Thompson Discusses the Smoking Ban

Maurice Thompson, legal counsel and director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, discusses a Franklin County judge’s decision in favor of the Columbus-area bar Zeno’s, which had been cited with $30,000-plus in fines for breaking the statewide smoking ban. This is the first of four videos.

Thompson Discusses the Smoking Ban

Maurice Thompson, legal counsel and director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, discusses a Franklin County judge’s decision in favor of the Columbus-area bar Zeno’s, which had been cited with $30,000-plus in fines for breaking the statewide smoking ban. This is the second of four videos.

Thompson Discusses the Smoking Ban

Maurice Thompson, legal counsel and director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, discusses a Franklin County judge’s decision in favor of the Columbus-area bar Zeno’s, which had been cited with $30,000-plus in fines for breaking the statewide smoking ban. This is the third of four videos.

Thompson Discusses the Smoking Ban

Maurice Thompson, legal counsel and director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, discusses a Franklin County judge’s decision in favor of the Columbus-area bar Zeno’s, which had been cited with $30,000-plus in fines for breaking the statewide smoking ban. This is the fourth of four videos.

Ohio Issue 2 Town Hall Forum

View the opening statement delivered by Maurice Thompson on October 19, 2009 during the Ohio Issue 2 town hall forum.

The Stowers Tell Their Story

Jacqueline and John Stowers talk about their lives before and after a police raid of their home in LaGrange, Ohio in an interview with Maurice Thompson.

Gongwer: Tea Party Sues Municipal, Township Groups in Supreme Court Over Public Records

Tea Party Sues Municipal, Township Groups in Supreme Court Over Public Records

Opponents of the estate tax and government spending growth said Thursday they are asking the Ohio Supreme Court to declare that two groups of township and city officials are “the functional equivalent” of public offices and should be required to abide by the public records law.

The Dayton Tea Party filed a complaint asking justices to order the Ohio Municipal League and the Ohio Township Association to release policy and financial records related to their legislative lobbying against repeal of the estate tax and in favor of increases in the Local Government Fund.

Both groups declined to produce the material on grounds they were private organizations not subject to the public records law.

Maurice Thompson of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, who is representing the Dayton Tea Party, argues that all or nearly all of the OML and OTA support comes from municipal government dues, fees, and contributions, using taxpayer funds.

He said local governments “have shrouded in secrecy certain governmental activities, such as lobbying, through utilization of private organizations,” including the OML and OTA.

“These de facto local government coalitions receive and rely almost exclusively upon public funds to lobby and litigate for higher taxes, greater government spending, diminished constitutional protections for Ohioans, and overall larger government, all as prescribed by their government members,” Mr. Thompson said.

“Meanwhile, these organizations refuse to respond to public records requests, denying information to citizens regarding the use of their tax dollars to promote and advance highly ideological causes by and on behalf of local governments,” he told justices.

Mr. Thompson contends that the OML and OTA are the “functional equivalents of public offices” under the state’s public records act, and must produce documents about the operation of their organizations, including lobbying efforts before the General Assembly.

He said the groups were using public funds to participate in a campaign to inflate the amount of state money spent on the Local Government Fund, and to oppose repeal of the estate tax. Both provisions are included in the pending biennial state budget (HB 153).

“Both the OML and the OTA continue to use Ohio taxpayers’ funds to operate in secrecy on these issues,” Mr. Thompson said. “In the course of their clandestine operations, OML and OTA argues against repeal of the Ohio Estate Tax and in favor of inflating state spending on local governments.”

The complaint asks the Supreme Court to compel the groups to comply with the requests for records, and to pay court costs, attorney fees, and statutory damages.

The Dayton Tea Party, Inc. was described as a non-partisan, non-profit corporation that is a conglomeration of 19 “liberty groups” in the Miami Valley region.

The complaint was filed in the name of Robert Scott, the group’s president and founder, who “has invested significant effort into effectuating repeal of the Ohio Estate Tax, and reducing state government spending.”

Mr. Thompson asked the court to apply a four-part functional equivalency test it cited in a 2006 opinion to determine whether a private entity is a public institution for purposes of the public records law.

“In applying the functional-equivalency test, courts in other states have adjudicated private organizations comparable to the Ohio Municipal League and Ohio Township Association to be amenable to public records requests,” he told justices.

He referred to a 1999 opinion that found the Washington State Association of Counties was a public agency for purposes of a disclosure law. A 2010 decision held that the Association of Washington Cities, a private, non-profit corporation, was the functional equivalent of a public agency subject to that state’s public records law.

“The factual allegations herein demonstrate that the OML is extensively controlled and funded by government, created by and for the benefit of government, exists to serve government, and has no purpose other than to serve government, and is thus the functional equivalent of a public office,” Mr. Thompson said.

Susan Cave, OML executive director, said she had not seen the complaint and could not comment.

Columbus Dispatch: Conservatives’ suit alleges Strickland favored unions

Contracts to build schools at heart of corruption claim

Friday, October 15, 2010 02:55 AM
By Darrel Rowland

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

A conservative group sued Gov. Ted Strickland, his chief of staff, the Ohio School Facilities Commission and others yesterday, alleging that they engaged in a pattern of corrupt activity by favoring unions in school-construction contracts.

A lawyer for the Columbus-based 1851 Center for Constitutional Law filed the action on behalf of six

Richland County residents – including the founder of the local tea party – in that county’s Common Pleas Court.

The lawsuit parallels many of the August findings of Inspector General Thomas P. Charles about the commission’s pro-union slant after Richard Murray was hired to replace Michael Shoemaker as its head. The suit also names Murray and the Laborers International Union.

“It certainly appears as though union influence over the Strickland administration caused the firing of the prior OSFC director, and the hiring of Murray, with either the instructions or the implicit understanding that Murray would run roughshod over taxpayers and school districts to benefit union allies,” said center Executive Director Maurice Thompson in a news release.

“School districts are making construction decisions within this troublesome framework. This suit aims to clean up the process before additional tax dollars are wasted.”

Strickland spokeswoman Amanda Wurst called the lawsuit “a really sad political stunt” by supporters of GOP opponent John Kasich.

“It’s an embarrassing sign of desperation just weeks before an election. We know that Congressman Kasich and his allies don’t share Ohio values, but to equate the governor’s support for policies that make sure working Ohioans get fair pay for a hard day’s work to corruption is just pathetic.”

The suit alleges that John Haseley, Strickland’s chief of staff, pressured Shoemaker to favor unions, noting that they are major Democratic contributors. Shoemaker was fired in July 2009 after unions threatened to withhold $400,000 in campaign contributions to Strickland, the suit contends.

The lawsuit accuses the Strickland administration of steering work – and state money – to the Laborers union “in exchange for (the union’s) contributions to the re-election campaign fund of Strickland.” The administration took part in bribery, intimidation, obstructing justice and money laundering, the suit alleges.

The complaint alleges instances of corrupt activity by the defendants in the Madison and Shelby school districts in Richland County, the Clay, New Boston and Washington-Nile school districts in Scioto County, and the Fremont school district in Sandusky County.

Gannett News Central Ohio:Lawsuit claims Strickland, Ohio School Facilities Commission engaged in corrupt activity

By LINDA MARTZ • CentralOhio.com • October 15, 2010

MANSFIELD — Six Richland County residents filed a lawsuit through a Columbus-based conservative group Thursday, claiming Gov. Ted Strickland and the Ohio School Facilities Commission engaged in corrupt activity by favoring unions on school construction projects.

Two Richland County school districts are named as defendants.

The lawsuit focuses partly on an April 12 meeting between Ohio School Facilities Commission director Richard C. Murray, Shelby and Madison school superintendents and Mansfield area union officials.

The lawsuit contends Murray, with encouragement by Strickland and his chief of staff, has pressured school districts to use Project Labor Agreements, which require contractors to hire workers from local union halls, or have their non-union employees pay dues to local unions, for the duration of construction projects.

In a prepared statement, the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, whose attorneys filed the civil action, stated, “Tax dollars have been wasted and continue to be at risk due to an unlawfully cozy relationship between the Strickland administration and labor unions.”

“It certainly appears as though union influence over the Strickland administration caused the firing of the prior OSFC director, and the hiring of Murray, with either the instructions or the implicit understanding that Murray would run rough-shod over taxpayers and school districts to benefit union allies,” 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson said.

“School districts are making construction decisions within this troublesome framework. This suit aims to clean up the process before additional tax dollars are wasted,” Thompson said.

A governor’s spokeswoman said the lawsuit, timed less than three weeks away from the Nov. 2 election, is politically motivated.

“These accusations are flat-out wrong. This is a really sad political stunt. It’s an embarrassing sign of desperation just weeks before an election,” Amanda Wurst said.

The civil action focuses on Murray, who replaced Michael Shoemaker as executive director of the Ohio School Facilities Commission after Strickland came into office, and is a member of LIUNA Local No. 423.

The lawsuit says at the April 12 meeting, Murray told Madison and Shelby school superintendents that “construction problems” occurred in the absence of PLAs, and that the commission had begun to use them because of this.

It alleges that union officials, including some affiliated with LIUNA, offered school officials their support passing upcoming levies each of the two districts placed on the ballot.

AP: Suit against Ohio governor alleges favoritism

October 15, 2010 3:35 PM ET

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – A libertarian legal center has sued Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, key aides and a labor union alleging they engaged in a pattern of corrupt activity regarding school construction contracts.

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law filed the suit on behalf of 6 residents of Richland County in north-central Ohio. It cites August findings of the state watchdog that Strickland’s schools construction chief, Richard Murray, abused his authority in awarding contracts.

The suit accuses Strickland, his chief of staff, Murray and the Laborers International Union of bribery, intimidation, obstructing justice, and money laundering.

The governor’s spokeswoman calls the suit an act of election-season desperation by supporters of Strickland’s political opponent, Republican John Kasich.

Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.