Home · Articles · News · Porkopolis · Hiring of GOP Chairman's Wife Smells Odd

Hiring of GOP Chairman's Wife Smells Odd

By Kevin Osborne · August 11th, 2010 · Porkopolis
Most people are familiar with the old proverb “If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, then it must be a duck.”

In other words, if something has all the telltale characteristics of being a particular item, then it probably is and there's no need to strain for a more complicated explanation.

By that standard, if a job hiring by a local government looks like a textbook example of political patronage, is it? Depends on who you ask.

Questions started percolating in January when Jennifer Triantafilou was hired as executive assistant to the township administrator in Green Township. At the time, she was the wife of Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Alex Triantafilou, although the pair was going through a lengthy, messy divorce. By the way, Alex is also an ex-Common Pleas Court judge.

Some township residents and people connected to the local government wondered why Ms. Triantafilou was hired because her resume was submitted 11 days after the deadline for applications had passed. Ninety-eight other people applied before the deadline.

Further, Ms. Triantafilou didn't meet the minimum requirements listed for the job, which was either possessing a four-year college degree or having five years' experience working for a government or governmental agency. (She's believed to have a two-year, associate's degree, although that's not clear on her resume, and previously worked as a medical technician for St. Luke Hospital in Northern Kentucky.)

Odder still, Ms. Triantafilou wasn't among the top-rated candidates based on interviews with 13 of the 99 people who applied for the job. The interviews, conducted by Township Administrator Kevin Celarek and Township Trustee Tony Upton, concluded that four other people were better suited for the position.

The letter grades given to the top four choices were A-plus, A-plus, A and A. Triantafilou received an A-minus.

In fact, another applicant — a longtime township employee named Lisa Wereley — received an A and scored higher than Triantafilou, but she also wasn't included in the top choices.

That's probably because Wereley was one of three female township employees who filed a complaint in April 2008 against then-Township Trustee Charles Mitchell, alleging sexual harassment and assault. Mitchell quietly resigned from office as part of a confidential settlement, which no doubt still rankles his friends on the board.

(Here's how Chairman Alex described Mitchell's departure on the county GOP's official blog back then: “Chuck Mitchell has been an outspoken and effective leader for the issues affecting my neighborhood for many, many years. … Chuck brought a keen legal mind and years of experience with land-use issues to that position. His perspective will be missed.”)

Only time will tell if the township's female employees miss Mitchell as much as Alex does.

The reason Ms.

Triantafilou applied late was because she learned of the opening only after being informed by her husband. Chairman Alex learned of it, according to people connected to the hiring process, only when one applicant contacted him for a reference and sparked the chairman's interest in the position.

That's what I call screwing yourself over.

Nevertheless, it's easy to see why Ms. Triantafilou wanted the executive assistant's job. For starters, it pays $49,938 annually. That's a pretty good salary for anyone hunting for a job during a recession, especially for someone without a bachelor's degree.

Also, the job's duties are relatively high-profile for township government: assisting elected officials, coordinating human resources activities and handling special projects like the township's summer concert series.

Perhaps the most curious thing about Ms. Triantafilou's hiring, however, is the handwritten notations on Celarek's personal desk calendar.

Once questions about the hiring process became public, a township resident made a request under Ohio public records law for all documents related to the hire. Much to his surprise, the documents included a copy of Celarek's calendar.

Under Dec. 8 is scribbled, “David said hire Triantafilou.” (David, apparently, is Township Trustee David Linnenberg.)

Scrawled under Dec. 9 is, “Tracy → Triantafilou & job, commit political.” (Tracy, apparently, is Trustee Chairwoman Tracy Winkler, the wife of Common Pleas Judge Ralph E. "Ted" Winkler.)

For the record, when CityBeat first heard about Ms. Triantafilou's hiring and e-mailed questions to Celarek on March 3, his lawyerly response never mentioned that she missed the application deadline, didn't meet listed qualifications and wasn't a top-ranked candidate.

Also, although Celarek's response stated he didn't personally talk to Chairman Alex about the potential hiring, Celarek never mentioned the handwritten directives from trustees on the matter.

It's only due to the diligence of some township residents that the hiring's full picture slowly began to emerge. That's truly democracy in action and should be admired.

In a telephone interview, Celarek concedes that Ms. Triantafilou wasn't among his top choices but notes that the three-member board of trustees makes the final decision.

“The trustees are allowed to say when it's OK to accept applications after the deadline,” Celarek says.

Explaining the Dec. 8 calendar note, he adds, “David (Linnenberg) talked to me, he went through all the resumes (and) he said he thought Jennifer Triantafilou was the best candidate.”

About the Dec. 9 note, Celarek says Winkler told him, “It doesn't matter what I decide, it will have political complications.”

Exactly what the complications would be if another person was hired, though, remain unclear.

Regardless, Celarek insists he had no direct contact with Chairman Alex. “I didn't talk to Alex Triantafilou about this then and I still haven't,” he says.

Chairman Alex is out of the country until Aug. 17 and couldn't be reached for comment.

No matter, the attitudes of elected officials display extreme arrogance.

A township resident said when he asked Upton after the May 24 trustees meeting whether the hiring was political, he replied, “It's not 100 percent political but, even if it's a political hire, why? Who cares?”

When Tracy Winkler's husband approached the resident after the July 12 meeting, he specifically identified himself as a judge and told the resident, “I'll defend my wife’s honor.” When the resident asked what that meant, the judge just stared intently. Baffled by Winkler's behavior, the resident decided to walk away.

Patronage — the act of distributing political jobs and favors to friends, family or those who support one's party rather than based on objective criteria — has a long, sordid history in the United States. Although not as blatant as it once was, the practice persists.

For example, having well-connected people on the Green Township payroll is nothing new.

Trustee Tracy Winkler's daughter helps operate the township-owned Nathanael Green Lodge, which has had a deficit of more than $2 million since it opened in 1999. Trustee Tony Upton's son works in the township's Public Works Department, while the Public Works director's son-in-law also works for the township.

Talk about keeping it all in the family.

Now is probably a good time to mention that every single official mentioned in this column is a prominent member of the Hamilton County Republican Party. That's the party that always seems to make government the root of all evil and talks a good game about cleaning up waste and abuse.

Except when it hits home.

PORKOPOLIS TIP LINES: 513-665-4700 (EXT.147) or pork@citybeat.com



08.11.2010 at 12:18 Reply
Don't just blame republicans. All politicians are the same no matter whether they are democrat or republican. The Green Township is a mess especially with the attitude that the lodge was not to operate for a profit. But what about the Mark and Dale show in the OTR. Mallory is pushing the streetcar so his cronies can benefit from it.


08.11.2010 at 05:22 Reply
I am not sure you got the most important part of the story....by getting his soon to be ex-wife a job with a good salary, what impact (if any) did it have on what he would have to pay out in spousal support or child support? Presumably the more she makes the less he has to pay...so are the taxpayers of Green Township subsidizing his divorce costs by having on payroll his ex wife (or soon to be ex-wife) who did not meet the minimum qualifications and applied late? And, will the employee who was qualified but not chosen (who had made the sexual harassment allegations against the former trustee who quietly resigned) sue for retaliatory failure to promote, costing Green Township even more money?


08.11.2010 at 07:19 Reply
Tea Party anyone? Stories like this just reinforce my belief that the local and national branches of the Republican party just don't get it. Every one of these boneheads ought to be bounced out of the party, immediately, if not sooner. I did a search on Google and found this website: http://gtexaminer.org/blogwp/ It shows some of the documents referred to in the story.


08.11.2010 at 11:02 Reply
You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. When the Ohio legislature repeals the Inheritance Tax, 40 percent of Green Township's income will vanish. But, don't worry the slick trustees will sucker the residents into paying the tab for their mismanagement. The trustees just borrowed 20 million bucks like there is no tomorrow. After all, it's pretty fun spending other people's money. Buddy, can you spare a dime?


08.12.2010 at 12:20 Reply
"Soon-to-be-ex-wife?" Howzat? I don't see a divorce filing in the courthouse. Have they filed?


08.12.2010 at 07:25
Republican Party Chairman Alex Triantafilou filing divorce papers with a Republican clerk of courts and said divorce will be in front of a Republican judge and it's not on the courts website, go figure. And who says it won't be one of those cheap Mexican divorces.