LISBON - An email exchange with Columbiana County Republican Party Chairman David Johnson has become a side issue in a larger dispute with the state board he serves on.
Johnson, who serves on the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation, was recently criticized by a group called Pay Us Back Ohio BWC over his response to an email from Suzanne Beachy of Columbus.
Beachy, who operates a home renovation/construction business with her husband, emailed OBWC members urging them to reconsider their decision to appeal a December court ruling requiring the OBWC to refund $859 million to 264,000 Ohio employers charged excessive premiums over eight years. Johnson responded simply by saying "WRONG," and after Beachy emailed him back, he replied, "I pity you."
This resulted in a news release from Pay Us Back in which they said the OBWC board should be outraged by Johnson's "dismissive reply."
"This man is a public servant. He works for us. His charge is to help businesses create jobs. Mr. Johnson's time would be better spent trying to make the state more business friendly, rather than beating up on a small business owner. It's deplorable," according to the news release, which attributed the quote to Earl Stein, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit against the BWC.
The newspaper was provided a copy of the second Beachy email which elicited the "I pity you" reply from Johnson. In that email, Beachy referred to the fact that Johnson's family business, Summitville Tile, had filed for bankruptcy at one time and later applied for state assistance to remove asbestos so some of the company property could be redeveloped.
"I wonder how much you robbed from your creditors, while the taxpayers bailed out your sorry (expletive). What talent you have! You're so adept at manipulating justice to serve precisely yourself. Your mama must be so proud," she wrote, followed by to a link for a book titled 'The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry.'
"Do you recognize yourself in this book?" Beachy concluded her second email to Johnson, which is when he replied, "I pity you."
Johnson said he was displeased with what he perceived as a personal attack by Beachy against him and Summitville Tile without all of the facts.
"Anyone who would do a five-minute Google search on a company like she did on Summitville Tile and then conclude she's an authority on anything on us, and then make disparaging remarks ... well, I wouldn't put much credibility in that," he said.
Johnson said OPWC board members have received numerous automated phone calls from Beachy and others, not to mention hundreds of emails from defendants in the lawsuit asking them to reconsider their appeal, and his standard reply has been "WRONG."
"I don't regret it at all," he said of his choice of words. "They're just plain wrong, and she's wrong."
Johnson, who was appointed to the OBWC in 2011 by Gov. John Kasich, said they disagree with the judge's conclusion, which is why they are appealing.
He provided a copy of the standard response the BWC has been issuing to those who have contacted them about the lawsuit. The letter noted approximately 75 percent of the 264,000 businesses/plaintiffs in the lawsuit would receive less than $1,000, including 29,000 businesses that would get nothing from the judgment.
Johnson, who noted he is a business owner, said this has more to do with a big payoff for the attorneys, who stand to earn "tens of millions of dollars" in fees - more than any single business and 75 percent of the businesses combined.
"This has been a case generated by attorneys, and if there's anyone on the board looking out for employers, it's going to be Dave Johnson," he said.