“Please, this can’t get out before the primary. Let me look into it.”
~long time elected official when told of the improprieties that this story exposes.
This will qualify for TL/DR (too long, didn’t read) but, I assure you, it’s worth your time. Since the FBI and the DOJ are incapable of arresting anyone but black folks + Steve Rauch, and the “newspaper” in town has lost much of it’s institutional knowledge and will to dig, it’s been up to me. I’ve reviewed over 2,300 pages of internal communications, I’ve talked to dozens of people, and been handed some of the most embarrassing documents I’ve ever seen. I’ve asked people to comment on what you are about to read, the responses have been interesting. And, as I continued to delve, the story just got more grotesque. We do indeed have a culture of corruption, and this is just one sliver of it.
The problem with the Ohio Sunshine laws in Montgomery County is that it’s up to the taxpayer to enforce it. No help from the FBI, the Attorney General, the Prosecutors office, the Sheriff, or even most lawyers who already do work for some governmental authority and don’t want their name to become mud. We all know the local “newspaper” can’t find a story without reading it here first, and then they may still take a year.
If you want to enforce a violation of the open meetings act, for your chance to win a $500 fine, you have to file a case in Common Pleas Court, for $360. You have to have an account with the court site that takes 24 hours to set up. You have to know how to file a complaint- and then, you get no benefit of help in the case. For an violation of the Public Records Act- similar, and the max payback is $1000 if they delayed more than 10 days (at $100 a day – and it’s capped at 10 days) and your legal fees back- if the judge feels like it…. so, considering a lawyer will charge you around $3K to file a mandamus action, you lose. In the meantime- your tax dollars pay for the politicians/public employees defense via the prosecutors office.
Handing the smoking gun to the FBI is always an option, however they won’t tell you anything about what they are going to do, or when they will do it. It’s sort of like throwing a penny in the fountain and making a wish. Good luck with that.
Here is a story of a charismatic young man, his ad hoc ad agency, his drinking buddy who is an aide to a county commissioner, the county commissioner, a public agency or two, a non-governmental slush fund, and some large contracts that were given without competitive bids. There is also a political fundraiser, large bar tabs, partnerships melting down, mass exoduses of employees and general debauchery.
My inquisition starts with a press release in the Dayton Daily: the BOE had launched a new website to comply with new requirements of the Secretary of State  I immediately went to the site to look and see.
Well, not so quick. I know what the URL is for the Montgomery County Board of Elections by heart. I know that it’s been misconfigured by whoever the idiots are who built it- in that if you go to mcboe.org without the www before- it fails. (This is a thing most professionals fixed back around 2002). So, when I go to that site- there’s nothing new. How could this be? The SOS said you had to have the new .gov address by the deadline- shouldn’t there be a redirect?
A redirect is when a web page is visited at a certain URL, it changes to a different URL. For instance, a person visits “website.com/page-a” in their browser and they are redirected to “website.com/page-b” instead.
Since the old site was still up, maybe the google link had been updated? I go there. Nope, it still says mcboe.org
I make a video screen capture of this experience. I share the link with the FBI- they looked at it 4 times according to YouTube. This is still unlisted- so any additional views come directly from this post.
I had to go back to the press release that I was reading in the local day-old thing I was reading to find the new address: montgomery.boe.ohio.gov  – which still doesn’t work unless you type in www. before. I go to look at this new site and quickly see that at the bottom of the home page, there’s an ad for the vendor: “Dayton Web Design  by Wilderness Agency ”
Regular readers know that I’ve followed the Board of Elections in Montgomery County on this blog for a long time. I’ve fought with them even longer. They are a very bizarre organization that is paid for by tax dollars- that is fully staffed and managed by the two political parties. It’s the playpen of patronage, where the party faithful get to go to work and get paid insane money to do a really mediocre job of running elections and certifying candidates to be on the ballot. It’s one of the most broke-ass pieces of the dysfunction in elections in the entire country. Where else can someone hire their brother, a convicted rapist, to a job, without a background check- and yet not only keep their job, but remain a force in the local Dem Party ? I’m on the the BOE email distribution list. I attend some meetings and film them. I know people that work there and that have worked there. I didn’t know anything about an RFP for this. I read the Public Bids Section in the paper every day. This was never mentioned. Of course, since the BOE publishes an agenda that never has any specifics on it (intentionally) reading the agenda means nothing.
Now, putting a link back to your company on a client’s site is something you might do as an agency when you do pro-bono work. Otherwise, it’s something that doesn’t usually come with work for hire- a free ad on the client’s site. I’ve never been big fans of car dealers who put their name on your brand new car either- but, this isn’t the biggest problem. The bigger problem is lots of the site has this message: “Our site is under construction, but we are happy to provide any additional information you may need.”
That’s not acceptable. And neither is large parts of it being broken. I post a comment on my Facebook page, as I often do when I’m interested in learning more back story from my hive mind of friends in low places. I know a lot of people. They know people. It doesn’t take very long and I start getting sent some very interesting info. This is just one of several projects steered to the Wilderness Agency- and you won’t believe who is behind it and how deep they are in the shit. I meet with sources, I start making calls. I start doing public records requests, and when I getting my public records responses I know something’s wrong in River City.
On Feb 2:
I’d like to see the RFP that was issued to re-do the Montgomery County BOE site as cited in the Dayton Daily News article on Friday.
I’d like to see all the bids that were received.
I’d like to see the scoring rubric that was used to pick the vendor.
I’d like to see the contract with the vendor- with promised deliverables and deadlines.
I’d like to see a listing of all payments made to the vendor.
I’d also like to see the requirements that the SOS issued for the new types of BOE sites.
Feb 4 2020 I get a response:
In response to your request. There was no RFP issued for the website; however, please find the agreement attached. As to the Secretary of State Directive outlining the necessary requirements it is contained in Directive 2019-08 New Requirements Section III, page 3. (also attached) A public document . Note, this document came out June 11, 2019.
The work that the Wilderness Agency did do, for the BOE, wasn’t put out to bid. No one can say who else was considered. They don’t have a contract to produce. Just a three page plus cover slide deck promising a site built for $22,000 payable in 4 installments of $5,500 ea.
However, the site was paid for in one installment of $19,500 on 1/21/20. And there was no mention of hosting bills in the proposal, and yet, Wilderness is charging $200 a month- for some kind of mysterious server with unmentioned services. For the record, my company charges $12.00 a month for hosting- and provides a fully managed dedicated server with included troubleshooting hours for $250 a month. To do a managed dedicated server, you usually outline included services. Not so here.
But wait, there is more. I’m also told by sources that The Wilderness Agency had some contracts with Public Health Dayton and Montgomery County. One in the summer, and then a much bigger one toward the end of the year.
I send a PRR for information on a campaign to cut infant mortality and get this response on 5 Feb 2020:
Dear Mr. Esrati,
Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County is in receipt of your public records request. We are unable to determine the records you seek based upon the wording in the request “awareness campaign for infant mortality.” Could you please provide clarification in order for Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County to identity the records and fulfill your request?
Public Information Supervisor
He quickly cc’d a bunch of folks about it as soon as I mentioned Wilderness:
Matis, Michael M.; Williams, Terra Fox; Gaines, Michael; Clark, Paul; Jordan, Roy; Marsh, Barbara
Subject: FW: Records Request
On Feb 12, I get a bizarre document with payments to Wilderness:
Dear Mr. Esrati,
Thank you for the information, dated February 5, 2020, identifying the Wilderness Agency as the subject of your public records request of February 4, 2020. Public Health-Dayton & Montgomery County has identified the records pertaining to your February 4, 2020 request as payments to the Wilderness Agency, Those records are attached.
I reach back out to the county commissioner who promised me they would look into my assertions, and even suspend their assistant, now, they are internally investigating.
And my public records requests have been punted up the food chain to a county prosecutor who sends snotty emails:
2/28/20, 10:21 AM
Dear Mr. Esrati,
I am writing on behalf of Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County in response to your public records request made on February 4, 2020 via electronic mail. You requested the RFP, bids, grading rubric, record of payments, and other documents associated with the awareness campaign for infant mortality. Upon a request for clarification, you clarified that the request was for documents associated with the Wilderness Agency.  In further communication, you also requested all communication between Public Health and the Wilderness Agency.\
I have been forwarded your recent inquiries regarding a timeline for a response from Public Health on these requests. As you know, under the Ohio Public Records Act, a public entity is required to respond to a public records request within a reasonable amount of time. The documents you requested are currently being reviewed. I anticipate the review being completed soon and the responsive records will be provided to you in compliance with the Public Records Act. I also understand that some of the responsive records have already been provided to you by Public Health.
I ask that you direct all future correspondence on this records request to me. If you have any questions regarding this records request, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you.
The records I get, don’t look anything like anything I’ve ever seen in over 30 years of working in advertising, and doing business with any public agency.
If my agency sent these, or any of my other friends in the business would send these, we’d not get paid. Nor can Public Health explain anything- or send anything to explain the payments:
Invoice #1750 Issued by The Wilderness Agency to Public Health Dayton and Montgomery County, on November 13, 2019 due on receipt. It’s for $70,000
Description: Project. Project Installment 1 (1/3)
Only thing is- the invoice was paid Nov 6 2019.
No description of what the project is, what the installment covers, or why it’s due now.
Followed up by invoice #1763 2 days later 11/15/19. It’s for “installment (2/3) for another $70K. It’s stamped received 19 Dec 13, but, then scribbled out and made to be 19 Nov 18 and paid Jan 3, 2020
The final installment, is invoice #1775 dated and due 12/13/19, due on receipt for $60K. It’s marked 19 Dec 16 by accounting. And marked paid on Jan 3, 2020.
It’s not until Feb 28 at 3:29 PM when I get the motherlode of 2361 pages in one document and 34 pages in another. By that time, I’d already written this story the first time. Now, it gets even deeper. But, to be clear, Mr. Dan, knew full well about this whole thing and had questioned it multiple times. He also failed to mention anything or supply other checks- for a $45K project that was awarded no bid back in June and July. Here are more mysterious invoices see 1635 and 1660 for $26,500 ea- with a description of “Project”
Now, there had to be bid for this right? A proposal at least? And why wasn’t it mentioned in the first request?
I wasn’t the only one asking these questions. People in public health were too. And in the conversation at every step of the way was John Theobald, assistant to County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman.
Terra Williams sums it up in the end of this email: “I am disappointed by the lack of professionalism, disorganization, and lack of respect that has been exhibited during this process.” See her email of Tuesday Oct 29, 2019 at 6:30 AM .
Good Morning ,
Please see the string of emails below . I would like an explanation of why John Theobald, who is a Montgomery County employee , was requested to write a sole source justification. This requested should have went to Maleka who was in charge while I was out of the office . In the past, if Paul has needed any additional information for me, he has went to Marie or emailed me directly for the information.
Secondly, why did Paul wait until I was out of the office to make this request? I have been working with Paul and Dan on the Wilderness Contract since September . Paul has known since the September that Wilderness was the only agency requested to complete the marketing/advertising for the Everyone Reach One. Paul has been aware of the amount since September . Therefore he knew a sole source justification was needed and didn’t request one . Additional , why is he only requesting a sole source justification for Wilderness and not DAR ? Wilderness and DAR have similar contracts, similar scopes of work and similar contract amounts . As I have shared in the past, when it comes to the Office of Health Promotion , the re is a lack of consistency from Paul Clark.
I am disappointed by the lack of professionalism, disorganization, and lack of respect that has been exhibited during this process.
The key thing here is that people who work for Public Health Dayton and Montgomery County are separate from Montgomery County employees- as Commissioner Lieberman kept telling me. “We don’t have any control over them or the Board of Elections.”
Now, John Theobald isn’t a marketing person. Yet, he seems to have all the answers in this email on Oct 28, 2019
From: Theobald, John <[email protected]>
Sent: Monday, October 28, 2019 12:16 PM
To: Clark, Paul <[email protected]>
Cc: Williams, Terra Fox <[email protected]>
Subject: RE: Public Health Wilderness Agency project
I apologize if this is insufficient, I have never had to write a sole source justification. If it is ok, great. If not, please let me know the specific elements required and I will modify it to address any missing pieces.
In June 2019, the EveryOne Reach One Task Force co-chairs, Terra Williams and John Theobald, were reviewing the current marketing and communications effort. We were disappointed in the scope, reach and results of the “traditional” marketing effort. Montgomery County, having worked with Wilderness previously, reached out, informally, to them directly to express our frustration and see if they had any suggestions . The Wilderness Team was immediately responsive with a concept neither co-chair had encountered in over 30 years of shared experience .
In short, Wilderness described a concept of Social Media based outreach that would encourage ongoing, mobile-based, incentivized communication and engagement with the EveryOne Reach One clientele . The cochairs reached out to other Ohio Equity Institute (OEI) counties to see if they had encountered a similar concept. They had not. We believe, upon successful execution , that this could be a state-wide model for engaging with the target population .
That initial concept has expanded to include all of the elements included the Wilderness proposal and contract.
Again, please let me know if this is sufficient or if it requires additional information.
Note, Theobald isn’t in purchasing either. What he is doing is steering work to the Wilderness agency owned by his drinking buddy Richard Kaiser. This is why most government organizations have separate folks who are professional purchasing agents. It’s so people like former School Board president Adil Baguirov who own a trucking company shouldn’t be able to steer contracts for new buses from companies he does business with,
Full disclosure time: For those that don’t know me, or what I do, I own an ad agency that’s been in business for 30 years in Dayton, despite my political positions against the culture of corruption. My agency has been well recognized for doing outstanding work with over 70 American Advertising Federation awards for creativity. Considering our size, the budgets we work with, and the generally conservative client base in Dayton, this is an accomplishment. Especially when even if we bid 1/3rd the price on a public contract , we still lose, even with diversity certifications  that are unmatched in Dayton.
The Wilderness agency, well that’s another matter.
There are a whole bunch of people who’ve filled me in along the way, all of whom want to remain nameless. Some, are afraid of retribution from the owner of the Wilderness agency who reportedly has a temper, and others, because they just want to disassociate themselves with this kind of behavior, and continue on with their lives. Unfortunately, in Dayton, most people are terrified of standing up to the corruption because they know what happens to those who do, your business suffers. Blackballing is an art form as practiced by our elected crew of corruption. And, if that’s not enough, cancel culture kicks in. Want to know what being a leper is like? Try crossing the Monarchy of Montgomery County.
So how does a young upstart agency founded in March of 2016, end up getting a bunch of contracts from the county? Who vetted the vendor? We’ll never know. The agency founder Richard Kaiser, is someone I’ve known since he was a student at Wright State. Since graduation, he’s hopped jobs more than most. He started with a web firm that grew huge before the size to scale backfired, Atomic Interactive. Then to the Ohlmann Group followed by Graphica with a bunch of voluntary non-profit boards in between. In Oct. of 2013 he rolled out a “Virtual agency”  with a partner and called it Lion and Panda. The business model was to bring together diverse teams from a pool of freelancers. They posted a staff of 30+ on the site, they were going to be the next big thing. His partner quit his job to start it- but Richard went on to work at R+L Carriers as a “Creative Director” while concurrently “running” this agency. In March of 2016, he left R+L and his partners forced him out of Lion and Panda. The reasons his partners asked him to leave were well documented and sordid. Everything from public drunkenness to things in the “Me Too” realm. There were blog posts picking fights with a competitor, there were accusations of misappropriation of funds. The document did it’s job, Richard took a buyout and left.
All of a sudden, Richard had a new gig, on 12/01/2017 Lion Creative Studios was listed by the Secretary of State:  LION CREATIVE STUDIOS, LLC 427 WATER STREET, SUITE 102 DAYTON OH 45402 12/01/2017
The site looked a lot like the one he’d had at Lion and Panda, and what’s more- most of the employees he showed on the site were on both “agencies” sites. (You can go in the wayback machine and look- Lion and Panda May 2016 , and Wilderness Agency June 2017) 
But the tradename, Wilderness agency, was actually, originally just a DBA of another business, and created on 5/11/16.  and it was an odd one. He was a subsidiary/marketing arm of a firm known as Gem City Business Solutions  run by Roger Edwards and Linda Terrill (who filed the trade name registration). Edwards would sell his client’s marketing support, which would be done by RIchard and his one employee. Richard was running this “company” out of his house, 411 Water Street #405. He gets a check from the Committee to Re-Elect Debbie Lieberman on 0/24/16 for $1600 in her 2016 post election campaign finance report . Her main agency was “The Ohlmann Group ” who got a lot more money than Richard, at least this time. Note, research on Debbie’s campaign finance forms is almost impossible, since most of the documents don’t have the right number of pages for starters. And yes, she got donations from Steve Rauch.
Edwards, btw, is closely connected with the Dayton Development Coalition , and is is the Vice President of the Accelerant Venture Capital Fund, an Initiative of the Dayton Development Coalition. He serves as an “evaluator” for their own little business incubator. Edwards would pick and choose which companies were worthy of DDC investment. And, some, he might tell weren’t DDC material, but maybe should go talk to a guy with another venture capital fund, and, if you want my help, pay me $75K to build your pitch deck and website. There are a bunch of broken promises and misplaced dreams in that closet. When I contacted Edwards, he wouldn’t talk. He said the last he’d spoken to Kaiser was 2 years ago. He wouldn’t even tell me the name of his company. It’s OK, you only ask questions you know the answers to, and there were other people who were tied to both Edwards and Kaiser that were plenty happy to talk.
The Dayton Development Coalition is nothing more than a local political slush fund that supports corporate welfare programs. And of course, funded in part with tax dollars. Lieberman is a big fan of the DDC. It’s a you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours situation. She got some sizeable donations from JP Nauseef, the CEO of the DDC to keep her job. There are lots of direct connections between the financial meltdown at Wright State and the Dayton Development Coalition, including the disastrous efforts of Nauseef’s short lived replacement- Jim “Lefty” Leftwich who tried to do both sides of a deal with the State and Wright State. Nauseef has rebounded to become the head of Jobs Ohio.
But, back to Edwards, who also has this side business, where he is connected to 2 venture capital funds- C2M Investments  and Great Oak Funding which both had Jason Downey as a fund Manager, and a lawyer named Tony Alexander as General Manager. Downey used to be a part of Gem City Business Solutions, Linda Terrill was the DDC “Entrepreneur in Residence” for a while, all while steering businesses to both Wilderness which she was a co-founder, and the investment funds run by Downey.
Looking at the internet Archive- Gem City Business Solutions was quite the firm. https://web.archive.org/web/20160805172134/http://gemcitybusiness.com/team/ 
- Roger A. Edwards, CPA
- Linda G. Terrill, CFE
- Tony M. Alexander 
- Blaise C. Dietz 
- Jason Downey 
- Gary Friedman 
- Richard Kaiser
- Terry G. Kierce 
- Sandra W. Mandre
- Christopher M. McGraw
Now, the list is much shorter, just Edwards and Terrill . Alexander, Downey, Dietz and Friedman don’t even mention GCBS on their Linkedin.
For 2 years, Roger Edwards was Richards boss. Richard was getting paid by GCBS. There really was no Wilderness, but, next thing you know, he’s moving to Fairborn to be the voice of the new Fariborn frontier working with Rob Anderson, the City Manager of Fairborn. Except, he’s not paying rent, and working out of an old restaurant that’s supposed to be a “business incubator.” There were a few people who were W2 employees- but, most were 1099’s- and the clients were also clients of GCBS. A startup called Tangible Solutions  was one of the clients. Their website doesn’t have the built by Wilderness link on it- but, it still needs help today. At some point, there was a meltdown with Richard and Roger in Nov of 2017. In May/June of 2018 Kaiser left Fairborn and came back to Dayton . Holed himself up in a very cool space over by Front street  and tried to project that agency that never sleeps sweatshop model, using a lot of interns on projects. He was written up in the local press as the next big thing. The problem was, he wasn’t a very good business leader according to a consultant who tried to help him put processes and procedures into place. After trying to get Richard sober by sending him to a villa in Hawaii for a month with an alcohol counselor, Richard came back and had another meltdown- around the same time all this public health sole source nonsense was beginning. An exodus of employees around August/September. A few had left before Richard went to rehab. Many of the people who had worked with Theobald and Public Health in the summer with the “big concept” that bowled over Theobald and Williams were gone. Many were 1099 to begin with. The replacements, more 1099’s and even some interns according to former “staff”
It’s interesting that while the contract written by PHDMC  clearly stipulated that the client could ask to remove “contractors” from the project, it had no clause requiring any of the people they were sold on, had to continue on the project.
6) Employees, Public Health reserves the right to request the removal of any Contractor’s employees from the performance of this agreement if in the judgment of Public Health, such removal shall be necessary in order to protect the interests of Public Health….
8) Subcontractors. Subcontractors used to fulfill)] any portion of the responsibilities outlined in this Agreement are required to be identified by the Contractor, along with their qualifications to Public Health. Public Health reserves the sole right to approve or reject any/all proposed subcontractors.
Here’s the run down of people included, mentioned in the PRR- and realize, that by the time the real money flowed, many had left:
- Richard Kaiser , Founder, 100 percent ownership starting Nov. 2017
- Natalie Whitsett , Marketing Strategist, Started as a 1099 in Jan of 2019 until Sept 2019 when she converted to W2, left in Nov 2019. Now Director Of Strategic Communications at RGBSI Aerospace & Defense
- Josh Moody  , Art Director, still there, W2 since Nov 2017. The original Wilderness employee. At wilderness since Aug/Sept 2016, he’d worked with Richard at R+L Carriers.
- Christina Cherry  , started as a Project Manager in April of 2019 as a 1099 until Sept 2019 when she became the “Director of Operations” “Full time” then, left in Feb 2020. Now a Project Analyst at University of Dayton Research Institute, previous to Wilderness- she was a Server/Barista at Table 33. She lasted 11 months in the Wilderness.
- Laura Utrup , Project Manager Began as another 1099 contractor in Aug of 2019 as the Public Health Contract started. She seems to have taken over most of the coordination.
- Emily Kline, started in June or July, left immediately following mass exodus in Aug 2019, was a 1099
- Caleb Terry  Technology Director, w2 since Nov 2017, started in Nov 2016. Left Nov 2019 and now is at Vivial. He had worked with Richard at R+L Carriers
- Chris Beach  Creative director, started as a 1099 in July 2016, Went to W2 in Aug 2018, moved to 1099 June 2019, quit July 2019, founded Studio Volant  with J Stanton (another Wilderness alum) and works at the Modern College of Design  as an instructor.
- Mary Beth Reser  Chief Operating Officer, 1099 beginning Jan 2017 W2 beginning Nov 2017, after split with Gem City Business solutions, left Aug 2019, started m.path pr  Aug 2019 with another Wilderness refugee Tonia Fish.
- Eric Almeida  Director of Inbound, hired as W2 around Oct 2018, moved to 1099 July 2019 appears to still be there.
- Brian Petro Director of Copy, has been a 1099 since Aug 2016. Has also worked at the Modern for a spell.
- Brianna Hallman  Director of Research. Started as a 1099 around March 2019 as a Social Media Strategist after graduating from University of Findlay. Promoted to Director of Research after 7 months.
- JP Ragon  Doesn’t list Wilderness on his Linkedin- but is on their site. He’s managing the FB ad campaign for Public Health. His company is Dayton Geeks.
The emails that went back and forth that were provided finally on the 28th of February in the mass PRR dump, gave me a lot of these names and contacts. The above were mentioned, with the exceptions of Tonia Fish and J Stanton (full disclosure, I’ve known and/or worked with both Tonia and J for years).
So many of the messages were duplicates, and both sides of the conversation since so many people were CC’d. But, in the end, there was a lot of talk about getting paid, and coordinating a focus group, and justification for the sole source- but very little about the actual functioning of the program- and zero progress reports on effectiveness of the ad spend. I’ve requested the performance reports that are specified in the contract, but weren’t included. Of course, Wilderness has all the money, upfront, so if they don’t perform, who’s going to know? A kicker, the folks at Public Health re-wrote the proposal because the format submitted by Wilderness didn’t meet their standards.
The site is up. https://mceveryonereachone.org/  there is a Facebook page for Public Health: https://www.facebook.com/PublicHealthDMC/  but the feed of videos that were promised don’t show up anywhere. Here’s the link to PHDMC Youtube page .
I could give you a bunch of background on some of the previous plays PHDMC had in the works to solve the problem of a disproportionate deaths of black babies compared to white ones in our county, but this post is already long enough. One “strategy” that Lieberman loved, was having Black Ministers wives as spokespeople for the cause. “The First Ladies Health Initiative a two-part program that begins annually with a recruitment luncheon and workshop attended by pastors’ wives.” Good for building a voter base. When you dig into the weeds, there are a lot of connections with the Dayton Foundation, CareSource, Montgomery County Family and Children First Council and a whole lot of faith based organizations and non-profits. The total budget amount was somewhere around $2.5M and spread around in a nice way to secure political support and future donations to a politician connected with this fountain of funds. There is a lot of last-minute hand-wringing about making sure money was spent before a deadline, than because it would work. The famous rule of “P’s” would be good for many of these people involved- “Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.”
In reality, teaching adolescents sex ed would do a lot more to prevent this problem.
Now we have over $220,000 paid to the Wilderness agency in the span of 75 days (Nov 2019-Jan 2020), without rfps, some without a contract, without any substantiation/progress reports of work done (as requested in this email from Dan Suffoletto ). Does this look like the way your tax dollars should be accounted for? Why would one agency, get so much work so quickly, without having to jump through the normal hoops? There is also an agency out of Cleveland, DAR,  that seemed to get no-bid contracts and are probably the ones responsible for the horrid logo for the Everyone Reach One program.
There’s only one reason and it’s called corruption.
And when I share the next part, you’ll really wonder how stupid can our elected officials be.
Despite not having anything to show for the brilliant idea in the summer- that was invoiced at $45K they cited it as a reason to sole source for “continuity.”Apparently, there was some work in the past for Lion + Panda- and this counted. Even though the only connectivity between the two is Richard- and the band of freelancers. From mentions of attachments in Paul Clark Email Thursday, October 31, 2019 3:54 PM
SOLE SOURCE JUSTIFICATION-DAR.docx; SOLE SOURCE JUSTIFICATION
LionandPandaFASDMarketing2015.doc; 2019 DAR Board Message Proposed.docx;
I believe this three page document is the attachment. It cites the DAR sole source agreement because of their minority status/multi-cultural focus not on quality. I’m betting if I contact friends who work at the other reputable agencies, they don’t turn in any invoices that look like the ones from Wilderness.
There is mention of Lion + Panda in it:
This Sole Source Justification is submitted to provide rationale for the acceptance of a marketing and branding proposal from Lion & Panda based on the criteria of the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Coalition. This sole source justification is in response to activities performed by Public Health purchasing to investigate potent ial other sources to provide this service. To assist in obtaining data to determine this justification, Purchasing contact marketing firms previously utilized by Public Health as well as other recommended firms to make sure that a good cross section of potential contractors could be used to establish baselines for comparison to this proposal. Firms contacted during this research included Haffenbrack Marketing & Communications, Penny/Ohlman/Neiman, The Agency Group, David K Burnap, Sabitino & Day, Visual Marketing, and Lunne Marketing…
Lion and Panda’s cost proposal of $15,322 is lower than the budgetary numbers ($20,000) prepared for this project. Cost estimates received from the firms contacted ranged from $25,000 to $43,000 for the same type of work.
The difference between Lion + Panda and all those other agencies- is that the others, with the exception of “The Agency Group” actually had more than 2 employees and real offices and a track record.
And, btw- now- Hafenbrack is Upward, PON is now just The Ohlmann Group. Agency Group and Burnap are no more. Sabatino Day is now Fahlgran Mortine, Visual Marketing is a shell for the Wright Brothers brand and Lunne Marketing is still going strong. Lion and Panda no longer showcases a host of “contractors” on their site as staff and they vette them a lot more than those days.
An odd inclusion in the whole pile of documents were two pages saying that the C-3 Group, a local agency was given $100,000 purchase order for services for 2019 . I’m waiting for more documentation on that.
I showed the invoices for the first contract (1635 and 1660 above) with the Wilderness agency for Public Health that were issued in the summer of 2019 for $45K. It has no name, it has no paperwork, and I’m not sure if there was any work or payment. It’s a ghost project, so that would push the total tax spend at $267K in about 6 months. That’s real dineros folks. All of this was arranged through a personal relationship between Wilderness Agency owner, Richard Kaiser and Debbie Lieberman’s assistant John Theobald. Need more proof? Why would Wilderness CC Theobald at the County for a PHDMC invoice?
Theobald used to tell Wilderness folks to use his personal gmail account to discuss these issues. It’s not part of the public records request- but, it does show up a few times in the conversations: [email protected] see Theobald email.
Theobald often told Wilderness employees to use his personal gmail account for communications about these projects and did business on his wife’s cell phone (at least the voicemail screen shot says it belongs to Dawn Tindall. I was even provided with information showing that at one point, Theobald was given an email address at the company as if he was an employee. This may have been used as a way to share google docs- or communications in a way that his personal or work address wasn’t compromised. That email, [email protected] no longer works.
The May17 2019 voicemail includes this statement by Theobald: “It would also be helpful to know if you if you’ve, your FASD contract was with Montgomery County or with Public Health and make sure that we don’t have to have you go through their vendor process.”
I approached Commissioner Lieberman with this info soon after learning about it a month ago. She was in DC, and her reaction was of shock. She said he’d have to go. She was mortified that this information, if it got out before the primary, could help propel an x-con, Greg West , who is running against her for the Dem nomination to victory. She shared that even Matt Joseph had endorsed West on West’s site. I contacted Joseph with no response, and eventually, Joseph’s endorsement disappeared. But, when I called Lieberman back a week later, asking if Theobald had been placed on leave, she said no. I told her I’d gone to the FBI, she asked for the FBI contact- which I gave her.
She swore that her investigation said he did nothing wrong. She also said she had no influence over Public Health or the BOE and that she was meeting with the FBI. Yet, this whole string of exchanges says different.
I have voicemails left by Theobald discussing these contracts. I’ve turned them over to the FBI. If she has no influence, maybe the real commissioner is Theobald? Or not.
When I published my story Sunday, Mar 1, 2020 about the Williams case , and warned about this story coming out- I got yet another call from Commissioner Lieberman begging me to wait. She told me to call Jeff Cooper public health commissioner. She told me that County Administrator Michael Colbert was taking responsibility for this. Calls to both of them were unanswered, although one of Colbert’s flunky’s did call. Further requests for documents this week were rebuffed and nothing has showed up.
It’s almost funny that this whole investigation started with the award of the BOE site. There is one improvement that the Wilderness site provided that wasn’t possible on the old site. You can now search all the campaign finance reports by name. It used to be an awkward slog through each campaign cycle and dates (you can see that horrible interface still here)  So it made it easy to look up all of Debbie’s finance reports. It’s also appalling at what I found. Most say they have one number of pages on the cover sheet- and don’t have matching numbers of pages in the PDF. And while I don’t have time to go through them line by line breaking them down, I can tell you that the Wilderness agency is getting more money now from her campaign and Ohlmann doesn’t show up. But, that’s not as important as who filed them as her treasurers, where it seems to alternate between John Theobald and Martha G Moore
Her employee is also her treasurer. Yes, you read that right. Neither can add, but this one is way off and filed by Moore. The pre-general 2016 is supposed to have 10 contribution pages, 42 expenditure pages 1 other pages for a total of 53. Yet it only has 13. Yep, 40 pages short. 2 checks to Wilderness for $800 although it didn’t really exist then- it was still Gem City Business Solutions. In the post general, filed by Theobald, they actually have an extra page- and another $1600 to WIlderness. This one is fun, because it has the Steve Rauch donation of $1000, and also has all the receipts including the victory party and bar tab at Coco’s ($572.39) and that she grossly overpaid for “palm cards” paying Superior Printing and Design $643.59 for 2500. (my price btw- $86 4.c 2.s 4×6 )
This sets up the flow of money to Wilderness for 2019 and the 2020 election cycle.
There was a fundraiser for Lieberman and Dodge at Wilderness back on Mar 28, 2019. It was called “The Future is Female” and it raised about $2000. Just a month before I called Lieberman about this- Kaiser had volunteered to help Lieberman with her campaign according to Lieberman. Yeah, right.
From Facebook :
The future is female fundraiser
Celebrate the Past. Seize the Day. The Future Is Female.
Now is the time to take hold of the future.
Join us on March 27, 2019 for a unique opportunity to celebrate strong female leaders in Montgomery County.
4:30 p.m. – Strategic Mentorship: Leverage relationships to achieve your goals
An informal panel-driven workshop led by Sharon Howard and tapping into the advice of strong female leaders throughout the community. Learn how to identify mentors and set expectations and goals from a mentor relationship to best achieve your goals.
5:30 p.m. – Campaign Kickoff
Please join us as at a private reception as we celebrate inspirational female leadership in Montgomery County and kick off the 2020 campaigns of County Commissioners Debbie Lieberman and Judy Dodge.
Both events take place at the Wilderness Agency factory
17 Front Street
Dayton, OH 45402
Young Dems $25
$500 – Change Agent
$250 – Advocate
$100 – Supporter
This event would not be possible without the support of our community partners.
Mary Beth Reser
If you go trough Facebook feeds you can find all kinds of interesting things. Pictures from the kickoff at Wilderness. And a nice photo of John Theobald, his wife and Richard Kaiser. Out celebrating in Cincinnati, probably right after closing the $200K deal.
I can’t make this up.
And this is how we make corruption in Montgomery County folks…
5:30 PM From one of the potential “first Ladies of Health” crew- one who saw through the cheap pandering. Look at what Columbus did: https://www.columbus.gov/celebrate-one/Help-Us-Take-Action/  where the infant mortality rate is actually dropping. Here, in Dayton, while these folks work to make sure the friends and family do well, babies are still dying. Several other agency owners/leaders have looked at these “invoices” and said “WTF” One, blames Lieberman for inaction in funding a program in Dayton for pregnant teens in the foster care program, where $200K would have made all the difference. Others have reached out and said “you went easy on this or that”- but, reality is, there is only so much I could put in the story, it doesn’t mean I’m done. I’ve also gotten texts from Commissioner Lieberman, who is still in denial. Yes, I’m not perfect, but I stand by the story and the evidence. This has been forwarded to the FBI. Let’s hope they can read. And, lastly, although they’ll never credit me with breaking this story, I have to thank the Dayton Daily news, which published the press release about the BOE site that started this all. If it wasn’t for the 4th estate, I would have missed the first clue, because no one can find that new site for the BOE without help.
all i can say is ‘wtf’?? good job on this, David…
I put in another PRR on Friday:
“As part of the “Contract” with WIlderness, there were to be monthly progress reports-
“campaign dashboards/summary reporting is compiled by Wilderness and turned over to public Health to determine the effectiveness of each digital campaign.”
“The Contractor shall submit invoices which shall include written, signed reports, itemizing in reasonable detail the time and dates spent performing contracting services, and a discription of the serv ices rendered to the following:-Public Health- Dayton & Montgomery County.”
“After each advertising campaign. A report should be provided with a summary indicating how the ad reached its target audience. The report should include each ad sets estimated or actual reach, impressions or clicks based upon the type of ad being reported. Also provide any recommendations or observations related to the ads performance.”
This shouldn’t take too long to gather up. Please don’t give yourself time to make them up.”
The Response Came today:
“I am writing in response to your public records request, as detailed below. You request progress reports, invoices, and summaries provided to Public Health in regard to the Wilderness Agency and their contract with Public Health. For progress reports and summaries, there are no records responsive to your request. For invoices, records that are responsive to that request have been previously provided to you in response to your earlier public records request. “
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