“Get Midwest” price rises again- more tax dollars involved

You read about Beverly Shillito and her dual role as Dayton Development Coalition board person and co-owner of Real Art here last Wednesday: Connect the dots: Dayton Development Coalition Board- hire your own, no-bid

And then on Thursday, I diagrammed the whole thing: The Flowchart: Your money to the congressman and his pals where I also found the $750,000 county grant to the DDC. Now, the Dayton Daily News tells us the cost has gone up to $940,000, with a large portion coming from the State.

All on a no-bid contract.

Coalition hired firm co-owned by trustee
Branding campaign cost taxpayers $940,000, according to the state.
By Tom Beyerlein Staff Writer Saturday, March 01, 2008DAYTON — The Dayton Development Coalition, which gave a no-bid contract to the wife of a congressman it lobbies, also hired a marketing firm part-owned by one of the coalition’s longtime trustees to create its “Get Midwest” regional marketing campaign.

The coalition has paid or committed more than $160,000 so far to Real Art Design Group of Dayton, co-owned by attorney and coalition Trustee Beverly Shillito, for coming up with the slogan “Get Midwest, We Think of Everything, Dayton Region” and the logo art, a stylized cartoon thought balloon. Most of the work was done under an unbid contract.

The branding campaign will cost Ohio taxpayers $940,000 from 2006 through this year, according to the state development department. A local match of $660,000 was required, most of which came from a foundation controlled by billionaire Clayton Mathile.

Shillito said she had been a trustee for several years but was taking a break from board service in 2006 when Real Art was hired. She returned in spring 2007.

Shillito, who put her ownership interest at less than 10 percent, said she had no role in the firm’s hiring and doesn’t know how much Real Art has been paid. “I think you should ask the coalition about what they think about the propriety of this (hiring),” she said.

In a prepared statement, the coalition said there is no conflict, and “should decisions come to the executive committee involving Real Art while (Shillito) is a member, we expect that she would recuse herself.”

Catherine Turcer, director of the Money in Politics project for Ohio Citizen Action, said, “Taxpayers deserve better than this. We’re talking about two really specific conflicts of interest. It’s not rocket science.”

Mathile and Shillito are major political contributors to U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, whose wife, Lori’s, marketing firm, the Turner Effect, will be paid about $400,000 for work on the branding project. Lori Turner withdrew her firm from the branding campaign last month after articles in the Dayton Daily News pointed to a possible conflict of interest.

Real Art President Chris Wire said the Turner Effect’s withdrawal put his company’s future with the project in doubt. He denied any conflict exists, and said connections are inevitable in communities of Dayton’s size.

“She (Shillito) has owned a small part of our company for about 15 years,” Wire said. “She doesn’t really have any day-to-day interest in the company. She’s just a resource of mine.”

In the Dayton B2B section, Wire was calling Shillito a “co-owner.” Percentage of ownership doesn’t clear the issue. What’s more interesting is how Ms. Shillito conveniently  stepped off the board the year the contract was granted- only to return later but not have her name appear on the secret DDC board page (I had to call to be directed to it).

There are a huge number of letters to the editor on this subject, both pro and con.

It’s time for itemized invoices from all concerned for this wildly expensive campaign from hell. It’s also time that the State investigate the DDC for unethical handling of taxpayer money.

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