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Published: Wednesday, 5/14/2008

Wack resigns as leader of Lucas County Republicans

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Joanne Wack resigned as executive director of the Lucas County Republican Party yesterday following a report in The Blade of details of her 1989 arrest for stealing antique silverware from a home in which she worked as a nanny.

Party activist Jon Stainbrook, who is running for chairman in a party election set for Saturday, said Wack's employment by the party until yesterday was evidence of the party's tolerance for corruption that he said remains from the days of disgraced party chairman and fund-raiser Tom Noe.

The current chairman, Bob Reichert, who is seeking re-election, said he accepted Wack's resignation with regret, saying the scrutiny of her private life had become "unbearable."

Wack, 42, declined to comment about her resigning the job that paid $27,731 a year.

Mr. Reichert said Wack, who was hired in December, 2005, has done "an outstanding job," and has performed her duties in a professional and efficient manner.

"The intense negative media attention being given to her personal life has become unbearable," Mr. Reichert said. "Joanne felt that the current focus would conflict with our being able to elect Republicans."

Mr. Stainbrook of South Toledo, a self-employed public relations consultant and musician, blasted Mr. Reichert's stewardship of the party, and raised questions about party finances.

In a clear appeal to party members who will vote Saturday, he accused Mr. Reichert of allowing a felon to handle the party's money, saying she deposited party funds into the wrong accounts and that the party was bouncing checks.

"Reichert obviously condones her performance as executive director, but the bottom line is our candidate slate was nearly empty for the March primary, and the party was broke and bouncing checks," he said.

"We need a chairman that will bring quality Republican candidates, raise clean money, attract enthusiastic volunteers, and win big elections," Mr. Stainbrook said.

The central committee meets 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Holland Gardens, 6530 Angola Rd., to reorganize and elect party officers.

Mr. Stainbrook and his associate, Kelly Bensman, cited campaign finance reports that show the party paid three bank overdraft fees in August and September, 2007.

Reports show Mr. Reichert transferred $350 from the party's restricted fund to the general fund on Sept. 14, 2007, to shore up a shortfall. State law prohibits transfers from the restricted fund, which holds money from taxpayers' check-offs, into the general fund.

Mr. Reichert said that he asked the bank to make a transfer, and the bank chose the transfer from the restricted fund. He said he believes the transfer was not illegal.

A month later, Mr. Reichert loaned the restricted fund $3,000 of his own money.

Mr. Reichert said Monday that Wack deposited party checks until about five months ago when a new party treasurer took over.

As for the party's slate on the March ballot, Mr. Reichert said the filing deadline for the unusually early primary was Jan. 4, too early to get a large number of candidates signed up, despite what he said were press releases issued in November and December.

Mr. Reichert, a member of the Ottawa Hills village council and the owner of a restaurant who became chairman in May, 2006, said this is his first experience chairing the party through a presidential cycle.

Wack's past felony conviction came to light in a court hearing April 28 in which Wack first denied, then admitted, that she had a felony record.

The victim, Mary Merryman, of Irvington, N.Y., said Wack, then 23, pawned the silver to pay for a spring-break trip to Florida with a friend. The two quarreled and the friend tipped off Mrs. Merryman to the theft, she said.

She said some of the silver, which was valued at $5,000, was found in a pawn shop. Mrs. Merryman said she believes that full restitution was not made.

Wack was also convicted of violating probation in the case, according to a record from the New York Supreme Court obtained by The Blade. The Blade also has reported a series of financial judgments brought against her for nonpayment of bills.

Mr. Stainbrook yesterday said Wack should also step down from the county and state Republican central committees.

In March, Mr. Stainbrook filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission accusing Wack of improperly intervening against his allies running for precinct seats on the central committee. The complaint was dismissed.

Wack admitted she filled out postcards for candidates without the authorization of the party's executive committee, which awards party endorsements, but said she paid for the postcards with her own money.

One of those postcards helped elect James Arthur, a Michigan man who did not live in the precinct and who voted a Democratic ballot on March 4, despite the postcard's claim that he was a "longtime Republican" and a neighbor. He since has been barred from participating in the central committee meeting.

Mr. Stainbrook's conflicts with Wack began in January when he intercepted an e-mail she sent to other party insiders summarizing research she did on his recruits for the central committee and referring to some of them with derogatory labels such as "nut job," "total loser," and "thief." Wack later apologized.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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