Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017
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Discord grows between local Dem chair, unions

Three unions involved in court case with Joshua Hughes

A rift is developing into open war in the Lucas County Democratic Party between the chairman, Joshua Hughes, and some labor unions, although the reasons are murky.

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On Tuesday, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union announced it was withdrawing its support for the party’s annual golf outing, set for June 16 at Spuyten Duyval golf course in Sylvania Township.

Initially, UFCW Local 75 signed on as a co-chair of the event. Organizer and political coordinator Bill Benner said he has since become aware of “discord between the Lucas County Democratic Party and some of our allies in organized labor.”

“Due to this contention, UFCW Local 75 has decided against continuing to co-chair this event and will be withholding financial aid of the Lucas County Democratic Party until a resolution to this matter has been achieved,” Mr. Benner wrote.

Mr. Hughes, who became the party chairman in March, 2015, is being sued in Lucas County Common Pleas Court by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 8, Sheet Metal Workers Local 33, and Plumbers Local 50.

The case, filed in 2014, claims that Mr. Hughes’s former firm charged “clearly excessive fees” in two cases, costing the unions more than $100,000 in each case.

Along with Mr. Hughes, defendants were Joseph M. D’Angelo and Matthew Szollosi. Mr. Szollosi has settled and is no longer a defendant.

Mr. D’Angelo and Mr. Hughes have filed for summary judgment, claiming, among other things, that the suit was filed after the one-year statute of limitations expired.

Mr. Hughes said he did not know why the UFCW withdrew its support.

“I have not been afforded any insight into what the issues are,” Mr. Hughes said.

If the issue is the lawsuit, he pointed out that the case was known to party members before he became chairman.

“I deny any and all wrongdoing and I look forward to an amicable resolution,” Mr. Hughes said.

As far as the lost revenue from UFCW, Mr. Hughes said, “We are diversifying our funding. We are not relying on any one labor union or individual. We’ll have to look elsewhere for funding,” he said. “I hope the building trade unions continue to support the Lucas County Democratic Party.”

It’s unclear whether the upcoming race for mayor of Toledo could be a factor. Democratic Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson is running for re-election, but also expected to jump in the race is Democratic Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz. The two veteran Democrats running against each other would force local Democrats to choose sides.

Mr. Kapszukiewicz, a former city councilman, issued a media advisory Friday that on Tuesday he will make an “exciting announcement about the future of Toledo.” The event is set for the Anthony Wayne Solar Field on Spencer Street adjacent to the Toledo Zoo.

The local party endorsed Ms. Hicks-Hudson on March 13, two months after the Ohio Democratic Party endorsed her. It was the first time that the local party has endorsed a mayoral candidate before the September primary in more than 15 years.

George Tucker, executive secretary-treasurer of the Greater Northwest Ohio AFL-CIO, said he’s aware of some contention but doesn’t know the reason for it. He said he’s skipping the golf outing, too, but only because, for the second year in a row, it falls on the same day as the state AFL-CIO golf outing.

“I don’t know. I know in the past I’ve had problems with Josh, nothing major that we couldn’t work out,” Mr. Tucker said.

Ron Rothenbuhler, Mr. Hughes’ predecessor as party chairman and retired regional director of the Ohio carpenters union, said he’s aware of tension between some unions and Mr. Hughes.

“I know there’s issues. I don’t know what the root of it is. I just hate to see it,” Mr. Rothenbuhler said.

Contact Tom Troy: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058 or on Twitter @TomFTroy.

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