Bob Bytes Back Archive: 5/28/1996 “Whiny Dems And Jews” (Anti-Semitism)

by Bob Fitrakis

From Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium to Columbus’ Riffe Center, anti-Semitism is in vogue. But in the state capital, instead of chastising the bigot, we literally fire the messenger. Ask Devon Rice.

On May 8 at approximately 8:30 a.m., Rice, a messenger with the Legislative Service Commission, was delivering forms to House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson’s office on the 14th floor when he heard Ohio House Sergeant-at-Arms Robert Foster loudly proclaim: “The Jews are just like the Democrats, all they do is whine.”

After Foster “repeated himself several times,” Rice confronted the Statehouse official and said, “Could you do me a favor, next time you make anti-Semitic remarks, could you lower your voice so I don’t have to hear you?”

Rice says Foster initially denied that his remarks were anti-Semitic and reluctantly offered a half-hearted apology. Rice then dashed off a letter to Speaker Davidson (R-Reynoldsburg), informing her of the incident and stating: “As a citizen of Ohio, as a human being and as a ‘Jew,’ I felt compelled to inform the gentleman that I heard him, that I was offended, and that his behavior was intolerable.” Foster was sitting at his desk in the reception area at the time the remarks were made.

Rice wrote “I personally do not care what the Sergeant-at-Arms says at home, at a bar, or on the golf course. However, this type of behavior clearly has no place within his official capacity as an employee of the Ohio House of Representatives. His behavior was, aside from being ignorant and offensive, unprofessional.”

Speaker Davidson seemed to concur. She ordered an immediate inquiry into the matter. Foster admitted that he had called two specific groups–the ACLU and the Jewish Defense League–“whiners just like the Democrats.” Foster denied he ever referred to “Jews” specifically. Nevertheless, Davidson concluded in a letter dated May 15 that Foster’s conduct was “entirely inappropriate and should not be condoned in the House of Representatives.” Davidson directed Carol S. Norris, the executive secretary of the Ohio House, “to verbally reprimand Mr. Foster for his ‘inappropriate’ comments.” A copy of her letter to Rice was forwarded to the director of the Legislative Service Commission, Robert Shapiro. Within a week, Rice was given his six-month evaluation and told that his services would no longer be needed after the session ended.

Instead of talking to Rice face-to-face, the evaluation from his immediate supervisor Eric Rodriguez and Office Manager Cathy Kamer was simply left on his desk. Rice claims every time he was five minutes late was suddenly highlighted, although no one had ever spoke to him about tardiness before. And, curiously, a vague reference to having “gone above a supervisor on one occasion . . .” appeared.

Rice resigned after the evaluation, rather than finish the session, and he requested an exit interview with Kamer and Shapiro. When he showed up at the appointed time, he found State Trooper Sergeant Moore waiting to escort him out of the building. “It’s insane. The trooper threatened me with arrest,” Rice offers.

Shapiro acknowledges that he saw Davidson’s letter, but refused to give Kamer’s or Rodriguez’s names when asked who evaluated Rice or whether they had seen Davidson’s letter. “I’m not going to help you, you’ll have to find out yourself,” Shapiro told me. Shapiro has recently been under fire for withholding corporate donation information from the press and the Legislative Service Commission is still recovering from the recent Puerto Rican junket scandal.

Shapiro claims he was unaware of the state trooper incident and suggests “not so convincingly” that Rice’s evaluation had nothing to do with the letter. A true professional.

School Board Coup

The Wolfe Family Newsletter writes: “Party politics didn’t come into play when the Columbus Board of Education unanimously tapped the Reverend Leon Troy Sr., a Republican, this week to fill a Board vacancy.” Oh? The Daily Monopoly had been touting Troy as above the fray. That’s the usual B.S.. What was left out of the reporting was the fact that the late Sharlene Morgan was a progressive Democrat and Troy fought against her and sided with the Chamber of Commerce on most key issues.

Recall Superintendent Larry Mixon’s on-and-off again “resignation.” As Bill Moss stated at the time, “Troy was the Chamber and Dispatch’s front man” to silence the progressive anti-tax abatement block on the Board and to get Mixon to stay.

Sources in the Franklin County Democratic Party claim that school board members Loretta Heard and Mary Jo Kilroy were against Troy’s appointment in executive session and Karen Schwarzwalder was “up front” about her support. But it was school board President Mark Hatch”described by a Democratic Party staffer as a “weasel”,”who never came clean and cut a deal behind closed doors.”

Hatch has a history of double-dealing and stabbing the local Democratic Party in the back. Remember his vote for the Republican Bob Teater that denied Mary Jo Kilroy the school board presidency a few years back?

As for Kilroy, who rallied her progressive supporters this past campaign by denouncing the Republican agenda, she’s got some explaining to do. But, she wasn’t in the mood. When asked to explain her public support and vote for Troy, she commented, “I’m not interested in the story.” Of course. Can charges of “sellout” be far behind?

Bob Fitrakis ran for Columbus School Board in 1995.