B.J. Alan pulls out of Valley chamber
Zoldan: Humphries ‘crossed the line’ in governor’s race
By David Skolnick
Prominent businessman Bruce Zoldan has withdrawn his wholesale fireworks company as a member of the area’s chamber of commerce, saying its chairman is taking too active a role in the gubernatorial race.
Zoldan, chief executive officer for B.J. Alan Co., told The Vindicator on Monday that the decision was made after several of his employees urged him to have the company resign from the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber.
What triggered the reaction, he said, was Tom Humphries, the chamber’s president, co-hosting a fundraising event Monday for John Kasich, Republican candidate for governor.
“The president of the chamber crossed the line when he” agreed to co-host the Kasich event, Zoldan said. “I feel Tom Humphries made a mistake here.”
Zoldan said his company will rejoin the chamber if either Humphries steps down as president or the chamber’s board establishes a policy not permitting its president to participate in “public partisan political activity.”
Humphries said he’ll take Zoldan’s request to establish a policy to the board for consideration.
“I have an opinion on” Zoldan’s request, Humphries said. But he declined Monday to share it with The Vindicator.
Humphries said, “I really am disappointed as a citizen” that B.J. Alan has left the chamber over his support of Kasich. “I could have sworn I woke up this morning in the United States and was allowed to support whoever I wanted.”
Zoldan is the second person to have his company quit the chamber over this issue.
On Friday, Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras’ law firm resigned from the chamber and said the local party will no longer support it in any way if Humphries remains president.
Supporting candidates is acceptable for Humphries, but as the head of the chamber he went too far by co-hosting the Kasich event, Betras and Zoldan said.
Zoldan had a fund-raising event Oct. 4 in his Canfield house for Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, with Vice President Joe Biden.
Zoldan also attended Kasich’s Monday event at the Warren home of another prominent businessman, Sam Covelli.
Zoldan said William A. Weimer, B.J. Alan’s vice president and general counsel, invited Humphries two times to the Strickland and Biden event, but the chamber president didn’t attend.
“It’s important the chamber board get the message that our community comes first and we should have friendships” among Democrats and Republicans, Zoldan said. “We need bipartisan support.”
Zoldan said he’s had fundraisers at his home for Democrats and Republicans.
Humphries said among the major issues he has with Strickland’s administration is it didn’t hire his company, Data Voice Systems Review, in 2007 for a contract with the state lottery commission.
Humphries said his company’s proposal would have saved the state more money than the company that was awarded the contract, and his firm was the only Ohio-based business seeking the job.
“It’s a personal issue” for Humphries, and that shouldn’t be the case for someone who is the face of the chamber, Zoldan said.
The resignation of B.J. Alan is being done “very politely and very respectively,” Zoldan said. “I hope mine is a temporary resignation.”
Zoldan said he’s a longtime supporter of the chamber and just gave the organization $5,000 last week for economic development.