Sunday, November 16, 2014

Democratic Ohio State Representative John Barnes Jr sues the Ohio Democratic Party and party chairman Chris Redfern, says he was defamed, Barnes demands jobs for Blacks, says the Democrats have a "plantation mentality:" Is the Ohio Democratic Party in trouble as the 2016 presidential election nears?

Ohio State Representative John E. Barnes Jr. (D-12)
By Kathy Wray Coleman, editor-in-chief, Cleveland Urban News. Com and The Cleveland Urban News.Com Blog, Ohio's Most Read Online Black Newspaper and Newspaper Blog  Kathy Wray Coleman is  a community activist and 21-year investigative journalist who trained for 17 years at the Call and Post Newspaper. ( / (

COLUMBUS, Ohio- A Black Democratic Ohio state legislator has sued the Ohio Democratic Party and its outgoing chairman, Chris Redfern, who, in spite of his powerful role as state party chairman, saw popular incumbent Republican Gov John Kasich win reelection by a landslide on Nov 4, coupled with a Republican sweep of all statewide offices.

And the all so wounded Redfern, who is White, also lost his own state representative race.

State Rep John E. Barnes Jr., a Black Cleveland Democrat whom voters reelected to the 12th house district, which includes Cuyahoga County territories of Cleveland Ward 1 and surban Bedford, Bedford Heights, Highland Hills, Maple Heights, Mayfield Heights, Orange, Pepper Pike and Warrensville Heights, filed the defamation lawsuit on Monday in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas in Columbus, the capital of Ohio.

The Ohio House of Representatives is the lower house of the Ohio General Assembly, the state legislature of the U.S. state of Ohio, the other house of the bicameral legislature being the Ohio Senate. Both entities together make state laws and their legislative members, under state law, are limited to four consecutive two -year terms in the Ohio House and to two consecutive four-year terms in the Ohio Senate.

Barnes, 56, was elected in 2010 and held the same seat from 1999 to 2002 when he was hired as the director of community relations under former Cleveland mayor Jane Campbell. He said during a press conference on Tuesday that the state's Democratic Party is anti-Black and has a "plantation mentality."

The unprecedented lawsuit seeks $50,000 in damages and names Redfern and the Ohio Democratic Party as the sole defendants who allegedly defamed the state lawmaker during his campaign this year for reelection. And while Barnes could have chosen to simply file a complaint under Ohio elections law, he instead chose a nontraditional venue to air his political grievances which, no doubt, have racial undertones, to put it lightly. 

To meet the threshold for defamation, which in legal terms is called a tort, the plaintiff must prove three prongs, that the statement or statements are false, that they have been communicated to a third party, and that they were malicious. And even then, a degree of harm must have come to the person or persons bringing the suit.

Moreover, the law is crafted to give latitude to individuals that criticize people that are in the public eye, including movie stars and elected officials, though if it is reckless and otherwise meets the criteria of defamation, it is actionable by statute, and in Barnes' case, by Ohio case law also.

The suit was filed by seasoned Columbus Attorney Donald Brey, and also accuses the Ohio Democratic Party and Redfern of denying a reasonable amount of inside jobs to Blacks, and denying Barnes committee assignments of his choice in the state legislature. This all occurred allegedly while Redfern came in as a freshman state legislator and got his chosen committee assignments under then Minority Leader Armond Budish.

But the defamation claims are what is really at issue regarding the lawsuit. And those claims deal with statements made publicly and otherwise by Redfern and Democratic Party operatives both verbally, and through the media, including the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Ohio's largest newspaper.

Whether Barnes, a product of Cleveland's public schools whose father, John E. Barnes Sr., is a former Cleveland Ward 1 councilman, and who holds an MBA from the prestigious Case Western Reserve University, will sue the Plain Dealer remains to be seen, since it endorsed him.

If he does sue the Plain Dealer for alleged defamation, state law likely requires that he first must seek a retraction.

The lawsuit says in part that the defendants, including Redfern, viciously made false and defamatory statements to the press, in campaign literature, and otherwise as a means to try and destroy Barnes' political career and in an unsuccessful attempt to help their endorsed candidate, Jill Miller Zimon, win the Democratic primary.

State Rep. Budish(D-8) is Jewish, a licensed attorney, and a Beachwood Democrat, and the Cuyahoga County executive come January, a seat now held by Ed Fitzgerald, a Democrat who lost to Kasich in a failed run for governor this year.

Redfern, who announced after the drooling election that he is quitting as party chair, called the lawsuit ridiculous. But Barnes said in the lawsuit that the outright alleged lies 
are false and defamatory,including that he went against medicaid- expansion and voted too often for legislative bills introduced by the Republicans and supported by Kasich, including relative to the controversial JobsOhio legislation that both the Democrats and Ohio unions traditionally hate.

Redfern says that Barnes is angry because the party did not endorse him this year. Barnes says in the lawsuit that it was the the defamation that help to deny him the endorsement that he got from his party in 2012.

The lawsuit also claims that Barnes was forced to get approval from the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus(OLBC) for state legislative committee assignments when state Rep Sandra Williams, a Cleveland Democrat elected two weeks ago to the 22nd state senate district to replace the term limited Shirley Smith, led the organization, and also under the current president, state Rep. Alicia Reese.

Williams says the lawsuit is frivolous, but only the court at issue can deem that the case. 

What is true though, is that the Ohio Democratic Party is in a dither as the 2016 
presidential election nears, Barnes' allegations of intra-party racism and public corruption aside.

The OLBC, which Barnes chose not to join,  has no official authority over committee assignments for members of either the Ohio House of Representatives or the Ohio Senate.( / (