Finney Apologizes in Public, Yuks It Up Behind the Scenes
Christopher Finney, an arch-conservative attorney who is political mentor to Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich, issued a “heartfelt apology” Thursday for his profanity-laced outburst against Heimlich’s opponent. But is the hot-tempered Finney singing a different tune to supporters behind the scenes?
As Finney expressed his regrets to Democratic candidate David Pepper and a Pepper staffer for interrupting a Pepper press conference earlier in the week, Heimlich called both Finney and Pepper “immature” about the incident. Referring to Pepper, Heimlich said, “It was wrong for Pepper to start this fight, to pick on somebody who wasn’t campaigning.”
The facts, however, don’t support Heimlich’s statement.
Finney has aggressively campaigned for Heimlich’s re-election and passage of a county sales tax hike proposed by Heimlich to pay for a new jail. On the same day that Heimlich said Finney “wasn’t campaigning,” a meet and greet event for Heimlich was held at an Anderson Township steakhouse that was organized by Finney.
Finney sent an e-mail invitation to the event in August. In the e-mail, Finney called Pepper “pathetic” and wrote that he needed help in the campaign “against liberal, pro-wasteful spending Democrat David Pepper.”
This week, Finney triggered a public backlash after he yelled at Pepper and a staffer during a press conference. Among other slurs, the GOP activist called Pepper “a little rich fucking asshole who’s never had to work a day in his life.” Finney was angry that Pepper criticized Heimlich’s habit of appointing his friends and campaign contributors to county task forces that help shape major policies. Finney, for example, is on the Tax Levy Review Committee and the panel that overhauled the Drake Center’s operations.
Meanwhile, on the same day that Finney called Pepper and his press secretary, Bridget Doherty, to apologize, The Whistleblower online political gossip newsletter touted Finney’s outburst under the headline, “Finney shoves Pepper’s silver spoon up Pepper’s ass.” Two of the newsletter’s most frequent sources are Finney and State Rep. Tom Brinkman (R-Mount Lookout), who co-founded an anti-tax group.
Also, a mock blog on a Web site entitled “Pinch of Pepper” that’s written by a Heimlich supporter posing as Pepper himself and often engages in sophomoric humor had a blow-by-blow account of Finney’s tirade at Pepper’s event. The blog entry was posted at 4:57 p.m. Tuesday, just hours after the incident, and includes details that could only have come from someone present at the outburst. The same Web site often engages in gay-baiting, name-calling and misogynistic humor and once mocked Commissioner Todd Portune for being disabled.
Finney’s tirade prompted Hyde Park resident Richard Brockelmann to send an open letter to Heimlich demanding he publicly condemn Finney’s actions. The letter stated, “As a tax-paying Hamilton County resident and homeowner, I am outraged at yesterday’s antics of your friend, business partner and adviser, Chris Finney. … I ask you commissioner, were Mr. Finney’s actions those of a Christian, a gentleman, or a rational, mature adult?”
County officials also have received other e-mails asking for Finney’s removal from all county boards and panels.
Heimlich addressed the incident today during an online chat moderated by The Cincinnati Enquirer. When asked about the outburst, Heimlich replied, “You’ll have to ask Chris Finney why he was there. I told him I was disappointed in him and his behavior was inappropriate.”
— Kevin Osborne