“Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, Lord, by and by”
The unceremonious departure of Ron Weston from the Mayor’s office has opened up a whole new can of foul and interesting worms upon the public.
Weston – a former Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Council president and later state representative from the 37th District – was brought on to Mayor Greg Fischer’s transition team and stayed on as “special adviser” until last week.
Weston has been the subject of heavy derision among Democratic Party insiders who privately say he was overpaid and under-worked.
An avid runner, Weston earned the moniker “Runnin’ Ron” from political operatives for allegedly jogging through his Fairdale neighborhood while on city time.
But that is a story for later.
Exit Ron Weston, enter Mary Ellen Wiederwohl.
According to the brief and vaguely-worded press release from the Mayor’s office, Mary Ellen Wiederwohl – also a previous member of Fischer’s transition team – will officially join the Fischer administration Monday, July 16.
In keeping with the Fischer tradition of coming up with corporate titles to bestow upon government employees, Wiederwohl’s official position is called “Chief of Strategic Initiatives.”
It was noted in all media accounts that her expertise lies in “education, healthcare, and government relations” and that her job will entail “integrating policy.”
In a statement, Fischer spokesman Chris Poynter told Insider Louisville Weston retired after planning to stay in the Fischer Administration for a brief time.
Wiederwohl “has very strong skills in intergovernmental relations, policy, communications – and that’s why the mayor hired her,” Poynter added. “She’s also great at strategy and seeing the big picture. She knows government and she knows and understands the private sector. ”
Mary Ellen Wiederwohl previously worked for lobbying firm MML&K Government Solutions and has been a registered lobbyist in the state of Kentucky since 2009.
Her feature page on the MML&K website states:
“Mary Ellen brings another unique focus to MML&K through her work with the merged Louisville Metro Government and its 26 member Metro Council where she lobbies on budget, land use and general public policy issues on behalf of numerous clients.”
According to the website followthemoney.org, she has represented more than 60 clients.
Besides healthcare (Humana, Amgen) and education (KY State University, Morehead State University, KY School Boards Assn), there are many others. Here are some:
- Big Rivers Electric
- Churchill Downs
- Duke Energy
- Corrections Corp. of America (privatized prisons/jails)
- JP Morgan Chase
- Hagan Properties
- Kentucky Distillers Association
- Kentucky Power Co.
- Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Co.
- Outdoor Advertising Association of Kentucky
- Tax Ease Lien Investments, LLC
Of all these clients, Tax Ease stands clear and away the worst.
Tax Ease Lien Investments is a Dallas, TX-based company that buys delinquent property tax bills from local governments, then attempts to collect the tax owed along with an exorbitant fee. If distressed homeowners cannot pay the total bill (an amount that is routinely double the original tax) the owner of the lien can foreclose on the property.
Tax Ease – one of the largest private, for-profit, third-party tax collectors in Kentucky – lobbies heavily in Frankfort and has given political contributions to both Gov. Steve Beshear and Attorney General Jack Conway.
Conway’s consumer protection bureau is charged with investigating consumer complaints from citizens against companies like Tax Ease.
In 2011, Wiederwohl gave a total of $2,000 to Jack Conway’s campaign for attorney general.
LEO Weekly recently featured the sickening story of a victim of Tax Ease.
How Wiederwohl’s experience lobbying on behalf of companies like Tax Ease Lien Investments will square with Mayor Fischer’s initiative to target the damage done to city neighborhoods as a result of rampant and sometimes reckless foreclosures remains to be seen.
But I have a feeling we will be missing “Runnin’ Ron” Weston.