News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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September 1, 2012

Did politics bounce GOP candidate from parade?

No, says labor chief; yes, says ousted marcher

TERRE HAUTE —

A Republican candidate for Vigo County office claims he was booted from Terre Haute’s Labor Day Parade because of his party affiliation.

Caleb Fleschner, a Republican candidate running for Vigo County commissioner, said Friday afternoon politics are to blame for his removal from the parade line-up.

But Charles Toth, head of the Wabash Valley Central Labor Council AFL-CIO’s parade committee, said political affiliation had nothing to do with the rejection. Toth did say, however, that the organization does reserve the right to determine who participates in its event.

According to Veda Long, vice chair of the Vigo County Republican Party, no GOP candidates are slated to participate in Monday’s event.

“Not that I know of at this time,” she said Friday afternoon, adding party members had planned to march on behalf of Fleschner. “We decided we were going to help our candidates walk in the parade.”

According to Fleschner, he submitted his application and $25 fee on Aug. 12. Still in his possession is the letter issued by the Wabash Valley Central Labor Council AFL-CIO, which acknowledged Fleschner’s participation and assigned him “position number 36.”

The mailing — a copy of which was provided to the Tribune-Star by Fleschner — appeared to be a form letter, which Fleschner’s name and parade position filled in.

According to the letter, this year’s parade theme is “We are One and We Vote.”

The letter also includes the statement, “After the parade, feel free to join in the festivities at Fairbanks Park. There will be speakers, beverages and free ham and beans provided by the Vigo County Democratic Party.”

A second letter received by Fleschner was dated Aug. 29 and contained two sentences. It stated: “This letter is to inform you that the Labor Day Parade Committee has met and declined your invitation to participate in the Labor Day Parade. Therefore, enclosed please find your check #1001 in the amount of Twenty-Five ($25.00) Dollars as a refund.”

Fleschner also provided a copy of that letter to the Tribune-Star. It appears to be typed on Laborers International Union of North America Local No. 204 letterhead and carries the signature of Charles A. Toth.

No other explanation was given, Fleschner said.

“I’ve put in a couple calls and they’ve not been returned,” he said, adding he had 40 people scheduled to march with him.

According to Toth, the decision had nothing to do with political affiliation, rather procedure and preference. The decision to allow Fleschner’s entry was made by one person, he said, not the entire 13-member committee. This was also the case with other proposed entrants, many of whom have also been uninvited, he added. Participation in the parade, he said, is by “invitation.”

Toth on Friday said he couldn’t recall the specific names of organizations or examples of others dismissed from the lineup, he said.

Bill Treash, president of the Wabash Valley Central Labor Council, deferred comment to Toth, who he said is in charge of the parade.

According to Toth, other local parade organizers get to choose their participants as well, and he cited Indiana State University as an example.

“ISU doesn’t open their parade up to the public. They just go along and invite who they want. So that’s what we do,” he said, stating the labor unions are not invited to participate in the university’s event.

A search of the ISU website section about the annual “Blue and White Parade” reveals downloadable information about parade participation. A parade invitation letter, entry form for businesses and not-for-profit organizations is available at www.indstate.edu/homecoming/parade.htm.

The Wabash Valley Central Labor Council pays for the permit, security and other supplies for the parade, Toth said, and that entitles it to choose who gets to march.

The council is composed of several area unions. Toth serves as secretary-treasurer and business manager for Laborers Local 204. He ran as a Democrat in the May primary for the Indiana House District 46 seat, losing to fellow Democrat Jim Mann.

Toth said Friday afternoon he wasn’t sure of the specific number of parade participants, nor how many were denied, but he emphasized that party affiliation had nothing to do with the decision. Fleschner’s party affiliation, background or status as a 2012 graduate of ISU were unknown to him at the time of the decision, Toth said.

Bill Treadway, chairman of the Vigo County Republican Party and a candidate for the Vigo County Council, deferred comment to Long, whom he said handles the party’s parade participation.

Long said Friday she’d been in contact with Fleschner and felt the timing of the decision was quite poor, given he’d just learned of the removal a few days before the event.

“It sounds political to me,” she said. “I think it was just pretty sad.”

Fleschner, who is employed at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos and Newlin law firm, said his supporters are disappointed, but not surprised. The 2012 graduate works at the firm as a fee specialist. He said prior plans to attend law school were postponed after he made the decision to run for commissioner.

“They (supporters) just said it’s typical Terre Haute politics,” he said.

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or brian.boyce@tribstar.com.

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