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Published: Thursday, 9/23/2010

GOP auditor candidate says WGTE showed bias

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

The Republican candidate for Lucas County auditor said Wednesday she caught public television station WGTE-TV, Channel 30, in the act of showing favoritism to the opposing candidate.

Gina Marie Kaczala and the manager of her campaign said WGTE tried to make her water down a two-minute speech she was to make for a series of candidate appearances.

When her campaign manager learned that the production assistant who objected to the wording of the speech has a brother-in-law on the staff of Democratic incumbent Anita Lopez, the station president and chief executive backed down and agreed to permit the speech to be recorded as written.

"I felt that my First Amendment rights had been violated, that I wasn't able to give my speech," Ms. Kaczala said.

Tom Morgan, Ms. Kaczala's campaign manager, said he was told Monday by Cathy Kamenca, WGTE production assistant, that a paragraph was inappropriate.

"It quickly became apparent to me that we were not going to be able to tape the spot and smelled a rat!" Mr. Morgan said in a statement released to the media Wednesday.

He learned, through research by the Lucas County Republican Party, that Mrs. Kamenca is related to Todd Kamenca, a residential appraiser in the county auditor's office under Ms. Lopez. Mr. Kamenca is Mrs. Kamenca's brother-in-law.

"What you have here is the same old politics of Lucas County. A production assistant at WGTE is protecting her relative's job," Mr. Morgan said.

Marlon Kiser, president and chief executive of WGTE, denied political bias was a factor. And he denied that his decision to allow Ms. Kaczala to give her speech as written proves there was a conflict of interest.

He said the passage Ms. Kaczala wanted to read was negative and that WGTE has not allowed attack statements in its free candidate statement broadcasts. The statements of candidates in the Nov. 2 election will run before and after the 7:30-8 p.m. Nightly Business Report. Each candidate's speech will air twice.

Mr. Kiser said Wednesday a station attorney who specializes in Federal Communications Commission regulations advised him to allow the candidate to read the speech she wanted to read.

Ms. Kaczala said her speech wasn't negative because it did not personally disparage Ms. Lopez.

The dust-up is the latest in a strongly contested race between the first-term incumbent and a first-time candidate whose late husband, Larry Kaczala, was auditor until he was defeated by Ms. Lopez in 2006.

The paragraph Ms. Kaczala wants to use accuses Ms. Lopez of having an unqualified staff.

It says Ms. Lopez's director of real estate "is using two major accreditations that she did not earn," and that the head appraiser has no appraiser's license.

"The public is being deceived into thinking a qualified staff is running the office when clearly it's not," Ms. Kaczala's planned script reads.

Ms. Kaczala said Director of Real Estate Cynthia Geronimo's name has appeared in the county phone directory with the initials of two professional appraisal organizations, neither of which she is a member of.

The alleged lack of qualifications of Ms. Lopez's staff is a centerpiece of Ms. Kaczala's campaign.

Ms. Lopez said she was not aware of a misidentification, but the county directory is not under her oversight, and Ms. Geronimo has not overstated her qualifications in any of her office documentation.

She said everyone on her staff who is required to have a professional certification to do their work has one, and that no statute requires either of the directors cited in Ms. Kaczala's speech to be certified or licensed.

Ms. Lopez called on her opponent to join her in a debate on the issues. "The public is tired of the mudslinging and the negative attacks and the untruthful attacks, and I am asking Ms. Kaczala to agree to a public debate where we can discuss the issues," Ms. Lopez said.

She said she has not yet recorded her candidate speech for WGTE but that it won't run afoul of any of WGTE's policies. "It will be about what we have accomplished," Ms. Lopez said.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.


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