Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Chinks in the Arshnikoff Armor

It's a real trick to spend three plus months blogging Akron politics without mentioning Alex Arshnikoff once. For the uninitiated, he is the machine-style party boss of Summit County Republicans. Alex has his hands in everything he can. His favorite tactic is to get his hooks into an office and hand out jobs as chits for future political favors. The classic Alex tract is the Scene article that sketches out his tactics and, oh yeah, compiles evidence that he is deeply closeted. A follow-up gives an up-to date example of Alex at work.

Today's BJ carries a story that three judges have signed affidavits that he tried to improperly influence their oversight of Oriana House. Again some background, if you need it. Oriana is a nonprofit that contracts with the county to offer an array of alternative programs for low-level convicts. Oriana contracts with a couple of for-profit companies that are affiliated with Oriana's President, Jim Lawrence. Arshnikoff has been after Oriana. For. Ever.

He claims it's because the arrangement between the nonprofit and for-profit branches of Oriana is corrupt. I've yet to hear him raise similar concerns about the nearly identical relationship between White Hat Management and its charter schools, but that's just me.

There are those of us who suspect that Alex's discomfort with Oriana has more to do with the passel of potential jobs to give out. It doesn't help that Lawrence is an active Democrat and has a number of activists working for him. Christine Higham, the current Executive Director of the Summit County Dems came directly from Oriana.

In his quest to safeguard the taxpayers' money he has insitgated an audit by the State Auditor's office that has dragged on without revealing irregularities. Now the principles are in front of the Supreme Court arguing whether Betty Montgomery can subpoena records of the for-profit arms of the enterprise as well as Jim Lawrence's personal records.

Which brings us back to the lawsuit and the affidavits. Judges Jane Bond and Mary Spicer and retired judge Ted Schneiderman have alleged that Arshnikoff tried to influence, then intimidate them. The surprise in this mix is Schneiderman. Bond is a Democrat and fiercely independent. Spicer's seat is comfortably secure without the money Alex provides (and proved it when she beat his neice running as an independent in the last election). Schneiderman, on the other hand, is working as a visiting judge. This is a great gig for retired judges, but depends on assignments. If Alex still has juice in the majority-Republican Common Pleas Court, he can staunch Schneiderman's supply of Summit County appointments. Schneiderman deserves major credit for standing up.

This is probably the high-water mark for Alex haters. From the looks of it, I have little faith in this lawsuit to change anything about how he does business. But on the day Tom Delay got indicted, it feels like anything is possible.

Disclosure: in addition to appearing before Judge Bond, I know her socially.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your honesty in disclosure. Joe American.