National Catholic Reporter

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Catholic organizer charged in online sex sting

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A man once hired by Gov. Ted Strickland to head the state's Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives stands accused of being involved in an online prostitution ring.

Robert Eric McFadden was arrested Wednesday (Jan. 14) in suburban Dublin, Ohio. He was also an Ohio-based employee of the group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good from the fall of 2005 until January 2007.

He has been charged with seven felonies, including pandering obscenities involving a minor, promoting prostitution and compelling prostitution, according to a Columbus Police Department spokesman.

Police spokesman Sgt. Richard Weiner confirmed that the 46-year-old McFadden is the same person who worked for Strickland.

McFadden headed the faith-based office for nine months before taking a demotion and a pay cut for a short-lived job as an administrative assistant with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

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Police believe McFadden was the man they have been looking for in connection with an online prostitution ring that was run from craigslist.com, according to a report on the Web site of Columbus television station WCMH. Police cracked the ring when men involved in a Web site that posts reviews of prostitutes held a raffle for sex at a brothel near downtown Columbus.

For years, police have noticed a man involved in prostitute discussion boards under the names of Sullivant Guy, Broad Street Guy and Toby, according to a report in the Columbus Dispatch. They now apparently believe that man is McFadden. Two others were also arrested in connection with the ring.

McFadden was hired by the Strickland administration in February 2007 and paid an annual salary of $75,000. Strickland knew McFadden before he was elected governor in November 2006.

"He is someone that had been engaged in work in the faith community for a long time and was someone very known by people in the faith community, and that led to his hire," said Keith Dailey, Strickland's spokesman. Dailey called McFadden "well-regarded."

McFadden had been co-founder and national field director for the Catholic Alliance for the Common Good, a grassroots organization based in suburban Columbus, before Strickland hired him.

Dailey said he may have met Strickland as early as 2004 while working with Catholics for Kerry, a group backing the presidential efforts of Democratic Sen. John Kerry.

By September 2007, the governor's office began to question McFadden's leadership skills, Dailey said.

"This was a leadership position and after some time it became clear it wasn't a good fit and it wasn't working out," Dailey said. "It was a mutually agreed decision."

Dailey would not be specific, but said the administration did not witness any activity related to what McFadden is now charged with. "This is a shocking and appalling situation," Dailey said.

Jennifer Goff, director of communications for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, told NCR that members of the organization were "incredibly saddened and shocked" by the news of McFadden’s charges and arrest. She said, "We are praying for anyone involved or harmed in this situation, and for Mr. McFadden and his family."

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