For all of his frequent talk about cutting taxes and limiting the size of government, uber-conservative Chris Finney keeps costing area taxpayers more money.
Finney, an attorney who lives in Anderson Township, is a leader of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) and also has served several other political causes in the past. They include being a top adviser to ex-Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich and helping draft the notorious Article 12 amendment to Cincinnati’s charter, an anti-gay law approved by voters in 1993 and repealed in 2004. Finney wrote the law with the help of Citizens for Community Values (CCV).
Article 12 prohibited Cincinnati officials from enacting or enforcing measures to give “minority or preferential status” to homosexuals, in effect preventing gays from seeking protection against discrimination or hate crimes. Opponents said the law was unfair because no other category of citizen was speciically prohibited from seeking redress from their government.
Before its repeal, the measure gave Cincinnati a national black eye and cost the city more than $25 million in lost business, according to the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Now another of Finney’s bizarre antics has cost Hamilton County $9,700 in taxpayer money.
That was the county’s portion of the settlement of a federal lawsuit filed by West Chester Township contractor John Meyer against Finney and Hamilton County. Meyer owns Industrial Mechanical Inc., a heating and air conditioning firm. Finney also reached a settlement with Meyer but, because terms were conidential, the amount he paid isn’t known. Meyer’s lawsuit stated Finney owed him $86,000 for unpaid work.
The settlements compensated Meyer for Finney’s use of an archaic law to have Meyer arrested and processed into jail over a dispute involving money allegedly owed to Meyer for work he did on a building that Finney and his business partners own on Beechmont Avenue.
As CityBeat first reported in April 2009, Meyer went to the building Oct. 30, 2008 — on the advice of sheriff’s deputies — to complete documents related to the dispute. The next day, Finney used a little-known power given to attorneys to charge Meyer with criminal trespassing, get a warrant signed by a clerk in Hamilton County Municipal Court and have Meyer arrested, all without the involvement of a police officer or prosecutor.
A judge dismissed the charge in December 2008. Based primarily on the Meyer case, county commissioners changed the policy earlier this year. Now only prosecutors or judges may issue arrest warrants.
Meyer’s lawsuit alleged Finney’s actions constituted an abuse of process and malicious prosecution. Filing the charge was “a perverted attempt by defendants to accomplish an ulterior purpose for which the criminal complaint was not designated.”
Last year, Meyer’s representatives told CityBeat that Finney tried to give the contractor’s expensive tools to other people. Further, they alleged Finney didn’t have the proper permits for some of the renovation work and exposed Meyer’s workers to asbestos.
So much for respecting the law.
Rather than face a jury trial, Finney decided to settle without admitting any wrongdoing.
During his recent appearance before a citizens’ panel tasked with streamlining Hamilton County government, Finney made the following statement.
“COAST has existed for more than a decade, and has been the leading advocate in southwest Ohio for limited government and lower taxes, and challenging the abuse of power by our elected oficials,” Finney said. “We have saved local taxpayers more than two billion dollars in tax increases and wasteful expenditures since our founding in 1999.”
While I, and many others, would strongly question Finney’s claim that he’s saved taxpayers $2 billion during that period (presumably mostly done by opposing property tax levies), that’s not what I’m focusing on now.
Rather, it’s the “challenging the abuse of power by our elected officials” part. How Finney could utter that phrase with a straight face shows a complete lack of self-awareness.
Apparently, in Finney’s worldview, abuse of power is only a bad thing when done by duly elected representatives of the people but not by officers of the court like attorneys who don’t want to pay a personal bill.
To be sure, Finney and COAST hold some mighty odd beliefs.
COAST triumphantly issued an e-mail late last month, celebrating Rand Paul’s victory to be the Republican U.S. Senate nominee in the May 18 Kentucky primary.
“COASTers, who helped launch the Rand Paul campaign in June of 2009, celebrated … Tuesday night (it took us so long to get out this e-mail because of our hangover from the party!),” COAST told its followers.
The e-mail continued by stating, “Rand Paul in Kentucky will be a transcendent figure in Washington.”
Seriously? According to my dictionary, transcendent means “exceeding usual limits” or “being beyond comprehension.”
Well, OK, I suppose that last definition fits. After all, some of Paul’s beliefs are beyond comprehension in 21st Century America.
Paul’s polling numbers quickly began falling after the Libertarian-minded candidate’s comments to the Louisville Courier-Journal about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became publicized.Paul told the newspaper’s editorial board in April that he disliked portions of the civil rights law because a restaurant or other private business with no government funding should be allowed to discriminate.
“In a free society, we will tolerate boorish people who have abhorrent behavior,” Paul said.
Paul also opposes the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 on similar grounds.
While Paul’s supporters claimed it was “gotcha journalism” that elicited the response, it came in a calm, non-confrontational forum. What they really disliked is that it captured Paul’s true beliefs in an unguarded moment, away from his spin-meisters.
Paul’s remarks are heartily endorsed by Finney and COAST, I’m sure. While defending Article 12 in the 1990s, Finney said landlords shouldn’t be legally required to rent to gay or lesbian tenants if they didn’t want to do so.
During testimony in a 1994 court hearing, Finney was asked why sexual behavior should affect who can eat in a restaurant or be employed by a company. Finney replied, “Because there may be some who don’t want their family dining next to a homosexual couple whose actions they find offensive.”
I find Finney’s actions and haircut offensive, but I wouldn’t try to bar him from a public restaurant. And his hypothetical “family” can always use the free-market solution and leave the restaurant for another.
No matter: Finney now serves as the attorney for the NAACP’s local chapter. Martin and Coretta King must be spinning in their graves.
Finney’s erratic behavior has become a pattern in recent years. Like Rand Paul, he's a transcendent figure: truly beyond comprehension.
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