Experience Clintonville 'silly'?
Group, area chamber are at odds
It is, quite literally, a "silly" argument.
Local businessman Anand Saha claims Clintonville Area Chamber of Commerce President Jenny Smith called him just that for launching a separate organization to promote the neighborhood.
Saha further said his co-founding partner of Experience Clintonville, Jason Janoski, was ousted from the chamber's board of directors earlier this year when he began to ask "tough questions" about the organization's finances.
Janoski, on vacation in North Carolina, confirmed his removal from the board and the reason, but declined to go into specifics.
"General budgeting questions," he said. "It wouldn't be appropriate for me to comment.
"As a member of the chamber for 18 or 19 years, I was frustrated with the way the money was being handled," Janoski added.
Chamber board President Gary Weaver and Smith both declined to say much when asked about Saha's demand for an apology.
"That is not what I said to him and I'm not going to discuss that," Smith said. "We're not going to go there."
"I'm not going to even comment on any of that," Weaver said of the dispute between Saha and Smith. "That's just not something that would even be very productive for any of us to be involved with."
Weaver was equally unwilling to discuss the reason for Janoski's dismissal from the chamber board.
"I'm not going to comment on that," he said. "That's an internal situation."
Weaver also declined comment when asked about the chamber's financial situation, pointing out it's a private organization.
Saha, who is seeking to raise the necessary capital to combine his Mozart's Bakery and Piano Cafe and Vienna Ice Cafe into a single location at 3130-34 N. High St., launched the Experience Clintonville Facebook page to promote all aspects of working, living, shopping, dining and worshiping in the neighborhood in late August last year. Janoski, chief executive officer of the Attache creative services firm, became Saha's partner in formally launching Experience Clintonville as an organization and website two months later.
From the beginning, both men said last week, they felt some members of the chamber viewed Experience Clintonville as a sort of competitor, although that was something they sought to prevent from happening, in part by joining the chamber and having Janoski join the board of directors.
"We became a member of the chamber right away so as not to have any friction or have anyone say anything," Saha said.
"I came on board after Experience Clintonville was started and we discussed the potential benefits of that for both groups," Janoski said. "I still think it could and should be beneficial for both of us. Curiously -- maybe, maybe not -- I started asking some tough questions about the chamber's financial status and the chamber's fiscal responsibilities, and it was not long after that I was asked to leave the board. There was definitely some discomfort with what we were doing, what Experience Clintonville was doing and how close it was getting to them. That was what they expressed to me anyway. That's a pretty accurate word.
"There's very small amount of overlap in what we do," Janoski added. "I think there could be and should be a lot of synergy there, but I'm not feeling it at the moment."
No one with the chamber has any problems with Experience Clintonville, Smith said.
"We're happy that Anand has his organization," she said. "His organization is a member of the chamber. I think we have two organizations that are working together."
Saha said his brouhaha with Smith came about when he "innocently" called her to ask about Experience Clintonville becoming involved in ClintonvilleTV, an online series of television shows created by Gahanna-based SOH Productions.
"Jenny thought it was a really bad idea," Saha said. "I was shocked when she said I was 'silly,' quote, unquote, and I was against the chamber. That's something that's not accurate. It kind of hurt my feelings.
"I have been loyal chamber advocate, a loyal chamber member paying dues."
Saha said he sought an apology for the remark, but Weaver told him it was just a misunderstanding.
"I'm not understanding this -- for a paid employee of the chamber to say something of that respect to someone who started his own organization and who believes so much in the neighborhood, it really bothered me," Saha said. "It's actually making me doubt if I would spend over $1 million of my hard-earned money and take out loans in an area where the chamber doesn't seem to care that much."
Still stung by the alleged labeling of Experience Clintonville as "silly," Saha eventually called for Smith to be removed from the post she has held since June 2009.
"I just want them to have somebody who's more effective for the chamber," Saha said. "I can give them a list of 10 names if they want. Just get somebody who can talk to people, communicate to people, go out and visit the businesses.
"A lot of community business leaders feel the way that I do. If I have to be the scapegoat to be the catalyst for change in Clintonville, then so be it."