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Ciotola packs Library Board with Conservatives

During his effort to censor gay periodicals in the Upper Arlington Public Library in 2005, then UA Council member Tim Rankin said,

"If we have to put people on this [Library] board who reflect the values of the community, we'll do that."

Based on a new story in This Week, it would seem that UA's new mayor, Frank Ciotola, has made good on Rankin's threat.

Within a few days of being elected Council President, Ciotola made it one of his first acts as mayor to appoint three hand-picked recruits to the Library Board. All 3 appointees:

  • delivered their applications directly to the current Council President, Frank Ciotola, not to the City Clerks Office (source: UA Clerk's Office)
  • submitted applications a month and a half after the posted November 16, 2009 deadline
  • completed their applications within 4 days of each other on Jan 6, 8 and 9th, 2010

For some, this comes as no surprise --- Rankin and Ciotola worked closely for years together on Council and share many common conservative viewpoints.

According to the story in published in This Week:

"...nearly all of the residents who were interested submitted their [Library Board of Trustees] applications by the deadline published by the city -- except for the three who were actually appointed, all of whom prepared their applications nearly two months late and within a few days of each other. "

Ciotola's appointees to the Library Board of Trustee had a fast track outside the normal process, which typically includes a review of applicants with other Council members.

Ciotola's blatant move seems to lay the foundation for a library board designed to revisit controversial issues like the gay magazine episode that divided our community a few years back. At this time, when our library needs to focus on finances, we should appoint board members who have expertise in public finance and not appoint board members whose purpose is to stir controversy.

The backroom appointments

Unlike the 16 other applications for Trustees who submitted their applications using the publicly posted process, Sisterhen's and her two fellow appointees' applications were handled privately and kept away from the sunshine of the normal publicly transparent submission process through the UA City Clerk.

In last year's election, Ciotola canvassed UA campaigning on having a council that listens to the residents and each other - a civil dialogue. The irony, his first action as mayor he dismisses the residents who have offered to serve on the library board and deliberately avoids council's input.

Ciotola: "I wish the deadline had not been published"

The current Library Board application deadline enables other members of Council, the public and the media to see the Library Board applications before any are appointments are made. This provides a small but much needed degree of transparency to the appointment process.

Incredibly, having just demonstrated the patronage and partisanship with his own last-minute backroom appointments, Ciotola is now advocating for the elimination of the deadline altogether:

"Ciotola .. said he wishes a deadline had not been published."

Not only should the deadline remain public, as it has been for many years, but, unlike today, any extensions of the deadline should also be announced publicly as well.

City government needs more openness and transparency to the Library Board appointment process, not less.

The deadline that never was

Most all the applicants for the Library Board took the deadline seriously --- as evidenced by the number of applications that came in at or very near the deadline. 11 of the 14 new applications came in within a week of the posted deadline and 5 of those came in the day of the deadline, November 16, 2009.

Here's a chart that shows the data gleened from the publicly available Library Board applications.

The City Clerk, Beverly Clevenger, confirmed that the deadline had not been officially extended to add Ciotola's new recruits. Clevenger said that no extension was necessary since the deadline is only a "courtesy to Council members" to give them time to review the applications. The Clerk also said she accepts new Library Board applications after the deadline without notice.

Democrats need not apply

The outpouring of support for the Library was evident this year by the number and quality of the applicants. A noted author of children's books, the Ohio Senate's Finance Director, OSU's Senior VP for Business and Finance, professors, lecturers, teachers, etc.

Voter file records indicate that the pool of on-time applicants was heavily weighted toward Democrats. In fact, twice as many registered Democrats applied for the Library Board by the deadline than Republicans (12 Democrats vs. 6 Republicans vs. 5 Independents) -- and most of the those Republicans are known to be moderates.

Ciotola would have been hard-pressed to find advocates for censoring gay periodicals among this group, which may have led to his recruiting expedition.

All three of Ciotola's hand-picked recruits are well-connected registered Republicans

  1. Krista Sisterhen voted in all 4 of the last 4 Republican primaries. Sisterhen listed the evangelical church Xenos on her Library Board application as her community service or civic organization. She served as director of Governor Taft's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and was closely connected to the 'We Care America' fallout.
  2. Garrett Scanlon maxed out his personal contribution to the McCain campaign ($2300) and voted in the 3 of the last four Republican primaries. Scanlon is a Partner in Casto Commercial Real Estate
  3. Mark Shy is also a registered Republican, and voted in the most recent Republican primary. Shy owns his own business, Renovators, Inc., a construction and renovation business. Shy spoke out against the against the Library's gay periodical policy.

Voter records show that Frank Ciotola is himself a registered Republican.

The two Trustees who voted against censorship were passed over

Both John Magill and Brian Perera submitted applications for reappointment, both were passed over and both were critical votes in maintaining the Library's openness toward gay periodicals.

In 2005 social conservatives were strongly pressing the Library to ban the gay periodicals from the Library. Brian Perera came to the Board after the 2005 controversy. Thinking Perera shared a far-right viewpoint on this topic, Bryce Kurfees, a young-earth creationist and intelligent design advocate, pushed for another vote on the matter in 2006. Perera did not go along and publicly made his opinion known. The vote to reconsider the matter failed w/o Perera's vote.

In the end Ciotola completely replaced all the Trustee whose terms expired in 2010, even those that applied for reappointment. This has never happened in the recorded history of the Library Board. Replacing 50% of the Board of Trustees in one year has never been done in the Library Board's history --- and for good reason.

In two years the other 3 Trustees whose terms expire in 2012 could also be replaced en masse.

Questions remain

Did Shy, Sisterhen or Scanlon make campaign donations to Ciotola’s recent City Council campaign?

With both Mark Shy and Garrett Scanlon in the commercial real estate business, what business deals have occurred between these appointees and Ciotola’s business concerns?

Will divisive issues, such as the gay periodical censorship issue, distract the Board from its important duties?

Will the Library fall from its first place ranking last year in the U.S. among peers in its size grouping?

Do the appointees have share the same passion for the Library's mission as the passed-over Magill and Perera?


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