More northeast Ohio mayors suspicious about how their names were added to Bloomberg's gun control list
Long-time gun control activist Lori O'Neill signed up several mayors after speaking to the Northeast Ohio Mayors and City Managers' Association
By Chad D. Baus
Amidst news of an increasing number of mayors in Ohio and across the country who are resigning from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's gun control front group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), and in the wake of questions over whether the organization is adding mayors to their membership rolls without permission, there is now more evidence which suggests that some mayors' names have been used to prop up Bloomberg's anti-gun agenda without their knowledge.
On August 17, Walton Hills, OH Mayor Marlene Anielski notified Buckeye Firearms Association of her decision to resign from MAIG, and two weeks later, Madiera Beach, FL Mayor Patricia Shontz notified Buckeye Firearms Association of her decision to resign. This notification came on the same day Brunswick, OH Mayor Dale Strasser notified the National Rifle Association that MAIG was using his name even though he never joined.
I have now received notification that two more Ohio mayors have asked to be removed from the MAIG membership roster, and as comments made by Strasser, Shontz and Warsaw, IN Mayor Ernie Wiggins, the circumstances involving these mayors continue to pose questions about just what it takes to earn oneself a supposed "membership" in MAIG.
Mayor Robert Shiner, Mentor, OH
"Mayor Robert Shiner" was listed in a letter from MAIG to Congress in June 2009 opposing reforms to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE), as well as in a full page advertisement MAIG ran in July 2009, opposing nationwide reciprocity of concealed handgun licenses.
The problem? Council President Shiner hasn't been Mayor since November 2008, when voters in his city removed the term "mayor" from the city charter, and his office says he never agreed to be a MAIG member.
"We first became aware of this [supposed membership] when the one page ad came out in the Plain Dealer and we were notified by a resident of Mr. Shiner's name being included in the ad," said Elizabeth Limestahl, a spokesperson for the City of Mentor. "We have no idea how his name would have gotten on any list. We do not recall ever authorizing the use of his name for such purposes or 'signing up' for any Mayor's coalition."
After being notified about the MAIG newspaper ad, Limestahl told me she "went to the MAIG web site and requested that his name be removed and they discontinue use of his name in any current or future ads/mailings.
"Conveniently, there was no phone number to contact the association," she added.
Despite requesting to be removed from MAIG's membership list in July, Mr. Shiner was still listed by MAIG as the Mayor of Mentor, and as a member of the gun control front group, until just a few days ago. (According to the NRA, twenty-eight other people have appeared on the MAIG membership list despite the fact they were not mayors of the localities as advertised. In fact four people are still listed that way today!)
Mayor Bill Robertson, Rittman, OH
When Mayor Robertson began hearing from constituents about his involvement in MAIG, he contacted Walton Hills Mayor Marlene Anielski to inquire about her resignation from the gun control front group.
In a follow-up email, Robertson told me he remembers signing a document distributed by a "Jewish ladies group in Cleveland" at a meeting of the Northeast Ohio Mayors and City Managers Association (NEOM&CMA), which was held exactly one year ago today, September 18, 2008.
"The bulk of the presentation had to do with illegal guns and keeping them out of our schools," Robertson said. "That is the basis that I used to sign up in support.
"I did not know my name would be used in any kind of campaign," Robertson continued. "I was signing to keep illegal guns out of the hands of children and keeping guns out of schools - who isn't against that?"
It was this same innocuous, misleading language which led Mayor Anielski, who says she a life member of the NRA, to sign up at the meeting.
And it is this same document which they now believe resulted in both of their names being used in that same anti-gun letter to Congress and statewide newspaper advertising in which Mentor's Robert Shiner was listed.
Shiner also attended NEOM&CMA meetings when he held the title of "mayor," and although Limestahl said has stopped attending after the title was voted out last November.
While Shiner does not recall signing anything MAIG-related, Limestahl says that the Mentor city manager also attends the NEOM&CMA meetings, and that "It's possible something may have occurred at one of those meetings."
Mayor Dale Strasser, Brunswick, OH
Lending credence to Limestahl's speculation about how Shiner got on the list is MAIG's decision to use Brunswick, OH Mayor Dale Strasser's name in advertising, when it was actually the Brunswick city manager Robert Zienkowski who signed up for the group.
Indeed, to answer constituents' questions about MAIG's false claim that he was a member, Mayor Strasser provided evidence that it was his city manager, Robert Zienkowski, and not him, who signed up with the gun control group. The document Zienkowski signed held the title "Statement of Principles."
When I showed the "Statement of Principles" to Mayor Robertson, and asked if this was the same document he signed at the NEOM&CMA meeting, he said "My recollection is that this is probably what I signed. I do recall seeing the words 'illegal guns' quite often. I would be reasonably certain that this is the same document I signed."
Robertson expressed regret that he had not kept a copy of the document, saying it was a "big mistake that I won't make again."
Who's That Lady?
When one looks at a map depicting the concentration of MAIG members in Ohio, the heavy concentration in northeast Ohio is immediately noticable. It appears that many of these so-called "memberships" can be traced back to this one NEOM&CMA meeting, and to a vague presentation by a group of seemingly well-intentioned ladies.
According to Lisa Barno, the Executive Director of NEOM&CMA, it was the Association's Chairman, Hudson Mayor Bill Currin, who allowed the women to give a presentation to the Association.
"After their presentation," Barno said, "they gave each mayor a separate copy of a petition to sign if they agree with the principles of MAIG and to become members.
"Signing it was up to them individually," Barno continued. "The Association did not take a position, just allowed for the presentation."
It could certainly be argued, however, that if Association leaders knew about the groups' true agenda, it was taking a position by the very act of allowing the presentation to be made in the first place.
But did the Association Chairman, Mayor Currin, know exactly who he was inviting to speak, and were the Association members so informed?
Did they know that, while the meeting agenda listed the speakers as representing the "NCJW, CS" (the left-leaning National Council of Jewish Women, Cleveland Section), that the one of the two speakers in the "ladies group" (NCJW Vice President of Advocacy Judy Eigenfeld) committed in a 2007 newsletter to use her organization to influence legislation supporting the same gun control agenda that MAIG supports behind the scenes?
Did they know the other speaker was long-time gun control advocate Lori O'Neill, who just this week circulated a letter to mayors under the misleading name "Citizens for Safety", begging them not to drop out of the equally misleading name "Mayors Against Illegal Guns?"
Did they know this is the same Lori O'Neill who once led the Cleveland chapter of the even more misleading name "Million" Mom March? (A project of the group which formerly called itself Handgun Control Inc. There were never a million moms in the group - just as we now know there were never 450+ mayors in MAIG.)
Did they know that Eigenfeld and O'Neill have been working together on gun control initiatives (which they give the misleading term of "firearm safety") since the 2000 "Million" Mom March in Washington D.C.?
Did they know this is the same Lori O'Neill who testified in the state Senate that business owners would be found in violation of OSHA standards if they allowed concealed carry on their property? (Representatives from OSHA confirmed they are not.)
Did they know this is the same Lori O'Neill who, when confronted, admitted she had been submitting letters to the editor in other people's names so that she could circumvent newspapers' policies on only printing one letter per person per 30 day period?
Did they know this is the same Lori O'Neill who predicted that "Companies in virtually every industry will be adversely affected if a concealed carry weapons bill passes in Ohio," and that "If...CCW passes in Ohio, it will give a whole new definition to the term 'hostile environment,'" and that "...Employers and customers who bring loaded handguns into offices, medical establishments, retail stores and banks increase the risk that someone will be injured or killed by their guns."?
Taking a look back at the more than five years of Ohio's highly successful concealed carry law is all it takes to see that O'Neill should not be trusted on anything gun-related, let alone given the opportunity to address a large group of elected officials - at least not without the presence of a fact-checker.
Of course we already know that Mayors Anielski and Robertson were at the meeting, and that neither of them were informed of the two ladies' backgrounds. So what about Mayor Bill Currin, the NEOM&CMA Chairman who invited them to speak in the first place?
Unfortunately, he has not yet responded to requests for comment.
Over sixty mayors have now removed their names from association with this gun control front group. After several resignations, the MAIG website still lists forty-six Ohio mayors as members (Robertson's name has not yet been removed). While some, such as Mayors Donald Plusquellic (Akron), Mark Mallory (Cincinnati), Frank Jackson (Cleveland), and Mike Coleman (Columbus) are known to be avowed anti-self-defense politicians, there are many others who have likely been misled by Bloomberg into believing the group shares their values, or who may have been put on the list against their will or without their knowledge.
If your mayor is a member of MAIG, and/or if you'd like to help inform more MAIG members of the groups' true anti-rights nature, please contact them today! (Click here to download a letter the NRA provides to those who wish to contact their mayors.)
Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman, and an NRA-certified firearms safety and concealed carry instructor.
UPDATE: York, PA: Two mayors feel pressure for joining gun group
But [East Berlin Mayor Keith] Hoffman said his participation - which began about a month ago - resulted from a misunderstanding of the group's objectives, and he's currently trying to get his name off the list.
"It was a mistake really," he said. "They swindle you in and then put your name on the list."
Brunswick, OH: Mayor: Anti-gun group misused my name
BRUNSWICK — Mayor Dale Strasser says he is a member of the National Rifle Association and has never supported any gun control organizations. So he was surprised to discover that pro-gun control organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns said he was a member in its promotional materials.
"My name should have never been on that material," Strasser said. "They used my name without my consent."
In the last few weeks, he has received numerous phone calls and e-mails after the NRA sent out a postcard to area members saying he joined a national anti-gun group and urged members to call Strasser to complain.
"It is critical that your mayor disassociate himself from the anti-gun group and you do your part by contacting his office today and urging him to withdraw his MAIG membership," the postcard said.
Strasser is up for re-election in November and faces At-large Councilman Gary Werner.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns is an organization founded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg that is "dedicated to making America's cities safer by cracking down on illegal guns," according to its Web site.
When Strasser contacted the organization, he was told City Manager Bob Zienkowski had sent in a membership form, but MAIG used Strasser's name by mistake. The form, which states the group’s principles, includes Zienkowski's signature. Strasser's name is nowhere on the document.
In a letter to the NRA, Zienkowski requested Strasser be removed from all materials because he never joined Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and it was the city manager who joined as the leader of Brunswick.
"Within these duties, I received the information and signed the document in support of this coalition," Zienkowski said in the letter. "Mayor Strasser was unaware of this information, did not sign, nor has any responsibility for responding to such requests."
Zienkowski said Friday he joined MAIG in September 2008 after hearing about it at a meeting of the Northeast Ohio Mayors and City Managers Association. He has since dropped his membership.
"In principle, this was a good thing to sign on to," he said. "I ended up doing some more homework and saw there were partisan viewpoints on there. To me, this raises a red flag."
Zienkowski said he also has noticed the content of MAIG's Web site at mayorsagainstillegalguns.org has changed within the last couple of weeks.
Along with Strasser, several other mayors throughout the state have said their names were used by MAIG without their permission, according to an article by the Buckeye Firearms Association.
One example is Rittman Mayor Bill Robertson, who said he signed something at the meeting of the Northeast Ohio Mayors and City Managers Association, but was not aware it was a membership statement for any organization.
Like Strasser, Robertson's name also was used in promotional materials.
MAIG did not immediately return an e-mail request for comment.