The Rev. Charlie Winburn directed his campaign staff to alter a news photograph showing him with a controversial former police union leader and then placed the doctored photo on his campaign Web site.
Winburn, defeated last week in his bid to return to Cincinnati City Council, admits his campaign used the photograph without permission from the owner but said he received the photo from the Hamilton County Republican Party.
"I wonder how they got the picture," he said. 'That's what's so interesting to me. I actually pay for these pictures, because you don't want to violate anyone's copyright.
I've got to get at the root of this."
The photo, taken by CityBeat Art Director Sean Hughes, originally appeared in the paper's coverage of Winburn's unsuccessful 2005 campaign for mayor.
"I am just shocked that we have a photo that you all took," Winburn said. "I'm shocked that someone would use a copyrighted photo. If we used your picture and you want us to pay for it, we'll pay."
Hughes said he has sent Winburn's campaign treasurer an invoice for use of the photo.
The photo originally showed Winburn with Police Officer Keith Fangman, former president of the Queen City Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police. But on Winburn's Web site (www.charliewinburn.com), Fangman's image was removed from the photo.
"I do remember that they took Keith Fangman out on a picture," Winburn said.
Fangman, who is white, has sometimes been criticized for racial insensitivity, especially after the 2001 uprising in Over-the-Rhine. Winburn, who is African-American, found Fangman useful during the 2005 mayoral campaign but apparently not during this year's council campaign.
Asked why Fangman was deleted, Winburn referred the question to Jeff Polesovsky of Columbus, a campaign consultant.
"I would like, before I even answer anything, would like you to talk with this man and find out why he did that," Winburn said. "I'm almost pretty sure he has a good rationale for it."
Polesovsky, who assisted the campaign while working for the 316 Group, said he deleted Fangman's image at Winburn's direction.
"The gentleman was then taken out of there because Charlie directed us, because he didn't want to be associated with (Fangman's) past problems," Polesovsky said.
Follow-up calls to Winburn weren't returned. The photo was removed from the Winburn campaign site the day after his initial interview.
Polesovsky said the Republican Party provided the original, unedited photograph via e-mail April 12. He said any copyright infringement was unintentional.
"Obviously we wouldn't doctor a photo if it wasn't ours," he said. "Both of us had no knowledge that that was a CityBeat photo."
A call seeking comment from Republican Party officials wasn't returned by deadline.
The photo was also altered for Winburn's Web site by changing the text of a political sign on a podium, reflecting the fact that this year he ran for city council, not mayor.
Hughes, art director at CityBeat since 1995, criticized the doctoring of his photo.
"It's the equivalent of lying," he said. "Obviously, they felt the need to alter reality."
Hughes said he's not planning legal action.
"Not if they agree to pay the invoice," he said. "The election is over. The damage is done. I'm willing to move on if they make it good."
Winburn is pastor of The Encampment, a church in College Hill. ©