In a defamation lawsuit filed earlier this week, Ohio state Rep. John E. Barnes Jr. slammed the Ohio Democratic Party and its chairman Chris Redfern as racist after he claims he was treated unfairly for refusing to join the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC).
Barnes filed the lawsuit in Franklin County Common Pleas Court and claims that his personal views of the OLBC caused his party to turn its back on him.
He is asking for at least $50,000 for defamation after he claims Democrats and Redfern made false claims that he blocked Medicaid for the poor and disenfranchised voters.
According to the lawsuit, it all started when Barnes hoped to talk to the Democratic House leader about his committee assignments following the 2010 election.
Instead of being able to voice his concerns, he was told to make the request through the OLBC.
Barnes refused to join the organization.
“There should not be a process where there’s a certain procedure that John has to follow because he’s an African-American legislator,” he told reporters during a recent press conference.
Barnes explained that he didn’t want to join the OLBC because he found the organization’s “moral compass” to be quite troubling.
“I understand the focus is, you want to have people where you can manage them like they’re on a plantation,” he said. ‘That’s unacceptable and insulting to my intelligence.”
He went on to say that there is no reason he shouldn’t be treated as “an individual rather than as a member of a presumed monolithic block of votes” based on skin color.
As for that “moral compass,” Barnes accused the OLBC of requesting money in exchange for support for Rep. Armond Budish back in 2010.
The lawsuit claims that the then-Black Caucus president Rep. Sandra Williams of Cleveland told Budish that “in order to deliver the votes” the OLBC will need “all of the assignments,” along with $200,000.
Barnes said he confronted Williams and warned her that asking for money in order to secure votes was crossing a moral line when it comes to politics. He claims Williams was unmoved by his warning.
Instead, Williams became persistent about getting Barnes to join the OLBC, according to the lawsuit.
Barnes said he was offered a seat on the House Finance Committee but Williams insisted he could only take the seat if he agreed to join the OLBC.
Once again, he refused to join.
The ongoing tension allegedly caused the Democratic Party to endorse his opponent in the 2014 primary despite House Minority Leader Tracy Maxwell Heard recommending that House incumbents be endorsed for the election.
In the end, Barnes still won the election.
In the midst of all the allegations, Redfern said he has always had a good relationship with Barns and believes he is only targeting him because he is stepping down.
“John Barnes has been in my home and attended events as late as the summer of 2010,” Redfern said. “If I didn’t like John Barnes, I wouldn’t have invited him into my home.”
He went on to say,” Anytime you have new leadership come in, it’s time to attack the old leadership. Let’s attack Redfern with these baseless claims because he’s on the way out and who’s going to defend him?”