Portune, Burke Battle Over BOE

Jan 28, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Tongues are wagging over a harsh e-mail exchange between two of Hamilton County’s top Democrats about who should be appointed to fill a vacancy on the Board of Elections (BOE).

The e-mail exchange Monday between Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune and Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke revolves around what criteria should be used when selecting a board member.—-

Portune wanted former Cincinnati Mayor and party power broker Dwight Tillery to fill the vacancy, noting there’s never been an African-American on the BOE. Burke wanted Caleb Faux, the party’s executive director, as the selection to help supplement Faux’s income.

Portune began the exchange by e-mailing Burke. When Burke responded, he copied numerous members of the party’s Executive Committee, angering Portune, who did the same with his reply.

The Hamilton County Democratic Party’s Executive Committee recommended Faux for the spot. He also serves in the volunteer position as chairman of the Cincinnati Planning Commission.

In one of Portune’s e-mails, he cryptically refers to other reasons for his BOE preference by writing, “there is much more to the matter than I included in my brief e-mail to you this morning.”

The full exchange of e-mails is listed below.


From: Portune, Todd
Sent: Monday, January 25, 2010 5:40 AM
To: Tim Burke
Subject: Re: Hamilton County Democratic Committee - Board of Elections recommendation


Thank you for the email about the BOE position.  As much as I like Caleb and approve of finding a way to supplement his salary, I respectfully disagree with the conclusion that we can overlook appointing an African American to the Board.

On the contrary, I am embarrassed for the Party that we have not done so and that we are not doing so here.  We must. And we must appoint a person who has led the Party for decades through his service and through his help and contributions to dozens of candidates. That person is Dwight Tillery.

If using this appointment is necessary to boost Caleb's salary then we must take the steps in order to have two appointments at the same time.

I know what I am asking here and the sacrifice I am asking you to make. But it is necessary. And if you do this it will secure your legacy as the greatest chair in the history of the local county Party.

We have to do the right thing here. Or else we will continue to push away African Americans from the party.

 Do the right thing Tim. Do the heroic thing. I urge you to do so for the sake of the Party.



From: Tim Burke
To: Tim Burke
Sent: Mon Jan 25 06:15:29 2010
Subject: FW: Hamilton County Democratic Committee - Board of Elections recommendation

To Hamilton County Democratic Party Executive Committee Members:

In the interest of being as open as possible what follows is an email from Todd Portune indicating his support for former Mayor Dwight Tillery for the Board of Elections seat.  Todd has also suggested that I should resign my position on the Board of Elections so that both Dwight and Caleb could be appointed.

I think even Dwight will acknowledge that I worked very hard to secure for him an appointment to the State Personnel Board of Review.  He is being paid over $50,000 a year to serve on that Board.  Dwight deserves that position, he earned it and he earns the pay.

As to Todd’s suggestion that I give up my seat on the Board I respectfully decline.  I spend well over 1,000 hours a year on Party business.  While not a rich person, I donate thousands of dollars of year of my own dollars to democratic candidates and committees.  The lunches at my office so many of you have attended with statewide officials and candidates have been paid for by me, not the party, so is the annual cookout I have now done for 14 years for the Executive Committee.

Unlike the Republican Party, who we believe pays its chair a significant amount, the Board of Elections pay (less than $20,000 a year) is my only “salary” related to my democratic party work.

Yes, it is true that a little over a year ago I was asked to and did accept an appointment to the Ohio Board of Regents.  I had not sought an appointment to that Board or any others.  There is no compensation associated with that position, only mileage and expenses.

So while I appreciate Todd’s creative suggestion, I am not going to resign from the Board of Elections.

If there was another way to get Caleb a decent wage, I would not be fighting so hard for him to have the seat on the Board.  But I know enough about our local history of fundraising to know we can’t afford to pass up the opportunity to put Caleb on the Board.

I hope you will support him tonight.



From: Portune, Todd
Sent: Monday, January 25, 2010 10:11 AM
To: Tim Burke
Subject: Re: Hamilton County Democratic Committee - Board of Elections recommendation


I am disappointed that you would fail to speak with me before blast emailing my personal email to you about the BOE appointment. Had you done so you would have learned there is much more to the matter than I included in my brief email to you this morning.

It is also disappointing that you would minimize the issues to being all about money. For me the appointment is not about that at all. You still have not addressed our Party's shortcomings in failing to appoint an African American to this influential post and, if your proposal goes forward, will not for the forseeable future.

In light of what you did this morning I ask that you share this and further that you share additional emails from me with your email list.