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NEWS BULLETIN: AK pulls out of chamber

By Lauren Pack, Journal Staff Writer, E-mail:

AK Steel Corp. has left the Mid-Miami Valley Chamber of Commerce.

AK, one of the largest employers in the region, withdrew Thursday because “the chamber was not serving our needs,” AK Vice President of Public Affairs Alan McCoy said.

McCoy would not say why the company left the chamber, but he said AK may consider re-joining in the future if “we believe it is beneficial.”

The steelmaker left the chamber on the same day Cincinnati attorney Stanley Chesley spoke before a chamber luncheon at Forest Hills Country Club.

In 1996, Chesley represented the families of two workers killed in an April 1994 explosion at AK’s Middletown Works. Families of four men who were killed in the incident filed separate suits against AK and McGraw/Kokosing Inc. The men were McGraw/Kokosing employees working as contractors at the plant.

The families of Middletonian James Prater Jr. and Lonnie Stephens, of Bellevue, Ky., represented by Chesley, reached a settlement with the two companies in August 1996. Terms were confidential.

The topic of Chesley’s speech Thursday was how “smoking gun” documents can affect lawsuits against corporations.

Chesley talked about several well-known cases, including the 1977 fire at Beverly Hills Supper Club in Southgate, Ky., that killed 165 people and injured 16 others. He did not publicly mention AK or litigation against AK.

The chamber represents some 600 businesses and organizations in Middletown, Monroe and Trenton.

Chesley said he did not want to get involved in any conflict between AK and the chamber.

“But I think it is pretty petty if it is a fact that they withdrew because of a speech I made to the chamber,” Chesley said. He said he gives the same speech to many groups and companies.

Chamber President David Daugherty said the chamber board of directors was meeting Friday afternoon about AK’s action.

Daugherty said AK submitted a letter of resignation from the chamber and that the organization was evaluating the loss of the region’s largest employer as a member of the organization.

He declined to speculate on AK’s decision to leave or if the selection of Chesley as a luncheon speaker was the catalyst for AK to withdraw its membership.

Daugherty said the chamber will be looking over its mission statement of improving the area’s quality of life, providing leadership and enhancing the business goals of its members and doing some “readjusting.”

Daugherty said that a chamber can expect a loss of 10 percent of member businesses each year. However, he added that losses of businesses the size of AK “are not typical.”

“You just hate to see something like this happen, but we will carry on with our mission,” Daugherty said. “Hopefully they will re-join the chamber.”

Journal Night Editor Ed Richter contributed to this report.

Published 04.05.03



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