by Frank Lewis
Last week, Akron Mayor for Life Don Plusquellic had his chief of staff, Dave Leiberth, puffing out his chest for the press and challenging those seeking the mayor’s head to be realistic: Plusquellic was born for this job, trumpeted Leiberth, and he would die doing it. Was the mayor worried about whether there’d be enough signatures on the recall petitions that were due in on May 6? Ha-ha. What recall petitions? “You deal with these kind of people all the time,” Lieberth said.
Plusquellic might not be worried, but his army ants aren’t counting any chickens. A pro-Plusquellic group, Citizens for Akron, recently sent out flyers to many thousands of residents who had signed a petition to put a Plusquellic recall on the ballot this November. The mailer asked them to reconsider their signature (yes, it’s apparently legal to recall your recall petition signature). Then it trashes the recall effort’s leader, former Councilman Warner Mendenhall, the founder of Change Akron Now.
But the group hasn’t stopped there. It’s sending city soldiers out to knock on those people’s doors. Carolyn Fuller said she got some visitors, two people who identified themselves as city workers, at about 2 p.m. Saturday. They asked her to remove her name from the petition.
“I had never experienced anything like that before, but they weren’t rude or anything,” she says. She agreed that it was unusual, but “I didn’t take it off, so…”
“I think they’re probably taking this as a serious matter,” says her husband, John, who wasn’t there for the visit. He’s heard Plusquellic feigning nonchalance about the effort, but everyone knows that candidate Joe Finley just landed within about 1,000 votes of deposing the king. Seems it’s not such an easy fort to defend anymore.
The maneuverings are getting downright serious now. Akron’s deputy clerk of council Connie Genevesh filed a police report right after the mailers went out when calls about her office handing out signature recall forms to interested voters culminated in death threats. “She threatened to ‘take me out,’” Genevesh told WKYC on April 30 about her assaulter. "She knows where I am. She knows where I work."
Summit County Board of Elections director Marijean Donofrio did not return a call by the end of the day Friday. A worker solicited to explain petition rules at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections agreed that seeking out signers to remove their names is pretty rare, but “nothing is unusual to me anymore.”
May 6 was the deadline for recall petition signatures in Akron, but it was unclear whether the effort was successful. Change Akron Now was just 500 signatures shy a few weeks ago.
Seems the Rubber City is springing some leaks over this whole representative democracy thing.
“I’ve been told by several people that City Council people were calling petition signers and pressuring them to remove their names,” adds Greg Coleridge, the director of the Economic Justice & Empowerment Program for the American Friends Service Committee. “I guess city employees and Council members have nothing else better to do these days. Wonder if all this was/is on the public’s dime?” — Dan Harkins
Photo borrowed from WCPN's report.