been well above fair market value. But the petition the residents of 4th Street filed with the City Planning Commission changed the fate not only of 1237 Kinney's Lane but of 644 4th Street as well. Since the controversy broke, SCCC/Compass Point has done nothing about buying 644 4th Street, and now appears to have less than no interest in it. Because of the political blowback, that once red hot potato is colder than an ice cube and may end up on the auction block (click here).

644 4th St.: "the once hot potato is colder than an ice cube."

Thursday, December 18, 2014

O, Little Town of Portsmouth

The Marting Building,  alias the Town Center, All Aglow

As hard as it is to believe, the empty, leaky, moldy, politically radioactive 135-year-old Marting building is  yet again being pushed as the home for city offices in spite of voters having turned it down again and again.

How proudly, how reverently
A gift from Marting’s was given,
For Marting’s imparted unto Appalachia
A little touch of heaven—

A cashmere sweater, a prom dress,
A suit, a shirt, a fancy tie-pin—
“One of Ohio’s good stores,”
A place where even a guy would buy in.

But now in the leaking building
Shineth an unearthly light:
The mold of hundred-and-thirty-years
Glows eerily at night.

O, little town of Portsmouth,
How still thy overdosing politicians lie,
Who paid two million for Marting’s
And gave the city a black-eye.

While the rich whites celebrate
Xmas on the Hill above,
Listening to the caroling
To the birth of the God of love,

The fifty-thousand-watt Weasel,
Full of holiday chatter and mirth,
Is canoodling the Skunk and the Fox,
And a Mike of considerable girth.

O, God above,
Listen to us, we pray.
Cast out the lawyers and developers,
The Philistines of today.

Let the archangel Gabriel,
The great glad tidings tell:
The rich white trash of Portsmouth
Are going straight to hell.

                        R. Forrey, 2009

This poem was originally posted on Dec. 11. 2009. For the 2006 Marting Xmas poem, click here. For more on the Marting building, click here.


Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The Can of Worms Counseling Center

The Loco Fred Astaire Can of Worms Logo

The phrase “a can of worms” has not been around very long so its meaning is still evolving. I will use the phrase in this and a subsequent series of River Vices posts on the Scioto County Counseling Center (SCCC) in the sense of “creating a host of potential problems.”  There are so many problems at SCCC, or so many worms in the can, that it’s hard to know where to begin, but it would be useful to know, at the outset, who the officers in the somewhat shadowy company are. According to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service form 990, which can be seen on Guidestar, an  information service that keeps tabs on American non-profit companies, there were  four officers in the fiscal year 2012-2013: Thurman Edward Hughes, Andrew B. Albrecht, Lora Gampp, and Kevin L. Blevins.

Officers at SCCC as of 2012-2013

Title    Name                           Compensation

CEO     Edward Hughes              $140,134

CEO    Andrew Albrecht             $80,674

CFO    Lora Gampp                     $83,327

COO   Kevin Blevins                   $78,007

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is the principal decision-making person in an organization. In the case of the SCCC there appears to be one too many CEOs.  I don’t understand how there can be two CEO’s in one company, but the form 990 filed with the IRS by the SCCC names both Hughes and Albrecht as CEOs. In a report in the Portsmouth Daily Times (24 July 2013), Albrecht is referred to as the Executive Director of the Counseling Center. But only  Albrecht’s  name is listed  in the person-to-contact box of IRS form 990 (above), suggesting he is in charge of day-to-day operations. Possibly Hughes, in his big house high on a hill in Sciotovlle, is in semi-retirement, but still collecting full salary. In the calendar year 2012, form 990 informs us, there were 217 SCCC employees, whose  salaries amounted collectively to about $6,000,000, which was about 60% of the roughly $10,000,000 in revenue SCCC took in that year. Where does all that revenue come from?

SCCC has what could be described as a  captive clientele, since many of them begin drug rehabilitation treatment under a court order. That captive clientele  could also be called lucrative since Uncle Sam, with deep pockets, directly and indirectly, pays most of the cost of their  treatment.

That Albrecht  would oversee so big an operation is surprising  since he does not appear to have the educational qualifications for a CEO. Anyone in  field of addiction counseling, which has mushroomed in the last quarter century,  must swim in a sea of anagrams. The anagrams that follow Hughes' name are MPS and LICDC, presumably for Master of Professional Studies and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor. Hughes co-authored a book titled Baffled by Addiction (2009). I will admit to being somewhat baffled by the acronyms in the field of addiction counseling. If Albrecht has anagrams after his name, it is a well-kept secret. His educational background was not mention in the PDT story that reported his promotion to Executive Director, but neither was his police record reported in that same story. His rap sheet stretches  as far back as 1996, when he was not yet out of his teens. (If he had broken  the law in his early  teens, that is no longer part of the public record.) The anagrams associated with his police record, such as  DUI and DUS, are a matter of  public record, and reveal that in addition to driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs (DUI) and with his license suspended (DUS), that he was also arrested for underage drinking; for failing to yield; for driving the wrong way on a one way street; for speeding (more than once); for illegally parking on a public highway; for not wearing a seatbelt;  for possessing drug paraphernalia; for drug use (more than once); for assault; for disturbing the peace; for disorderly conduct; and for receiving stolen property. If 1996 was his earliest run-in with the police, 2013, when he was clocked doing 70 in a 55 mph zone, was his latest. It was just months after that ticket for speeding that he was promoted to C.E.O./E.D. at SCCC. During the years most bright, ambitious young men his age would have been pursuing an undergraduate and graduate degree in some professional field, Albrecht, judging by his police record (below), was into drugs, speeding, and screwing off. But since these acronyms in the field of addiction counseling can be earned at least in part online,  perhaps he too has more than one anagram. 


If abusing drugs and driving recklessly appear to be  requirements for holding public office in Portsmouth, as in the case of the failed grocery clerk, Jim Kalb, why shouldn’t those same lawless activities qualify someone to be the CEO of a Portsmouth company like the SCCC? It is true that Albrecht has not yet  failed in business and declared himself bankrupt, which appears to be another requirement for holding public office in Portsmouth, but he is still in his thirties. He has time. Who knows, if he is crooked and incompetent enough, he too may end up, like those  lugubrious failures Kalb, Bauer, Malone, Haas, Saddler, and Kevin W. Johnson, slithering in the can of worms  of  Portsmouth politics. 

Monday, December 01, 2014

The Addiction to Money: the Skunk, the Fox, and the Consigliere

Money-addicted Fox and Skunk 

In my previous post, “A Brief History of Portsmouth’s Psychotropic Addictions,”  I said there is a drug, loosely speaking, that has been even more pervasive and addictive than the cocaine, Valium,  Oxycontin, Suboxone, etc.,  that have plagued Portsmouth. That drug is money. Unlike addictions caused by chemicals, the addictions caused by money are called  process or behavior addictions, in which,  through the release of pleasure-producing dopamines, the brain gets rewired neurologically and as a result compulsively repeats the pleasurable pursuit of money. "In the brain," Wikipedia says, "dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter—a chemical released by nerve cells to send signals to other nerve cells. The brain includes several distinct dopamine systems, one of which plays a major role in reward-motivated behavior. Most types of reward increase the level of dopamine in the brain, and a variety of addictive drugs increase dopamine neuronal activity."

Dopamine molecules

A couple of  enterprising money addicts,  whom I called the Skunk and the Fox in a poem I posted five years ago (click here),  realized they could get rich quick by capitalizing on  Portsmouth’s pervasive poverty, the crumbling housing stock and eminent domain being the skunk’s bailiwick, the legal monkey business of estate planning  and tax write-offs being  the Fox’s. In 1963, in a speech before Congress, President Lyndon Johnson declared War on Poverty. The federal government’s weapon of choice in that war was not tanks and battleships but money.

In  that same year, 1963,  a handful of Portsmouth entrepreneurs  formed  a now infamous private corporation that ended up with the name Southern Ohio Growth Partnership, Inc. (SOGP), with the Fox being the brains behind the operation. The mission  of the SOGP was to distribute the War on Poverty money that  was flowing into southern Ohio in the form of  grants and loans for deserving businessmen. (Just as there are "deserving poor,"  there are deserving businessmen.) In deciding which deserving businessman got how much of the addictive drug, money, the  SOGP Fox was the equivalent of a powerful drug lord. The SOGP went out of business last year after it was discovered they were cooking the books. The Fox has since retired but the Skunk has not. Some years ago I was told of an exchange somebody had with the Skunk. When asked why he hadn’t retired seeing he had already made a lot of money,  the Skunk said, or so the story goes, “There’s never enough money.”

The War on Drugs

As the Skunk and Fox had profited from the money the government spent on the War on  Poverty, a couple of younger money addicts have come along in Portsmouth who are profiting not from the passé War on Poverty but from the War on Drugs. They see themselves as drug counselors acting out of humanitarian and even religious motives, but their critics think of them more as consiglieres, which is Italian for "counselors."  Just recently, one of these consiglieres has had his two Portsmouth counseling centers raided by the police and he has been charged with money laundering and racketeering. 

The term War on Drugs was  coined by President Nixon in a special message to Congress on June 17, 1971, in which he promised federal resources would be devoted to “the prevention of new addicts, and the rehabilitation of those who are addicted.” Thirty-five years after Nixon declared War on Drugs, that war rages on, with no end in sight, with an estimated $51,000,000,000 (that's 51 billion!) being spent annually on it, dwarfing what had been spent on the War on Poverty, which did not last beyond the 1960s. Of the 50 states in the U.S., Ohio is the 11th most addicted and Scioto County among the highest per capita addicted Ohio counties, and no where more so than in the county seat, Portsmouth, which attracts money addicts like honey attracts flies. For soldiers of fortune, Portsmouth is a very profitable place to fight the War on Drugs.

In my next post I will provide a peek inside the Scioto County Counseling Center, Inc., the oldest, largest, and most profitable of the local "non-profit" counseling centers. I will also throw a little light on the shadowy but well-paid "consigliere" behind it. 
. . .

Brain circuitry

"The brain includes several distinct dopamine systems, one of which plays a major role in reward-motivated behavior. Most types of reward increase the level of dopamine in the brain, and a variety of addictive drugs increase dopamine neuronal activity." For more on brain circuitry as a result of process addiction, see my previous post "Just Say No to Ed Hughes"  (click here).