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Published: Wednesday, 4/30/2008

GOP chief had other brushes with law

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
Wack Wack
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Lucas County Republican Party Executive Director Joanne Wack's conviction in a New York state court for grand larceny - which she denied and then was forced to admit on the witness stand Monday - is not her only brush with the law.

A search through local court records yesterday turned up 13 legal judgments and three criminal cases going back to 1992 and involving medical bills, the Girl Scouts of Maumee Valley, a car wreck, and passing bad checks.

But despite a record of having to be taken to court to pay her debts, and what one upset Republican says was a clear cut case of perjury, Wack continued to maintain the confidence of some local party leaders and elected Republicans yesterday.

"I'll refer you to a biblical passage," said former state Rep. Lynn Olman of Maumee, now a Republican appointee to the Lucas County Board of Elections: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

He added that "nobody cares about this" except The Blade and Jon Stainbrook.

A dispute between Mr. Stainbrook, a GOP activist who is mounting a challenge to the current party chairman, Bob Reichert, and local Republican leaders, spilled over into the courts Monday, where Wack was questioned about her felony conviction.

Mr. Stainbrook, who lives in South Toledo and is self-employed in public relations, has wrangled with Wack repeatedly over what he contends are her unethical attempts since January to block his candidates from being elected to the county Republican Party central committee.

He said yesterday that the series of petty civil and criminal cases, as well as the felony grand larceny case out of Westchester County, New York, compromise her ability to represent the party.

"Joanne Wack has a pattern of criminal and unethical misconduct and must be removed from party leadership. Obviously she cannot stay. Her taking money from the Girl Scouts - that's just unethical," Mr. Stainbrook said.

Wack refused to answer questions yesterday and accused The Blade of being unfair to her.

One of the judgments against Ms. Wack was filed in Toledo Municipal Court by Maumee Valley Girl Scouts Inc. in November, 1999, for the sum of $1,092.

Judgment was rendered by the court on Jan. 21, 2000, in the amount of $1,152, with court costs.

A call to the Girl Scouts organization was not returned.

Records in Toledo, Sylvania, and Oregon Municipal Court reveal 13 civil cases against Wack involving a total of $16,977 since 1992. She was also charged with three criminal cases of passing bad checks or forgery.

In November, Wack was charged with forging a check for $790 at the Shop & Save, 653 Main St., but prosecutors dismissed the charges after restitution was made.

Two charges of passing bad checks were filed in 2006 by the Island Variety convenience store, one for $430 and a second for $200 in 2005.

The case was dismissed last October because restitution was made, according to the Toledo Municipal Court record.

A bad check charge filed on behalf of East Toledo Animal Clinic in Toledo Municipal Court for $36.50 was dismissed Oct. 26, 2007, when restitution was made.

Other plaintiffs included St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, Armstrong Ob/Gyn Clinic Inc., American States Insurance, Alfred Hartkopf-DDS, Northcoast Financial Services, Toledo Hospital, Computer Discount of Maumee, Great Lakes Credit Union, Brown Imports, First American Cash Advance, East Toledo Family Center, and Toledo Clinic.

Municipal Judge Tim Kuhlman, who handled bad check charges, said they were typical.

"The judges take the recommendation of the prosecutor. The main goal is get it paid for, get our citizen-victim made whole, and be done with it," Mr. Kuhlman said, noting that each judge handles about 100 cases a day.

As a Republican officeholder, he said he has no vote in the central or executive committees.

"I certainly think that in politics honesty and integrity ought to be of paramount concern so it does concern me greatly," Judge Kuhlman said.

State Sen. Mark Wagoner (R., Ottawa Hills) said his concern is the "distraction" from the party's responsibility of electing Republican candidates.

"The chairman needs to determine whether she can continue to be effective with these sorts of distractions," Mr. Wagoner said.

Requests to speak to Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett and Deputy Chairman Kevin DeWine were not responded to yesterday.

Mr. Reichert said he was sticking by Wack because "she's done a good job as executive director and what was brought up in the courtroom had nothing to do with the case."

He said that she does not write checks or handle any funds.

During a hearing in Lucas County Common Pleas Court Monday over the makeup of the party's central committee, Wack was on the stand when she was surprised by the question of whether she had ever been convicted of a felony in Ohio or any other state.

She answered no. When the court was shown evidence of a grand larceny conviction in Westchester County, New York, the hearing was recessed briefly.

When Wack retook the stand she admitted to having a felony conviction and to having been on probation.

John Weglian, a top assistant in the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office, said he did not plan to pursue an indictment for perjury because the testimony was corrected quickly and no one was deceived by the false testimony.

Donald Iiams, Jr., of Monclova Township, a failed candidate for Lucas County Republican Party Central committee, who has accused Wack of illegally endorsing his opponent in the central committee race, said he's not satisfied with the county prosecutor's refusal to prosecute.

"If he doesn't have the resources, does that mean everyone in Toledo can commit perjury because you don't have the resources? That's just telling you the sad state of affairs in Lucas County," Mr. Iiams said.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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