With friends like these…
by Bob Fitrakis
Vincent Carbone, or was it Vito, called Tommy Banks an “exquisite gentleman” when asked about Tommy’s controversial building project with the Governor’s former Chief of Staff Paul Mifsud. This is understandable since the Carbone family and Banks are in the construction business together.
What is equally clear is that Mayor Greg Lashutka’s investigation of Police Chief James Jackson will involve his self-proclaimed “cousin” Tommy, and here’s why. In the spring of 1995 or thereabouts, Tommy allegedly was facing possible rape charges involving an incident at his newly built home in Gahanna. Law-enforcement sources say that Banks invited a teenager working at his property into his big new house for a tour, and it turned ugly. Allegedly, Tommy sexually assaulted the teenager, at least that’s what she told her employers and others. Sources report that Tommy “stuck real close” to Chief Jackson during this period. Reportedly, pressure was put on the victim, as well as insinuation that nothing would come of her complaint. Maybe that’s why the alleged victim never filed a formal charge.
Hard to believe? Not hardly, if you know Tommy’s track record. For example, while Columbus Alive was investigating the above incident, another report turned up on Banks. The Gahanna Police Department filed an Ohio Uniform Incident Report on April 29, 1996. The report, #96-00916, contains allegations from a Gahanna resident who claimed that Tommy Banks stalked her for over two months from February 15 to April 28, 1996. The victim, according to the report, stated that Banks “continually harassed and threatened” her. Allegedly, the married Banks repeatedly asked her out and harassed her by phone. He appeared at her place of employment and “damaged her vehicle when she tried to leave,” according to the report. Banks, the file notes, “threatened to harm her or her family.”
And then it gets even more interesting. The victim stated “that Mr. Banks had told her he has connections with the Mafia and is extremely wealthy and powerful; and that if she refuses him he’ll have her killed.” The complainant told police that she simply wanted to document the threats in case Banks took the action, the report states.
This is typical Banks, according to those who have worked with him. Upper Arlington architect Dennis Green, currently involved in a civil suit with Banks, has stated under oath that Banks threatened him as well. “Tommy Banks was flashing around a Teamster ring, it looked like a Masonic ring, saying he didn’t think I’d show for the meeting and he might have to have some of the boys from Cleveland ‘pick me up,'” Green said.
A former Banks employee who worked with Tommy at his Huntington office, which features double-paned glass and where visitors have to be buzzed in, told Alive that Tommy’s office manager and close personal friend Nancy Rogers, who keeps many of Tommy’s business secrets, “…could never leave here because they’d find her at the bottom of the river.”
“He [Banks] always carries a gun,” the employee stated, “As a joke he likes to take it halfway out of the holster and threaten to shoot you.”
Some sense of humor; no wonder the Chief likes to run with him. Banks, a former employee of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, was fired by Sheriff Earl Smith. As part of a legal settlement, Banks is still allowed to play cop on “special duty” directing funeral traffic. Smith recalls that the settlement limits Banks to carrying his gun while on-duty only. The Gahanna Police report lists Banks as a “Franklin County Sheriff’s Officer-Reserve.” It also lists Banks’ pager number. When I paged Banks for comment, he left a brief message on my answering machine. A call from his lawyer, Ritchey Hollenbaugh, soon followed. Banks’ paid counsel demanded to know how I got Tommy’s pager number. When I told him about Tommy’s “menacing by stalking” file, Hollenbaugh pleaded ignorance. But still, he wanted to know “Why are you hounding my client?”
Seems Hollenbaugh regards my columns and the news stories in the Columbus Alive as inappropriate, particularly a recent one that dared point out that Banks’s construction application to The Ohio State University for the $75 million Schottenstein arena management job contained two obvious factual errors. One, Tommy had neither the bachelor’s degree he claimed to have been awarded-by OSU-in business administration; and two, he doesn’t really have the OSU master’s degree in engineering he listed. But Ritchey was able to clarify that for me. “It’s not a misrepresentation, it’s a mistake. Misrepresentation would be a falsification. A mistake is inadvertent, like a typo,” he explained.
Now I understand. I have Tommy all wrong. He’s made a few mistakes. And so has the Chief for allegedly protecting him. Inadvertently. I should have known, with my double Ph.D’s in Astrophysics and Brain Surgery. Oops! Typo. And I really appreciate Ritchey’s parting counsel, or was it a threat? “Be careful out there,” he said.
Fitrakis has a Ph.D. in Political Science. Honest.