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January 16, 2009

Six gays and lesbians passed over for council

Columbus--City Council passed over qualified gay and lesbian applicants to fill vacancies this week, for the second time in two years.

The body’s January 13 appointments may raise the ire of the LGBT community, as it did two years ago.

Sixty-five people applied for two seats that became vacant when Maryellen O’Shaughnessy was elected Franklin County Clerk of Courts and Kevin Boyce was appointed state treasurer.

Among the applicants were six gays and lesbians: Marc Conte, Jeff Knoll, Shawn Dingus, Terry J. Brown, Karla Rothan and Steve Farrell.

The list was narrowed to 16 finalists, including Conte, Dingus, Rothan and Farrell.

Conte is the research director for the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District.

Dingus is an attorney who ran for Franklin County Common Pleas Court last year.

Rothan is the director of Stonewall Columbus.

Farrell is a lobbyist for the United Way and Columbus City Schools. He also sought appointment to a vacant council seat in 2007 and was passed over.

This outraged the LGBT community and, later that year, many LGBT Democrats voted for gay Republican Bill Brownson in protest. Lesbian Democratic Party activist Lynn Greer recorded an automated phone “robo-call,” asking people to support Brownson.

All seven Columbus councilors are elected at large, and all are Democrats. Council has a tradition of using appointments to reach out to minority constituencies for qualified candidates who may not, due to city demographics, have the ability to get elected.

Six of the current members, including the two new ones, first came to council by appointment.

If there is an opening in one of the minority constituency seats, council has, by tradition, attempted to do like-for-like replacement. They did this until 2007 when Mary Jo Hudson, the city’s first lesbian councilor, resigned her seat to take a cabinet post in Governor Strickland’s administration.

Hudson, who is white, was replaced by Priscilla Tyson, a black woman who is not lesbian.

A few months later, Patsy Thomas left council to become a Municipal Court judge. Thomas is also a non-lesbian black woman.

Farrell was passed over for the seat Thomas vacated, in favor of Hearcel Craig, a non-gay black man.

That year, council began to say that no constituency group can claim a seat, and deny that it did like-for-like replacements.

However, O’Shaughnessy, a non-lesbian white woman, was replaced by attorney Eileen Paley, also a non-lesbian white woman.

Boyce, a non-gay black man, was replaced by medical software developer A. Troy Miller, also a non-gay black man.

Paley and Miller were selected with three votes, with Tyson and Charleta Tavares abstaining.

Their protest was over how council president Michael Mentel conducted the appointment process, accusing Mentel, Craig and Andrew Ginther of collusion.

Each of the three picked Paley and Miller as their top choices, which Tavares and Tyson found improbable.

The new members were appointed at a special meeting held January 13, a day after council was set to vote on them. Both Tyson and Tavares were absent at the earlier meeting, leaving too few remaining for a quorum.

Tyson said she needed to care for her sick son. Tavares said she had a business conflict.

After the vote, Dingus expressed disappointment that he was not appointed, but said that the two new councilors were well qualified.

“I do sincerely hope, however, that one day members of the GLBT community will once again be included in the leadership of our local government, and I call on all of those in our community to work diligently to make that happen,” said Dingus.

The others could not be reached.

This material is copyrighted by the Gay People’s Chronicle. Permission is given only to repost the headline, byline, and one or two paragraphs, with the full name of the Gay People’s Chronicle and a link to the full article on our website. Reproduction of the entire article is prohibited without specific written permission.


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