BUTLER TOWNSHIP — Butler Township Trustee-elect Joe Flanagan far out-raised and out-spent his opponents in his bid to win a three-way race in November. The figures were obtained from campaign finance records on file with the Montgomery County Board of Elections.
Flanagan, who takes office in January, sent a controversial letter to Butler Township Administrator Kim Lapensee last week demanding that she resign or face termination. The Butler Township Board of Trustees are holding an emergency meeting at 4 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 18 to discuss if, and under what circumstances, Lapensee can keep her job.
In the 2015 election, Flanagan’s campaign was largely funded by Alex Kolodesh, a partner with Singer Properties, a major player in the development of the Miller Lane Business District.
The full campaign finance filings for all candidates for Butler Township candidates in 2013 and 2015 can be viewed by clicking on the links below:
Kolodesh was also a significant contributor to Flanagan’s unsuccessful run for office in 2013.
In his 2015 race, the Committee to Elect Joe Flanagan Trustee received $27,000 in donations, $25,000 of which came from Alex and Shayna Kolodesh. The other $2,000 came from Teamsters Local Union 957 PAC.
Flanagan’s campaign spent just over $31,000 with $15,000 being paid to Flanagan as a loan repayment and $12,999 being paid to JSN Associates for “campaign management.”
Alex Kolodesh is also listed as the sole contributor to OHPAC for Responsible Government, a political action committee that supported one candidate – Joe Flanagan.
Kolodesh gave $7,900 to OHPAC to pay for a mailing a few days before the election that depicted opponent Doug Orange, a sitting Trustee, and Township Administrator Kim Lapensee in a negative light.
The support this year was not the first time Kolodesh has donated to support Flanagan.
In 2013, when Flanagan ran an unsuccessful campaign, Alex and Shayna Kolodesh contributed $5,000. Flanagan also donated $5,000 to the campaign. The biggest expense listed on the financial disclosure was a loan repayment to Flanagan in the amount of $8,620.86.
Kolodesh was also the largest contributor to current Trustee Nick Brusky in his 2013 campaign. Brusky received a $1,000 contribution from Kolodesh while his other donations, a total of $145, paled in comparison.
None of the other candidates for Trustee in 2013 and 2015 received contributions from Kolodesh. None of the candidates, Mike Lang, Doug Orange, or Tom Zeigler, spent more than $2,600 on their campaigns.
When asked why the Kolodesh couple is so interested in getting him elected, Flanagan said it was to improve the business climate in the Township.
“They want to get development started on Miller Lane,” said Flanagan. “Butler Township has little to nothing going on. I don’t know why that is, but I’m going to find out why.
“I do like working with the Kolodeshes, they are a good group to work with. I got supported by them, they wanted Doug (Orange) out.”
Mr. Kolodesh sent an email to the Vandalia Drummer News on Monday that he would call on Tuesday, but has since declined an interview request by this newspaper through his attorney, Michel McNamee.
In a letter to the editor, Kolodesh denied any desire to control the Board of Trustees.
“With not-so-veiled insinuation, the article intimates that those contributions evidence my complicity in Mr. Flanagan’s demand of Ms. Lapensee, or worse yet some sort of cabal, plotting the control of Butler Township politics through Mr. Flanagan’s election. Nothing could be further from the truth,” wrote Kolodesh.
Brusky said that Kolodesh, as well as other business owners, are concerned about problems on Miller Lane.
“They are concerned with how things are on Miller Lane, I think all the businesses are concerned with the condition on Miller Lane, with how they are treated by the township,” said Brusky. “There are public relations problems, how the township deals with the businesses, and there’s a crime problem on Miller Lane.”
Brusky cited competition from the City of Vandalia on the south side of Benchwood as well as Harrison Township’s widening of Dixie Drive as reasons to be concerned.
“The stakes are higher right now, and we have to make it a business friendly environment,” he said. “There is competition, and it doesn’t take long for business to leave. If we continue to have problems in the area that we have had problems in, we will struggle with business retention.”
Kolodesh said that no one should be surprised that he would like to see changes in Butler Township.
“I have never made any secret of my desire for change in Butler Township…” he wrote. “I believe the success of any community requires a strong synergy between the community’s residents—both commercial and individual—and its local government officials…Unfortunately, I believe the synergy is broken. My disagreements with Butler Township generally, and Ms. Lapensee specifically, are long-running and well-documented.”
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