COLUMBUS, Ohio – Members of the Ohio Republican Party’s Central Committee, who have been punished for demanding more transparency and accountability, shared with The Ohio Star their thoughts on Friday’s meeting, which ended suddenly with items still on the agenda.
Party Chairman Robert A. Paduchik had gaveled the meeting in recess until two Delaware County Sheriff’s deputies cleared out everyone from the sitting in the two dozen chairs set up in the public gallery and the people standing, who crowded the roped-off space in the back of the room.
Two of the five resolutions on the agenda were left to consider when Paduchik and his allies quickly ended the recess and adjourned the meeting on a voice vote.
Central Committeewoman JoAnn Campbell, who is in her first term representing the 22nd Senate District, said she was shocked when Paduchik adjourned Friday’s Central Committee meeting before committee members addressed the last two resolutions on the agenda.
Campbell’s proposed resolution was the fifth on the agenda, so it was one of the two resolutions not addressed when Paduchik called the meeting adjourned on a voice vote—while many of the Central Committee members were out in the hallway grabbing box lunches because the chairman had just called a recess.
The resolution asked the party to adopt an amendment to its Permanent Rules, which protected whistleblowers and would have prohibited state employees, campaign staffers or lobbyists, or members of their immediate family to participate in any endorsement votes.
“I am not really surprised by that,” she said. “They don’t want us to have a voice, that’s it.”
Campbell said she ran for her Central Committee seat because she wanted to make a difference in how the party operates. “I wanted to be a voice and have a say in what was going on with the party.”
Thus far, though, Campbell said, being on the Central Committee has not been a rewarding experience.
“I’m disappointed,” she said.
“I don’t think that the bylaws are being followed,” she said. “It’s a travesty really—what happened. I am very disappointed.”
The Medina resident is one of the five Central Committee members who filed a lawsuit Monday against Paduchik, treasurer David W. Johnson and the Ohio Republican Party.
The suit petitioned the court to restore committee assignments that Paduchik changed in October, to order a forensic audit going back to the fiscal year 2017—or further if necessary, to put the financial records in orders, so they are auditable and for the party to investigate money transfers and to recover any funds transferred out illegally.
Campbell said she joined the lawsuit after her frustration with Paduchik grew over time. “Not getting the proper response from the chairman—being sidelined—retaliated against by our chairman—the fact that he would not audit back to 2017—all the discrepancies, he tries to sweep them under the rug.”
“I was on the Endorsement and Policy Review Committee, and I was taken off,” she said.
Campbell said her subcommittee never met, which is true for the other subcommittees.
“I just feel like we are props,” she said.
Before Paduchik took her off the subcommittee, Campbell said that the chairman told her and others that he would talk to them before changing their committee assignments.
“He was deceitful,” he said. “He just took us all off, and by and large, they were all people who had expressed a desire to have some accountability within our party.”
Central Committeeman Joe Miller, who represents the 21st Senate District, said although his resolution was one of the two on the agenda that did not get considered for a vote, in one way, the meeting was a success.
“The first goal was no endorsements,” he said.
The rumor-intelligence among Central Committee members was that Paduchik would find a way to force through an endorsement of the governor, before the primary, scheduled for May 3.
Miller, who was also on the lawsuit, said people showed up to watch the meeting because of the anxiety over endorsements before the primary.
“I’m very grateful for all the people who showed up,” he said. “I got over 150 emails—well over 150 emails—saying do not endorse.”
Before the meeting was adjourned, the last resolution prevented the party from supporting candidates before the Central Committee endorsed them. The resolution was referred to a committee, from where it is unlikely ever to see the light of day.
“Mine, which we never go to, was about conflicts of interest,” he said. “There are at least 15 people that are employed by the governor—asking them to recuse themselves if we do endorsements for the gubernatorial.”
Central Committeeman Shannon Burns, who represents the 24th Senate District and is the chairman of the Strongsville GOP, said he was upset about how the endorsement issue was handled at the meeting.
Speaking at his assigned table shortly after the meeting adjourned, Burns said he wanted more action on endorsements. “The meeting today didn’t accomplish hardly anything.”
Burns said he spoke on the issue, and he believed Paduchik kicked him off the Endorsements and Policy Review Committee because he supports Renacci against DeWine.
The Strongsville resident said he wanted the endorsements issued settled. “Do our bylaws speak to the party being able to get engaged in contested primaries without an endorsement?”
When the Central Committee voted to refer the endorsement resolution to a committee, he said the members were voting not to do their job.
“I am terribly disappointed with this committee that they didn’t take action,” he said. “It’s a great example of where I fear the committee is defining themselves.”
Central Committeewoman Lisa Cooper represents the 26th Senate District. She said she had been a member of the committee for 10 years. In the minutes after the meeting ended, she said the meeting did not meet her expectations.
“I expect people to follow the rules, and when you ask for a roll call vote—that’s Robert’s Rules of Order—if you’re saying it at the right time, you expect those rules to be followed,” she said.
In response to Cooper’s request and throughout the meeting, Paduchik ruled that the Ohio Republican Party Central Committee does not hold roll call votes.
Cooper said that before Paduchik was the chairman, the Central Committee regularly held roll call votes at its meetings, and there has been no change in the bylaws to forbid roll call votes.
When Paduchik removed her from the Permanent Rules and Revisions Subcommittee, she did not find out until she received an email in October with the new subcommittee lineups, she said.
It was the first time she had been removed from a committee in the middle of a term, she said.
Cooper spoke in favor of a resolution proposed by Laura Rosenberger in the meeting, which would have restored the original committee assignments. The resolution was referred to a committee, where it will die a natural death.
In Cooper’s remarks, though, she asked the party’s executive director, Justin Bis, for an explanation, but he never gave her one.
The Ohio Star asked the 29-year-old Bis in a face-to-face exchange to confirm whether Cooper had indeed contacted him for an explanation, and the $110,000 per year staffer referred The Star to the party’s communications director Tricia McLaughlin. The Star sent McLaughlin an email explaining that Bis said he would provide an answer, but there has been no response before the deadline.
While she is upset about how the December meeting was conducted, Cooper said she is resilient, and she will continue to fight for greater transparency and accountability in the state party.
“If we quit, they win.”
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