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Let’s Connect Some Dots: A follow up to Todd Osborne’s statement to council on 6/13/17

by Halie S. Rebeccaschild

Do Mark Fitzgerald’s appointments to the Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) need to comply with CIC regulations? Yes, it does. It’s a good thing that Loveland resident and past council member, Todd Osborne, has been paying attention. Given the high-dollar stakes around land transfers, TIFS, bonds, and everything else the independent “economic arm” of our city does, we need to check into Todd’s claims to ensure the CIC also meets the interest of residents.

On 6/13/17 Todd made some critical statements to City Council regarding CIC trustees and possible violations of CIC regulations and conflicts of interest. He did this without naming any names, and residents of the Butterworth Glen neighborhood have been asking me for more details. So I had to do some research myself to ensure the claims were correct before speaking or posting about it.

The following is a step-by-step verification process of Todd’s research for residents to follow. Now, it is up to Mark Fitzgerald to explain non-compliance. Want to better understand what Todd Osborne has found? Follow along.

1. First, confirm the regulations of the Loveland Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) regarding trustee qualifications.

Here for your reference is Article IV of the “REGULATIONS OF THE COMMUNITY IMPROVEMENT CORPORATION OF THE CITY OF LOVELAND, OHIO.” See (A) and (B).

(see p12 of the January 13th CIC meeting packet)
(Available directly from p12 of the January 13th CIC meeting packet)
2. Then, identify CIC Board of Trustee members, appointed by mayor Mark Fitzgerald*

Here are the five newly appointed trustees (appointed in 2017 after the CIC restructured down from an 11-member board at the end of 2016): (trustee identity may be confirmed in the February 20th CIC Packet,*** where they voted themselves into offices):

Jay Stewart, President
Pam Gross, Vice President
Corey O’Donnell, Secretary
Kelly Flanigan, Treasurer
Karl Weidner

3. Next, verify that each of Mark Fitzgerald’s appointments comply with CIC regulations referenced above:

a) City-appointed or elected officials are easily verified because residents can find them on the Loveland city web site (links provided here for more information). So you can start by narrowing down the field.

1) Pam Gross is an elected City Council member (up for reelection on Nov 7th, 2017). This appointment complies with regulations.

2) Kelly Flanigan is the city of Loveland’s Finance Director. This appointment complies with regulations.

b) Residents, business owners, and landowners are a little trickier, so you may start by narrowing them down by checking public voter registration information:

Go to Ohio Voter Lookup (click here)
3) Enter Jay Stewart, Clermont County. You’ll find that Jay is registered to vote from an address within the city of Loveland. Mark Fitzgerald’s appointment of Jay Stewart complies with CIC regulations.

4) Enter CORY ODONNELL, Clermont County (His first name appears spelled incorrectly in the CIC packet. You must enter it exactly as it’s given here. Do not use the apostrophe for this lookup). (“Cory O’Donnell” also has a 2017 business membership with the Little Miami River Chamber Alliance under this home address.) Mark Fitzgerald’s appointment of Cory Odonnell complies with CIC regulations.

That Was The Easy Part. Proving Something Doesn’t Exist is Much Harder, But We Can Try

5) Enter Karl Weidner, Hamilton County
You will find a Montgomery address listed. It appears that Weidner does not live inside the city of Loveland, unless he has a temporary address. But this Montgomery address appears elsewhere in Google searches for Weidner and his family, with no other Loveland home showing up. If there’s Karl Weidner home inside the city, Mark Fitzgerald will need to provide evidence.

Does Mark Fitzgerald’s appointment of Karl Weidner comply with CIC regulations? Mark Fitzgerald is obligated to prove that it does, but we are stuck doing the research.

Mark Fitzgerald is being recalled, and residents have a right to verify he complies with all laws and regulations. So we continue.

A search of the Little Miami River Chamber Alliance Business Directory produces nothing. Weidner has no business membership with our chamber to check for a business with a city address.

A Google search results in:

A LinkedIn page where you can verify identity by comparing his photo to the CIC video and his business address: linkedin.com/in/karl-weidner-b146661. But where is that address registered? LinkedIn doesn’t say. You must keep looking.

A search for his business lands a Branch Hill address with a deceptive Loveland city and zip code, but we as council member, Pam Gross, has made clear at council meetings, we have to check the city map to verify whether a business is in or out, and Branch Hill Guinea Pike is clearly outside of the city. It appears that Karl Weidner pays no business or income taxes to the city of Loveland. Mark Fitzgerald, we’re waiting.

But what about property?

This one is trickier. To find property ownership, we need to search all public records from the time Weidner assumed his seat (January, 2017) to the present. It only takes five minutes and a bit of clicking to see that all of these searches bring up nothing:

1) Clermont County Auditor Search
2) Hamilton County Auditor Search
3) Warren County Auditor Search
4) Ohio Land Records  (Clermont County land records)
5) Hamilton County Recorder Website Search
6) Warren County Recorder Website Search

Mark Fitzgerald, What do These Empty Searches Mean?

As of Mark Fitzgerald’s appointment of Weidner and this writing, residents are not able to prove that Weidner 1) lives in the city, 2) has a business address in the city, or 3) owns property inside city limits. It’s up to Mark Fitzgerald to provide residents with the qualifying information. How was Karl Weidner chosen and how does his appointment comply with CIC regulations?

Wasn’t the restructuring of the CIC last year intended to benefit members of the Loveland community through representation? See Recall.

Why does Loveland make residents go through all of this trouble? Mark Fitzgerald, our mayor, appoints all CIC Board of Trustee members (and all other city committee members that play integral roles in facilitating development projects), forcing us to check in great detail to ensure that rules are followed and that Mark Fitzgerald, his majority City Council, and our City Manager, Dave Kennedy, (who also owns burden of proof), adhere to the highest standards of ethics. This is really about Mark Fitzgerald, the man under recall, his appointments, his domination of majority council, and his ethics, not about any particular trustee.

But Wait, Didn’t Todd Say Something About Conflicts of Interest?

Yes, Todd did mention a conflict of interest, which brings me to the last point that may concern residents, a possible conflicts of interest around the Christman property transfer to the CIC and its role in selling any city-owned land to facilitate the Butterworth Commons project. Follow these dots to discover more.

  1. A Google search for CIC trustee Karl Weidner also brings up this link with public records information. (See names of family members to look for possible conflicts of interest, all public, factual information to check.
  2. Now, hit this link. Refer back and forth to the last link to double check names as needed. (If you do a social media search for photos posted publicly as of today, you can confirm a close family relationship. I already did that, but you can do that on your own if you’d like. Again, the purpose is to fact check).
  3. Finally, hit this link, which is the portfolio for the Crane property, which is currently under contract by Drees for possible development of 56 condos on land that the city of Loveland plans to annex. (Over the last few months, the city has been discussing whether to transfer a large area of city-owned land to sell to Drees that would give them a public entrance way to this property.

    An ordinance that has been tabled as of the 6/13 meeting is all that stops Mark Fitzgerald and his majority on City Council from transferring the entire 10 acres of city-owned Christman property to the CIC. And the CIC made clear at the 6/19 meeting that development is the only option they care to discuss.) Once this transfer occurs, residents have no say.

How Do These Links Help to Connect the Dots?

If you haven’t put it together yet, check the name of the commercial real estate firm on the portfolio of the land sale. It appears there is a direct family tie between our CIC trustee and a managing director of the commercial real estate firm handling the sale of the Crane property. The two are father and son. Is that a conflict of interest? We do not know that the son has any hands on this deal or will benefit in any way from it. Again, this is not an attempt to cast judgement, only a statement that an investigation is warranted into the appointment and any possible conflicts of interest.

LCHPAC believes that the appointment and connection are worthy of investigation, especially given the reasons Mark Fitzgerald is being recalled back to the November 7th, 2017, ballot. No offense intended to anyone other than Mark Fitzgerald who made all of the CIC trustee appointments: The burden of proof belongs to Mark Fitzgerald:

Mark Fitzgerald, how does Karl Weidner’s appointment, comply with the regulations of the CIC, the economic development arm of the city of Loveland, Ohio?
Further, how will this conflict of interest look upon investigation by the Ohio Ethics Commission?

 

What Can Residents Do?

Two things. 1) If you are concerned about this or another possible ethics violation, contact the Ohio Ethics Commission to start a confidential investigation into the matter. At the very least, our local government needs an ethics review. All investigations are confidential, so no one will even know that you made a phone call.

And 2) If you’d like to help us on our mission to elect council members who will bring a higher standard of ethics to Loveland, please become a LCHPAC stakeholder. We welcome all Loveland residents to take a stand, and your non-deductible contribution will help us fund campaigns to unseat Mark Fitzgerald and his majority rule this November 7th, 2017.

Thank you for taking the time to research into your local city operations. Your fellow residents appreciate your time investment, and we promise that we are doing the same for you.

Halie Rebeccaschild, Secretary
Loveland Community Heartbeat Political Action Committee

*(As of this blog writing, I have been unable to find via the city web site any meeting minutes around appointments or the process for confirmation and have had to submit a request to Clerk of Council Misty Cheshire to provide direction to this information. This is yet another area in which the city could improve public relations related to transparency problems, saving Misty future work. Why do residents need to spend hours researching to find out who sits on committees and minutes around their appointments? I trust that Misty Cheshire will set me straight in short order.)

**As of this blog writing, the names of the newly appointed (2017) Loveland Community Improvement Corporation Board of Trustee members are found publicly available from the 1/13/17 meeting minutes posted from the city site inside of the 2/20/17 meeting packet but no where else on the city web site and no where on any independent web site). Residents must dig to confirm the names of those who “serve” on the Loveland Community Improvement Corporation, yet another public relations problem that promotes distrust.

***Given that links often seem to “break” after shared directly from the city website, the CIC packets have been saved on dropbox for the purpose of providing a stable link. Residents may go to the city site and search Public Meetings for the same packet, if they wish.

Paid for by Loveland Community Heartbeat Political Action Committee.

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