Thursday, October 19, 2000

Councilwoman says ethics letter a fake

Reece says it's part of a smear campaign

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati police are investigating a fraudulent letter sent to the Ohio Ethics Commission alleging conflicts of interest by City Council member Alicia Reece.

        Not only is the allegation untrue, Ms. Reece said Wednesday, it is part of an intimidation campaign to force her to vote a certain way on city issues.

Ms. Reece
Ms. Reece
        The letter, sent by alleged “friends” of Councilman Phil Heimlich — replete with phony letterhead and the forged signature of Mr. Heimlich's campaign treasurer — asked state officials to investigate personal contracts Ms. Reece received from a city-funded agency.

        “I believe there is some kind of smear campaign going on to smear me, my family and influence my vote,” Ms. Reece told the Enquirer. “It looks like a pattern to stop me and influence me.”

        Mr. Heimlich disavowed the letter as a fraud.

        Three days before the letter was sent to the state, Ms. Reece said she received a letter from the African American Chamber of Commerce demanding her support on a $100,000 funding request to the City Council.

        That letter, signed by chamber board chair Kathye Lewis, raises the issue of Ms. Reece's purported involvement with the Cincinnati Urban League, which receives money from the city. That organization is the same one Ms. Reece is accused of having a conflict of interest with in the letter to the Ethics Commission.

        Ms. Reece said that she has never had a contract with the Urban League and that the first time it came up was in Ms. Lewis' letter, which was copied to five council members, but not to Mr. Heimlich.

        She acknowledged that her father, as owner of Communiplex Promotional Services, does have a contract with the league to provide networking and job retention for young local professionals. That contract is funded through a private company, not the city, Ms. Reece said.

        Ms. Lewis did not respond to an interview request Wednesday.

        But Urban League President Sheila Adams said she is concerned about chamber references to Ms. Reece. She also said it is inappropriate to link the chamber's funding request to a league program.

        “I would request that in the future if you plan to make reference to an Urban League program, please get the details from me first,” Ms. Adams wrote in an Oct. 11 letter to Ms. Lewis.

        Ms. Reece and Mr. Heimlich said they have been interviewed by local detectives and that the state has also requested an investigation.

        “I think whoever filed this complaint stooped as low as you can go,” Mr. Heimlich said.

        Mr. Heimlich, who is a Republican, is often at odds with Ms. Reece, a Democrat, when it comes to crafting city policies. But he said this goes way beyond political differences.

        “It is criminal fraud. I am hopeful that law enforcement agencies will find out who did this and they are brought to justice as quickly as possible,” Mr. Heimlich said. “I want to make it clear that I don't think Alicia did anything wrong.”

        The bogus letter, dated Oct. 5, wasn't discovered until Friday, when Mr. Heimlich's campaign treasurer received a letter from the Ohio Ethics Commission.

        The commission is the state agency charged with investigating wrongdoing by elected officials.

        “He never sent a letter,” Mr. Heimlich said of his campaign treasurer.

        The letter is on stationery for the ""Friends of Phil Heimlich,” an organization that doesn't exist.

        But the address on the letter is for Cincinnatians for Heimlich and was purportedly signed by Mr. Heimlich's campaign treasurer, F. Will Luchsinger.

        Mr. Heimlich said not only is the signature wrong, but his treasurer's name is F. William Luchsinger, who has never gone by Will.

        Ms. Reece said this is not the first time she has been the target of a smear campaign. She referred to recent questions about her brother's juvenile convictions for rape and about his part-time job this summer with the Citizens Committee on Youth, another city-funded agency.

        An anonymous caller offered “tips” to various media representatives alleging that Ms. Reece pulled strings to get her brother the job.

        She denied the allegation, saying she didn't even know that he had gotten the job.

        She said her brother is now a college honor student and has every right to apply for any job.

        “Every time it's time for me to vote on something these things come up,” she said.

        In the case of the chamber, the council has put off action on the $100,000 and is now considering a motion by the mayor to give only $27,000 for furniture and office computers.

        While she supports the chamber, Ms. Reece said she will vote against the funds because the request is being made outside the budget process.

        The chamber has already asked for $246,000 in each of the next two fiscal budgets, which Ms. Reece said she will support.

        “I will continue to push forward,” Ms. Reece said, adding that the letter and other incidents have strengthened her resolve.

        “It's unfortunate that somebody has reduced themselves to criminal acts. I just hope the people or person who did this will be caught.”


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