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Statehouse Board Chair Resigns After Dispute Over Holocaust Memorial

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A long-time state leader is resigning after repeat clashes with the governor and Legislature. The issue deals with the independence of the board that runs the Statehouse. And as Andy Chow reports… a battle over a Statehouse Holocaust Memorial played a major role in his departure.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 5:42 pm

Finan: “I feel that I have no say so in it anymore and I have no power to do anything about it and so it’s time to quit.”

That’s the message from former Republican Senate President Richard Finan who chairs the board that manages the Statehouse. He says he’s stepping down because his group is no longer the independent body it was intended to be.

Finan is the first and only head of the Capitol Square board. He’s been leading the group since the early 90s. But he says recent interventions by the Legislature and governor’s office have challenged the boards’ ideals and pushed him too far.

Finan: “Our idea was we’d have this independent body that would make the decisions and—in the best interest of the building—I think that that has been eroded over the last year or two."

Part of that erosion, according to Finan, started with the announcement of a Holocaust Memorial intended to stand on Statehouse grounds. That announcement, made by Governor John Kasich, sparked a two-year debate between the leaders as to whether the memorial was appropriate for the Statehouse plaza.

That debate comes to a head Thursday when final approval of a memorial design comes to a vote before the board. Finan expects the design to pass but not with his vote.

As the board considers the proposed memorial… a Statehouse crew constructed a mock-up of what the sculpture would look like. An 18-foot structure, made up of pipes, tarps, and rope, now sits on the south plaza lawn. Finan says the inexpensive fixture was never meant to be a commentary of how he feels about the memorial.

Finan: “The idea though was to make a mock-up so people could see approximately how big it was and how thick it was going to be and where it was going to stand. It was never meant to be an expression of what the eventual memorial was going to look like."

Finan adds that an associate with the artist was the one who suggested staking out the area with the materials ultimately used for the mock-up.

The memorial itself would include the Star of David carved into the sculpture. And it’s that religious symbol that is drawing concerns from the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

The group says they would be fine with the memorial as long as all religious symbols are removed, but they could take legal action if that doesn’t happen.

Finan says he finds it important to include the Star of David on the mock-up version of the memorial. However… by Wednesday afternoon… Statehouse grounds crew painted over the star to avoid any disrespect it may have caused.

The governor’s office did not want to comment about the state of the Cap Square board’s independence but did say Kasich was confident about the future of the memorial.

A spokesperson with the Senate says Republican Senate President Keith Faber, of western Ohio, thanks Finan for his service but did not talk about the alleged over-involvement by the Legislature.

As for Finan, does he think his resignation will send an important message to other state officials?

Finan: “I doubt it. I’m just tired of it. I’m just frustrated—frustrated.”

Finan will officially step down at the end of October. He says his replacement must be another former Senate President.

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