ELYRIA – In a blistering email exchange with Lorain County Democratic Party Chairman Tony Giardini this week, Elyria Democratic Party Chairman Mark Stewart refused to resign from his leadership role over his support for a controversial plan to reform county government.
“You demand that I publicly repudiate the newly proposed County Reorganization Plan or be stripped of all Dem positions with the Party. Repudiate your sin, refute your support publicly!” Stewart wrote. “Sounds like the Inquisition of Spain with you as Cardinal Giardini.”
Stewart further wrote that while Giardini had the right as county chairman to ask fellow Democrats to oppose the reform plan – which the county Democratic Party’s Executive Committee did at a Sept.18 meeting that Stewart skipped – he can’t dictate Stewart’s private positions.
“I will not resign my positions as you demand,” Stewart wrote. “If you believe that you can strip me of my positions….. do so. Don’t give this duty to any subordinate. Be bold and do it yourself.”
In his response, Giardini said Stewart’s behavior “disgusts” him and removed Stewart from the county party’s Finance Committee and stated that he would not longer recognize Stewart as the Elyria party chairman.
“I will wait for the central committee members to take action and depending on what happens ask the Executive Committee to remove you from that committee as well,” Giardini wrote.
Although Stewart didn’t return a call seeking comment Thursday, Tom Callahan, vice chairman of the Elyria Democrats, said no decision has been made about Stewart’s position by local Democrats.
“We’ve got to sit down at some point and have a discussion and that discussion should include Mark Stewart,” Callahan said.
Giardini also blasted Stewart for not coming to the Sept. 18 meeting to defend his support of the county reform plan, which Giardini and other Democrats have said is designed to deliver control of county government into the hands of Republicans. Proponents of the plan have denied that accusation.
Giardini wrote that other Democrats besides him want Stewart to denounce the county reform plan.
“But you wouldn’t know that because you did not have the courage of your claimed convictions to show up at the meeting,” Giardini wrote. “It’s easy to hide behind others and allow others to draft your ‘position’ statement. It is quite another thing to get up and answer for your actions.”
Stewart, who also was the county’s longtime auditor before retiring at the end of 2012, also accused Giardini of reversing years to effort to keep the Democratic Party open to different ideas.
“Your evaluation is Medieval in thinking. This is the 21st century not the 17th,” Stewart wrote. “Crucifying me to the cross of LorainCity politics is not only out of date, but uninformed. ‘Core Values’ to you represents total loyalty to the way you think the Dem Party should be.”
Giardini, however accused Stewart of trying to deprive county voters of a voice in who serves in multiple elected positions that would become appointed jobs under the reform plan, which backers hope will got before voters in November 2014.
He also took a swipe at Stewart’s April $18,080 payout for unused sick leave leftover from when Stewart was a county employee before he became auditor in 1995. Stewart worked for just four hours on a Saturday in April for his handpicked successor, countyAuditor Craig Snodgrass, before resigning and cashing out 1,000 hours.
Snodgrass has said both that he had expected Stewart to work longer and that he doesn’t support the county reform plan being pushed by his former boss.
Most of the money Stewart cashed out was placed in deferred compensation plan, but Stewart agreed that the bulk of that money would have to be returned after county officials determined he was only entitled to cash out 250 hours of unused sick leave under county rules.
“Your shenanigans have damaged our party and a longtime, loyal former employee of YOURS,” Giardini wrote. “And you dare criticize me about my request to be loyal to our party?!”
Giradini also wrote that the politics of Lorain had nothing to do with the issue.
“It is about your inability to drop a grudge, one that you have had with various elected officials for a long time,” Giardini wrote. “Maybe you should consider the possibility that YOU are the problem and not anybody else.”
Stewart had several clashes with the county commissioners and county Administrator Jim Cordes during his time as county auditor.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.