Joanne Wack, the executive director of the Lucas County Republican Party, stole sterling silver tableware in 1989 while working as a nanny in an affluent suburban New York neighborhood, The Blade has learned from police, court, and newspaper records from Westchester County, New York.
Wack, then 23, was arrested March 28, 1989, on a felony charge of third-degree grand larceny for taking silverware worth more than $5,000 from a home in which she was a live-in domestic worker.
The victim of the theft, Mary Merryman, of Irvington, N.Y., said yesterday that Wack was working as a nanny for her three children. Mrs. Merryman said Wack took the antique silverware that was stored in her basement and which belonged to a friend of hers whose home had burned down.
Jon Stainbrook, an activist seeking the chairmanship of the Lucas County Republican Party who has accused Wack of improperly interfering in his effort to get supporters elected to the county GOP's central committee, said yesterday she should not be allowed to vote when the central committee meets Saturday.
"I don't think she should be able to vote at the meeting due to what the statute states," Mr. Stainbrook said. He was referring to a state law prohibiting felons from holding an office of public trust.
Doug Haynam, chairman of the party's central committee, said if Wack is no longer "under disability," meaning she is no longer under punishment or oversight by a court, her rights have been restored.
"My understanding is she's done with that, that it's long in the past," he said.
Wack is employed at the discretion of the current chairman, Rob Reichert, who has said she is doing a good job.
Yesterday, he declined further comment except to say, "as of this point in time she's still executive director of the Lucas County Republican Party."
Mr. Stainbrook contends that as a convicted felon, Wack is not eligible to hold a public office as a precinct committee member. He said there is no evidence that Wack made restitution as she was ordered to under the terms of her probation.
Without being willing to discuss details, Wack yesterday attributed the situation to her age and said she didn't seek her parents' help in the matter. "It was a disagreement and I was young and stupid," she said. "That's what happens when you don't want to tell your parents."
Whether she ever resolved her probation violation she said she did not know.
"I honestly don't know. It was a long time ago and I haven't heard from anyone on this in 15 years, so I would imagine the court is not interested since they have not contacted me," she said.
Despite a suggestion by Mr. Reichert that her problems stemmed from a divorce, Wack said, "this has nothing to do with a messy divorce."
Mrs. Merryman told The Blade the thefts were discovered when Wack and a friend had a fight and the friend called Mrs. Merryman and suggested she look in her basement.
"I went down there and all the good stuff was gone," Mrs. Merryman said. She said Wack worked in her home for nine months, which ended with her arrest. She said the woman who owned the silverware, Cherie Gaines, has since remarried and now lives out of the country, but did not get much in the way of restitution. She recovered some of her possessions from a pawn shop, with the assistance of local police.
A report in The Journal News of White Plains, N.Y., from April 1, 1989, indicates Wack was held in the Westchester County Jail overnight, when bail was set at $1,000, and was returned to the jail and scheduled for a court appearance 11 days later. It was not clear how long she was in jail.
On May 3, 1989, Wack waived the filing of an indictment and consented to having the charge as a fourth-degree felony submitted as an information. Such an action typically means the defendant and the prosecutor have reached an agreement on a plea.
In October, 1994, the Supreme Court of the state of New York recorded the dismissal of a probation violation charge and restored Wack to probation. She confessed judgment for $6,462 which she still owed.
Wack is the paid executive director of the party, and has been close to the flash point of several controversies between Mr. Stainbrook and the current leadership of the party.
Mr. Stainbrook, 44, of South Toledo, is seeking to win the party's chairmanship from Mr. Reichert when the central committee meets Saturday morning in Holland.
Wack's conviction came to light two weeks ago when she was asked during a court hearing whether she had ever been convicted of a felony. She answered no, and then was allowed to "correct" her testimony when evidence of her conviction was shown to the court.
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