County Politics, Republican Style

Anyone familiar with Hamilton County government knows that a large segment of the jobs are essentially political appointments, given to cronies of whichever party controls the particular office doing the hiring.

Still, the political quid pro quo is usually kept somewhat discreet and hidden from public view. Not his time.—-

In a letter distributed today to the Republican judges who dominate the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, a worker in the county’s Probation Department reminded them of all the work she’s done for various GOP campaigns as the main reason she should fill an upcoming vacancy that will be decided by the judges.

The one-page letter is written by Probation Office Supervisor Gwendolyn DaCons Taylor, who lobbies to become the county’s assistant chief probation officer. That job was previously held by Republican Patricia Clancy, who left it after being elected Hamilton County Clerk of Courts in November.

Clancy left her previous position as a state senator to begin a complicated, “musical chairs” style series of moves among GOP elected officials who wanted to run for different offices other than the ones they held. State Rep. Bill Seitz filled Clancy’s state senate seat, while Clancy ran for Clerk of Courts once Greg Hartmann decided to run for county commissioner.

“I wanted to take this opportunity to follow up with all of you providing this information regarding all of my volunteer work hours with the most recent campaigns,” Taylor writes.

She then lists six GOP candidates and the specific work she did for each of their campaigns this past fall. They include successful candidates like Common Pleas Court Judge Pat DeWine, Clerk of Courts Patricia Clancy, County Commissioner Greg Hartmann and Congresswoman Jean Schmidt; and unsuccessful candidates like Municipal Court Judge Russell Mock, who tried to jump to Common Pleas Court, and Congressman Steve Chabot, a longtime incumbent who lost a re-election bid.

The letter mentions time spent marching in parades, distributing campaign literature and staffing phone banks, among other activities.

“I did the very best I could to help serve all of our candidates, and I just wanted all of you to be aware of my efforts,” Taylor writes. “It is my hope that I will be given the opportunity to perform some of the administrative responsibilities that will be left when Ms. Patricia Clancy leaves our Probation Department. I am willing to perform the duties at my current salary as a means to save money until such time as we can all receive a pay raise.”

One potential stumbling block: Blatant political payback for campaign work likely is illegal.

As attorney Jan Witold Baran writes on the FindLaw online legal library, federal law prohibits gifts of any sort that are given or received as a quid pro quo for official acts. Moreover, gifts may be illegal gratuities if they are given with the expectation of favorable action by the public official on pending or future matters.

It’s unclear, though, if Taylor’s campaign work would fall into that category. But it sure smells funny.