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Published: Friday, 7/27/2007

County's Dems huddle to quell party infighting


Elected officeholders in the Lucas County Democratic Party met yesterday to discuss healing a long-time division that exploded into open hostilities after strippers worked at a party-sponsored golf fund-raiser last month.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern called the 4:30 p.m. meeting at the Clarion Westgate Hotel on Secor Road, which drew 48 elected officials from municipal, county, village, and school board levels of government.

"I explained to people that if anyone talks about a fellow Democrat, it should be constructive, rather than destructive," Mr. Redfern said afterward.

Mr. Redfern plans to organize additional meetings with labor unions, party activists, and the county party's central committee to have a concrete plan by September for unifying local Democrats.

There was consensus in the meeting that the divide should end, Mr. Redfern said, but participants declined to say what agreements they reached.

"It went well, but it was not for the media," Toledo Councilman Wilma Brown said.

Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop explained the rationale behind any secrecy.

"We're trying to keep this an internal discussion within the party, so I can't comment," Mr. Konop said.

"We're trying to work amongst ourselves."

Dennis Duffey, the interim county party chairman, said he was unable to attend the meeting, which he described as Mr. Redfern's effort to find out more about the feelings of elected Democrats.

The presence of strippers, at least one of whom allegedly removed clothing at the annual golf outing, resulted in the resignation of John Irish as chairman of the county party and Domenic Montalto as its executive director.

After talking with Mr. Redfern and others, Mr. Duffey said a game plan for new leadership is in place.

"Suffice it to say there's going to be changes in day-to-day responsibilities at headquarters," Mr. Duffey said.

Some responsibilities of the chairman will shift to the executive director, while a newly created paid administrator conducts day-to-day functions.

Mr. Irish and Mr. Montalto drew no salaries from their former positions.

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