Hicks: Time for Uible to accept reality on hotel tax

And it’s time for Painter to lead the way forward

The August 17 edition of The Clermont Sun featured a prominent article entitled “Commissioners discuss hotel tax.” The article had lots of talk from Commissioners Painter and Humphrey and lovely pictures of each. But, where was Commissioner Uible? Why were Painter and Humphrey, like so many of our alleged leaders, giving Mr. Uible a complete pass and letting themselves be set up yet again by him?

Almost in parallel with that article’s publication, it was coming to light that Mr. Uible had been on a trip with Jeff Berding and others in September of 2016 which was kept secret from the Commissioners and the taxpayers. Uible was jetting to Atlanta on a private plane with Berding probably plotting to issue millions in County debt to facilitate a deal for FC Cincinnati. Almost in parallel, the Prosecutor informed me he was having the Ohio Attorney General look into Auditor Linda Fraley’s participation on the Convention and Visitor’s Board (CVB) board where she spends, in secret, $700k of tax revenue that comes from her office. Almost in parallel, I learned that Mr. Uible had peddled a false story to Sheriff Leahy that I was harassing him on his mobile number. It reminded me of false allegations Uible peddled to the Republican Central Committee in an effort to get me kicked out for questioning his plot. Almost in parallel, I published a series of emails from Mr. Uible (obtained via a records request) that showed his direct collusion with Rep. Doug Green, the owner of the Red Barn site and that revealed the Berding trip. So Uible, aware of what would come to light, allowed Painter and Humphrey to be his lackeys in the paper. He let them speak without disclosing, even to them, the full story about the extent of the scheme and how long it had been brewing. He set them up.

I have uncovered significant improper behavior in our County Government centered around Commissioner Uible and Auditor Fraley. The hotel tax was merely part of a larger scheme to issue millions in debt in support of an FC Cincinnati deal. Uible ran the deal, took secret trips, worked tax increases, engaged land owners and more. He kept it secret not just from the public but from his fellow commissioners and all of the elected officials in the townships. Uible has built a web across the CVB, the Port Authority, the Commissioners and the Republican Party. Linda Fraley seems to be a willing accomplice most clearly seen in her improper participation in the CVB Board.

The CVB is supposed to be an industry group (hotels, venues, restaurants) to promote travel and tourism. Ours has zero members of industry on its Board. Since 2012, it has been 100% government-controlled. The CVB gets $700k of tax money through Fraley’s office that is spent in secret by her and a board of government people managed by Uible. It is wrong.

What needs to happen? It starts with Uible accepting responsibility and stepping down from the CVB and Republican Party Leadership. He has used the CVB to work secret backroom deals. He has used the Republican Party to intimidate people who do not accept his schemes (like me). Fraley needs to not only resign from Boards that receive money from her office, she needs to be calling for complete CVB transparency for the 5 years she was there and secretly spent almost $3.5m from her office. Then the CVB needs to be blown up and re-constituted as an industry group (no more political cronies).

But what of Humphrey and Painter? I understand Humphrey will retire at the end of his term. So, let me focus on Painter in the 1st year of his 1st term. I think he has let himself be used by Uible while Uible was keeping secrets from him. On July 12, 43 days ago, Painter read a statement of commitment to an open meeting but there has been no meeting.

On July 26, 29 days ago, Painter sat on his hands as Mr. Uible prevented me from speaking. On August 17, 7 days ago, he was featured in the Sun, never once demanding Mr. Uible speak for himself, never once addressing the need to purge the CVB and never once addressing the threat Mr. Uible made to have a private hotel employee fired unless the hotel tax went through.

I like Commissioner Painter but he keeps choosing the politically expedient over what is ethically right. I hope he wakes up and becomes the voice of a better, cleaner, Clermont government. The path is clear.

The decision to follow that path, however, is his.