For the second time in 2 weeks, Gary Mohr, the Kasich-appointed Director of the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC), has been accused of playing politics by firing Democrats working within his department.
On June 22nd, Mohr fired the only two Democrats on the Parole board. The only reason given was the desire to take the board in a “new direction”, obviously one that involved fewer Democrats on the board.
And last night, after arriving as usual for his late-night shift at the Belmont Correctional Institution, Correction Officer Charlie Daniels was notified that Mohr had signed a letter authorizing his removal.
Daniels, a six year veteran of the United States Navy, had been a dedicated employee of the state for 18 years. But earlier this year Daniels did something that got him flagged by the Kasich administration, and by Kasich appointees at the DRC, and ultimately led to his firing 2 days before the 4th of July.
In January, Daniels declared his candidacy for state wide office (as a Democrat), something Ohio’s “little Hatch act” is intended to prevent classified government employees from doing. And in March, Daniels defeated two other Democrats to become the candidate for Ohio’s new 95th House District, where he is challenging Republican State Rep (and heir to the Bird Watcher’s Digest fortune) Andy Thompson.
Yesterday the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA) released a statement that called Daniels removal “fundamentally unfair” claiming it “goes against all the democratic freedoms that our founding fathers fought for and that our military men and women continue to fight for today”. Christopher Mabe, OCSEA President, defended Mr. Daniels, saying he “has played by the rules, served his country and is now being shut out of the democratic process. Now he’s a second-class citizen. It’s just plain wrong.”
I spoke with Mr. Daniels at length yesterday and he confirmed the story of the firing. Daniels also said that he’d spoken directly with representatives from Governor Kasich’s office and Secretary of State Husted’s office back in April, and the conversations couldn’t have been more different.
According to Daniels, the advice provided by the SOS’s office indicated that he would likely need to resign from his position with the DRC if he won his race in November, but he could continue his bid for office. While Kasich’s attorneys, according to Daniels, appeared to be searching for legal ways to remove the long-time correction officer from his job.
The administration may have been within their rights to fire the only Democrats on the Parole Board and a Correction Officer running for office as a Democrat, but exerting those rights in this way only helps lend credence to Kasich’s much-deserved reputation for turning every situation into an opportunity to play politics.
With Kasich’s poll numbers again trending downward (40% approval and 44% disapproval last week), the Kasich administration has been actively working to distance themselves from the anti-union specter of SB5, trying to shift to a message of bipartisanship.
So far they haven’t changed a lot of minds, and the reason should be obvious.
Messaging is one thing. Actions are another. And firing a long-time state employee and veteran two days before our nation’s Independence Day, solely for running for office as a Democrat, completely undermines claims that Kasich’s administration is actively pursuing an agenda of bipartisanship. Clearly Team Kasich is having a problem living up to their own hype.