The odor of Oddi
by Bob Fitrakis
What do Gary Hart, Bob Packwood, Thomas Ferguson and Franklin County Clerk of Courts Jesse Oddi have in common? Shouldn’t be too hard to figure out.
Next Tuesday, without giving it much thought, Franklin County voters are likely to go to the polls and “Retain Jesse Oddi” for Franklin County Clerk of Courts. Maybe the cry should be to restrain Oddi.
I recently talked with employees from the Clerk of Court’s office, who all march in parades for Jesse, raise money for his campaign, and have Oddi bumper stickers on their autos. The public image these employees present is that of adoring their boss; in reality, they say they’re terrified of losing their jobs if they don’t.
Oddi is portrayed as one of the most despicable public servants imaginable-but not by the competition, by his own employees who say he’s a shakedown artist. Employees claim that their supervisors routinely record how many spaghetti fund-raiser dinner tickets they sell for Oddi or whether the Oddi bumper stickers are on their cars. One employee claims that a supervisor “kept asking me for donations. She said ‘What about your job? You ought to worry about your job.'”
Donna Born, a former supervisor now on medical leave from the Clerk’s office, admits that she “forced them to buy these tickets.”
“Yes, my division had 12 people,” she explains. “We would sell 150-200 tickets at $25 apiece. The employees knew that they had to buy or sell a set amount of tickets. I also forced them to march in parades. We would pass around sign-up sheets on county time and they had to give me a reason if they couldn’t march.”
It is illegal for public employees to engage in partisan political activities while on the government payroll. But according to Oddi’s employees, that may be the least of his sins. Born and others claim they routinely cover for Oddi as he engages in repeated liaisons with female staff members, who are reportedly rewarded with job advancement in exchange for granting sexual favors.
“I covered for him,” Born said. “I’d have to tell his wife Elaine that it was me calling his house [instead of another woman] to report that the alarms went off downtown; it wasn’t true,” she said. Oddi-who displays a fondness for open-collared shirts, gold chains and who supposedly had a plaque in his office that read “Italian Stallion”-has cultivated a close personal relationship with one particular supervisor, according to Born and several other employees. Born claims that some employees who have been there “about six years” are making far more money than long-term employees who aren’t as friendly with Oddi.
As Born explains, “Jesse is a real touchy-feely-type guy. He likes to pat your butt and kiss you, to massage your shoulders and rub your body.” One female employee stated that Oddi would “come and massage my shoulders and run his fingers through my hair.” Another female employee was more blunt: “I knew if I went over and gave Jesse a [sexual favor] he’d give me a raise.”
All employees told tales of catching Oddi with his hands either “up her skirt” or “down her blouse.” When pressed for details, employees point to Oddi’s suite at the Great Southern Hotel as a key place for female employees to negotiate a raise after a dinner at Chutney’s.
Jacqueline Bracken, Oddi’s election opponent, has tried desperately to expose Oddi’s sleaziness and corruption. Oddi’s employees tell a similar tale. Employees report that eight Clerk of Courts employees went to the Dispatch almost four years ago, right before Oddi’s appointment, with similar allegations and documentation. The Big D did nothing, they said. Not surprising; while seemingly obsessed with Judge Deborah O’Neill’s alleged sexual escapades, the big boys at the Daily Monopoly ignore Oddi’s odor as they search for the holy grail of journalism, the truth about O’Neill’s “panties.”
Indeed, on Saturday, in another apparent attempt to run Judge O’Neill out of office, the Dispatch put her photo on page one with a story claiming she’d done something wrong by allowing blacks into a jury pool. The Dispatch’s O’Neill fetish kicked the possible Jerry Hessler “mistrial” story to page two, sans photo.
The accounts of Oddi’s misdeeds don’t stop here. One long-time law-enforcement source calls Oddi the “county’s premier fixer.” All employees questioned by Alive report that documents are routinely “backdated” in Oddi’s office, and that Oddi can make legal files “completely disappear.” Think about it: Jesse Oddi, Clerk of Courts, is the man in charge of all the court documents in Franklin County. Bracken says it’s not easy to run against somebody who has the open reputation for being able to make a drunk-driving charge, for instance, disappear. Two employees claim that the system is designed not only to destroy the physical file but the corresponding microfilm as well.
If Jesse Oddi is elected Clerk of Courts in Franklin County, citizens here owe Palmer McNeal an apology. McNeal, a former county auditor run out of office by the Wolfe Family Newsletter for a minor misuse of his county credit card, is a mere peon compared to the “Italian Stallion.” Ferguson and Packwood-pikers. Gary Hart-bush-league lecher.
All hail Jesse Oddi. The little stud that could.