Recent revelations about past legal troubles by and actions against Barbara Danforth and attributed statements by her about an entire constituency of Cleveland Heights residents demonstrate her lack of qualifications for Mayor and respect for the residents and citizens of our community. She should, therefore, immediately end her campaign.
I’ve come to this conclusion after reviewing multiple legal documents from local, country and state courts over the past 20 years that have recently come to light, as well as statements from reputable individuals of her views of the LGBTQ+ community. through a democracy and justice lens that I have used while educating, advocating and organizing in solidarity with a diversity of individuals and groups over the last 40 years across Ohio and beyond.
Among many issues that arise from this review, three in particular stand out in calling for Danforth to end her campaign. Each one is directly relevant to the responsibilities any Mayor must perform — especially the very first Mayor of our community who will have a disproportionate influence in setting many professional and personal standards for all who follow.
1. Lack of fiscal responsibility/following the law
Danforth has foreclosed on multiple homes and declared bankruptcy on over $600,000 in debt. This includes $581,800 in penalties for campaign violations following an unsuccessful previous election campaign filed by the the State of Ohio Office of Attorney General. She also has been sued multiple times by multiple public entities for unpaid taxes — including several times by the City of Cleveland Heights. These are numerous incidents over decades, not a single act in a single year. The one-half million dollar-plus penalty for campaign violations is very substantial and indicates a very serious breach of state election laws.
At a time when Cleveland Heights and municipalities across the country face fiscal challenges in general, worsened by the ongoing pandemic, it’s essential that the Mayor of any city has experience and integrity in handling financial matters by being responsible stewards of taxpayer funds. Any history by any candidate perceived in any way as reckless, be it financial or otherwise, by residents and voters threatens their confidence and trust that, if elected, that representative will act in their collective best interest.
2. Lack of transparency/accountability
Aside from Danforth’s admission in a deposition that she didn’t follow state “sunshine laws” (requiring transparency and certain disclosure of information) one time in her leadership at Summit Academy, the much larger issue is her lack of transparency of her multiple legal incidents that have recently been disclosed. If they are all “misleading,” and taken “out of context claims,” she had to know that this information would eventually come out based on the sheer volume of incidents by various levels of government/courts over multiple decades. So why not as many people who claim innocence of past incidents get out in front of them? Proact. Defend yourself. Provide explanations that are “in context” and not misleading, which if true nips in the bud accusations and public dismay when nothing is provided up front.
Danorth’s problem with what has happened is that at least the perception, if not reality, now exists that she didn’t want to have any of this come out — including not willing to be publicly open and accountable for incidents that are legitimate.
Moreover, her response when information on nodanforth.com went public is equally troubling. Rather than respond to charges to the community via a statement, news conference, etc.,, Danforth offered to respond simply to individuals one-at-a-time by phone call “within 24 hours” while the subject of her email was “Focusing on Our Future.”
Responding to individual queries is not the same as public statements. It’s akin to the recent strategies by government regulatory agencies to forego community-wide public hearings for individual or smaller group gatherings, which denies the public as a single body to hear and respond to a single message at the same time, thereby, preventing focused attention and responses.
Her statement in her “Focusing on Our Future” email of: “In the end, this campaign is about the future of our city, not about personal past issues” represents an incredible arrogance in inferring that nothing in a person’s past should have any relevance to present or future actions. It’s an unwillingness to be transparent and be held publicly accountable for who she is and what she’s done. It’s also hypocritical since all her campaign material contains references to professed past personal and professional experiences that qualify her to be Mayor.
Public transparency and accountability are essential ingredients to creating and maintaining a democratic form of government. Elected representatives can’t be held accountable if information — whether good or bad — is not publicly disclosed at appropriate times, which sometimes should be early in the stage of any governing process.
3. Lack of basic dignity and respect toward constituents
Danforth’s response to and following her meeting with members of Cleveland Stonewall Democrats on her views on basic human rights of LGBTQIA+ individual was appalling both in their ignorance during the interview and seemingly lying about her statements afterwards. Her awareness of and respect for the issues and concerns of the community, especially of trans and gender non-conforming people, was limited and insulting. The fact that she in the interview claimed she had to “ask the jews” before responding to a question shows a disrespect toward a second constituency of residents of Cleveland Heights.
Claiming that she sent a statement outlining her position on LGBTQIA+ concerns prior to her interview (although never received by anyone in the interview) indicates she was not honest to the group, but was simply trying to do damage control.
Do we want a Mayor of a diverse city who has exhibited, as the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats state, comes “from a place of not just ignorance, but animosity and shallow respect towards the [LGBTQ+] residents of Cleveland Heights”?
Any one of these factors to me qualifies Barbara Danforth as being unqualified as serving as Cleveland Heights’ first Mayor. Taken together, the conclusion is overwhelmingly clear.
Barbara Danforth should end her campaign for Mayor.
– Greg Coleridge
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
An excellent summation of a most unfortunate candidacy. Thank you, Greg!