The following article appeared on Chagrin Valley Today, the website of the Chagrin Valley Times. Our thanks to the Chagrin Valley Times for permission to republish the article here. Visit Chagrin Valley Today for a wide range of local news coverage.
You can file this under “Your Tax Dollars at Work.”
Chagrin Valley Times
Posted: Wednesday, May 25, 2016 11:45 pm
By JOSEPH KOZIOL JR.
They may have thought it was funny, but those who received it weren’t laughing.
A mailing that went out last week to about a half-dozen Geauga County residents targeted one woman’s professional career. It was delivered in a 9-by-12 inch manila envelope with white stick-on mailing labels; the return label contained the address of the Chagrin Valley Times-Geauga Times Courier. Though the number, street and town were printed on each return label, names of the newspapers were not.
But, the newspapers never sent it, though it received a number of phone calls questioning it.
Christopher Yaecker of Newbury Township was one of those who got the mailing. “They’re trying to point the finger at you (the newspaper),” he said. Stickers on the envelope dated May 17 indicate it was processed at the Orwell post office in Ashtabula County with postage costing $1.15 for each envelope.
Mr. Yaecker said he has suspicions as to who did mail it. He received a similar manila envelope delivered by the U.S. Postal Service earlier this year with a similar mailing label. In both instances, his name was misspelled, he said.
Times Publisher H. Kenneth Douthit said the newspapers did not send the envelopes and his company is filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Postal Service calling for an investigation.
That first mailing contained the judgment entry from a court case involving the Chester Township Trustees and Geauga County Probate Judge Timothy Grendell, a support the Geauga Parks sticker and a poster promoting the parks.
Mr. Yaecker said that first mailing contained a return address of P.O. Box 468, Chardon, Ohio. That mailing address, according to voter registration records at the Geauga County Board of Elections, belongs to Geauga County Juvenile Court Constable John A. Ralph, a court that Judge Grendell oversees.
Mr. Yaecker said he attempted to contact the post office to find out who had sent him the mailing, but postal workers responded that they could not identify whether it was a mailing address of an individual, business or government office.
Kimberly Laurie, the Geauga County court’s budget coordinator and liaison, wrote that neither she nor Judge Grendell could “speculate” as to the origin of the mailing. “The judge has two courts to oversee and is far too busy protecting children and seniors in Geauga County to be bothered with petty gossip,” she wrote.
She questioned whether it was newsworthy.
Others reported receiving the same two mailings that Mr. Yaecker received, as well as one other mailing. The first mailing had a return address denoting a “JAR” sent it, using the same P.O. Box 468, several residents told the Times. That mailing included a Lake Metroparks listing of activities.
Most of those who received this mailing told the Times that that they are active members of Protect Geauga Parks, a nonprofit organization which began questioning actions of the county park board after Judge Grendell began making appointments to that board.
Mr. Yaecker said he is not an active member of the organization, but has attended some of their functions.
The mailings were not restricted to supporters or members of Protect Geauga Parks.
Chester Township resident David Hancock said he has no affiliation with the group, but still received the latest seven-page mailing. He said he suspects it may be because he has written letters to the editor published in the Times that were less than complimentary to the judge or county doings. He said he has received other “hate mail” in response to his letters, but all of them were unsigned. He said he cannot understand those who chose to express their feelings, but are afraid to put their name behind it.
The latest mailing is something Mr. Hancock said he is familiar with, having been a former college professor. It was a color printout of comments made on a website ratemyprofessor.com with a date on the bottom of the pages of Nov. 25, 2014, likely indicating when the pages were printed out. This is a public website generally used by college students nationwide to comment on professors’ classroom performances.
A list of professors appears on the side of each printed sheet of the mailing with their overall ratings and the top slot on the first page reading: “Showing professors … in John Carroll University that teach biology.” The comments portion featured 48 student ratings of Sandra Buckles, a Troy Township resident who is active in Protect Geauga Parks. Some of the comments were not complimentary.
Mrs. Buckles, who retired more than a decade ago from teaching, said the intent was to disparage her reputation. “I’m mad,” Mrs. Buckles said of her reaction to the mailing.
She said she is convinced the judge was behind the mailings. “He (Judge Grendell) uses his surrogates to do his dirty work,” she said.
She said she believes constantly harassing those who may question the judge is intended to get them to back off, because we “point out the emperor has no clothes.” She said many of the comments from the website dealt with personal appearance, rather than teaching ability. They also included comments from those receiving failing grades, she said.
“I was the biggest problem for getting into med school,” Mrs. Buckles said. “Do you really want a doctor who gets a ‘D’?”
Michael Martin, biology department chairman at John Carroll, said the unfiltered website is regarded as entertainment by educators, rather than any credible indication of a person’s classroom performance. “It’s an axe to grind type of thing,” he said. “Anyone can write anything they want whether they’ve taken the class or not.”
Mr. Martin said Mrs. Buckles was a “very capable” professor while teaching at John Carroll, handling class sizes that were in the neighborhood of 200 per semester, while typically a professor has about 125. He said her performance led to her being called back to teach when there was a staff shortage. “We were very happy to have her back.”
But, Mrs. Buckles believes the harassment may be entering a new phase, because the first two mailings were innocuous, while the last was directed at her. “We’re afraid it’s going to escalate,” she said.
The Buckles have already filed a report with the Geauga County Sheriff’s Department and plan on filing reports with the Federal Trade Commission, postal inspector and the Ohio Attorney General.
“Every time I deal with him (Judge Grendell) I feel like I’ve stepped in a pile of manure,” she said.
Despite the fraudulent use of our mailing address on these packages, Chagrin Valley Publishing is not responsible for these mailings. We have filed complaints with Federal Postal Inspector and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate these fraudulent mailings. We urge our readers, who have received these mailings, to contact the Federal Trade Commission at 877-438-4338 and refer to Reference # 72-72-2584, to aid in the pending investigation. We would also urge the recipients of these packages to initiate a mail fraud complaint with the US Postal Inspector on their website at usps.com/postalinspector and click on the “investigation” tab.