Friday, December 19, 2014

MASSILLON'S FIGHT TO KEEP CHECK & BALANCE IN PLACE



As 2014 winds down after having gotten through the election of November 4th, it may seem that politics is on the back burner.

Believe me, political maneuvering is "alive and kicking" even as Christmas is less than a week away.

A hotbed of political activity is the city of Massillon.

Just take a look at the Stark County Board of Elections candidates list for city council as of December 17th:


One of the things that impresses the SCPR is how many "independent" thinking council persons hold office on Massillon City Council.

For many government legislative bodies, it has been the experience of The Report that members line up with this or that interest group or political/government figure and not with the interests of their respective constituents.

North Canton City Council is a glaring example in Stark County of having too many robot council members who have taken on a siege mentality in lining up with the administration and each other resulting in their emanating a hostility to citizens who disagree with "the official position."

In  North Canton, it seems as if the whole of government is run by one person; namely, Law Director Tim Fox.  "Whatever Tim thinks" appears to be "the order of the day" on the part of North Canton mayor David Held and at least a majority of North Canton City Council.

Massillon City Council as presently constituted is pretty much as a legislative body ought to be:  independent minded and highly constituent oriented.

And this has to be driving Mayor Catazaro-Perry and her chief benefactor and "power behind the throne - right up the wall" in his apparent quest to control all things Massillon.

Only Tony Townsend (council president) and Ward 4 Democrat Shaddrick Stinson seem to be council persons who - in the words of Tennessee Ernie Ford - "have sold their 'political' souls to the company store" with the company store being in the opinion of the SCPR the Catazaro-Perry administration and her prop-ups constituted by and large by the Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. Loyalty Club.

Townsend, who was Massillon's former Ward 4 councilman, may get the surprise of his short political life as council president with possibly being challenged by current Republican Ward 2 Councilwoman Nancy Halter.

A source tells the SCPR that the idea of Halter challenging Townsend is one of the options being discussed this year by those who want to preserve council's "separation of powers" from Massillon's "my way or the highway" Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry.

It makes sense to the SCPR that Halter might want to challenge Townsend.

She was hopping mad when in 2013 Republican Al Hennon pulled out of running against Townsend after it was too late for Republicans to replace him.  The SCPR thinks this was all part and parcel of a diabolical "political" scheme by Johnnie A. Maier, Jr and his Stark County Dems' political director hanger-on and Chief Deputy Clerk of Courts R. Shane Jackson to keep Townsend on council.

Townsend, had he remained Ward 4 councilman, was likely to lose in 2013 because of a number of publicized troubles he has had in recent years.

The Report thinks Townsend is the epitome example of what Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. will do for anybody that he - Maier - is convinced is willing to be the ultimate loyalist for Maier's political interests.

But for the political shenanigans at play, former Republcan Massillon Ward 6 councilman Donnie Peters, Jr. was set to run for council president which likely would have made Townsend a part of Massillon's political and government history book.

And it is becoming apparent that Tony's Ward 4 successor - Shaddrick Stinson - "is cut from the same cloth - as Townsend.

There is an effort being made to unseat Stinson.

One of the persons that Stinson politically courted in 2013 was former Massillon mayor Frank Cicchinelli.

It was a amazing sight for the SCPR to behold.

The politically hardened, tested and astute Cicchinelli bought Stinson's line that he was not a Maier Loyalty Club member.

With Cicchinelli being politically neutered, Stinson still had to struggle to defeat a less than ideal Republican candidate.


Recently The Report brought this up with Cicchinelli and he admitted, more or less, that he had been hoodwinked by Stinson.

The SCPR is somewhat empathetic with Cicchinelli in that Stark County is "blessed" with some pretty slick political operators and it can be quite an undertaking to smoke them out.

Of course, "the really big question" hovering over Massillon politics is whether or not Catazaro-Perry will have meaningful opposition in the Democratic primary or from a Republican in the general election.

Today, the SCPR thinks probably not.

Which, of course, means that Maier, Jr. and Jackson can go all out to convert perhaps Stark County's very best council to something that resembles North Canton.

One of the more interesting political plays in the making in Massillon's council race jockeyings is that going on between Maier, Jr. loyalist Linda Litman and Councilwoman Michelle Del Rio-Keller.

Del Rio-Keller tells the SCPR that she has no problems whatsoever with any of the warring political factions in Massillon.  She wants to work for the betterment of Massillon and will work with the mayor, the Republicans on council, Johnnie A. Maier, Jr, influential Massillon Democrat John Ferrero or anybody else for the benefit of Massillonians.

However, she will be her own person.

And even if that means that people she differs with from time-to-time (e.g. Mayor Catazaro-Perry) will not talk to her after a given disagreement.

Her independent-mindedness may pit her against Maier, Jr. Democrat Linda Litman who lost narrowly to Republican Ed Lewis, IV in November, 2013 in upcoming 2015 primary election.

Both have taken out petitions to run at-large and in Ward 6.

If Lewis decides to run against Catazaro-Perry, then look for Del Rio-Keller to run in Ward 6 in and Democratic head-to-head clash.

In a sort of ironical twist, Litman having taken out petitions to run in Ward 6 may force Lewis' hand to run for mayor.

The SCPR figures that he has much more to gain than lose if he were to run against the mayor than trying to hold onto his Ward 6 seat.


Lewis in the 2013 general election won by a mere 23 votes.  In a 2015 match up in a scenario in which Catazaro-Perry runs unopposed or with a nominal opponent, the SCPR thinks the Maier, Jr. forces will go "all-out" to put him on the political sidelines.

And, even if he survives; he is only one of ten council persons.  A highly influential one with his Republican and Democratic colleagues, no doubt.  But still just one of ten.

As mayor, which the SCPR figures he has just as good a chance to win as remaining a councilman in the face of a Litman candidacy; he has an opportunity to be much more effective for the welfare of Massillonians.

Lewis has the disposition to be a "come let us reason together" as mayor.  No doubt there will be times he disagrees with a majority of council, but he has the maturity to reach out to them and most of them will have the maturity to reach to him for the good of Massillonians to make Massillon government work for everyday Massillonians.

The SCPR encourages him to run for mayor even if former Democratic mayor of 24 years Francis H. Cicchinelli, Jr. decides to take on Mayor Catazaro-Perry in May, 2015.

It is time for Massillon to move on with a younger generation of executive leadership.

Lewis tells the SCPR that he considering whether or not 2015 is the correct timing to run for mayor.

The Report thinks it is.

Not so much that the political environment is that such that "stars are aligned for a Lewis win."

There is no doubt is that he may well win.  But there is a risk that he might not.  An equal of greater risk of his not winning exists, the SCPR thinks, in Ward 6 is present.

All he should ask for is a 50/50 chance of winning and then roll up his sleeves and get to work and get going now.

Certainly that 50/50 ratio if not better exists now.

Run, Ed, run!

When the Republicans took control of council in November, 2011; they took office in a spirit of working with the newly elected mayor in a non-partisan way.

But that was not to be.

For little did the Republicans know (or, for that matter, independent minded Democrats) at the time that the Catazaro-Perry/Maier, Jr. alliance would not allow for compromise, give and take or whatever label one wants to put on different functions of government to be a "check and balance" on one another.

As a consequence of the Catazaro-Perry/Maier, Jr. "my way or the highway" attitude, Massillon finds itself a financial mess with no solution in sight other than deep cuts in Massillon's operating budget which undoubtedly mean that everyday Massillonians will be less-safe and getting less services (e.g. street and highway repair).

Massillon can get on a track in which council and the mayor's office can work collaboratively each through "check and balance" of the function of their respective branches of government to bring effective and efficient government to Massillonians.

The only model that the Catazaro-Perry/Maier, Jr. cabal sees is to elect loyalists to council who pledge to work in a collusive fashion with "those who know best" and thereby give short-shrift to the everyday citizens of Massillon.

The elections of 2015 may be the most important in terms of the future well being of Massillon that the city has ever faced in its entire history.

Voters should use as their guidance as whom to support in May and November in the dawning new year this standard:

the commitment of candidates for mayor and for council who promise to work collaboratively together but ever mindful that they do have different roles in government and to function as a check and balance on each other.

Voters should reject those who are "top-down" types who appear to use politics and government for their personal enhancement and, not as it should be:  which is to say - for "the general welfare" of Massillonians.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

IS CURTIS WERREN IN LINE TO LOSE A SECOND JUDICIAL RACE?



In an election year that featured Republican gubernatorial and incumbent candidate John Kasich set to win by a landslide (he won by plus 37, 000 votes in Stark County), it was hard for the SCPR to fathom Democrat Chryssa Hartnett defeating Kasich Stark County Court of Common Pleas appointee (V. Lee Sinclair's replacement) Curt Werren.

But she did.

It was surprising not only in light of the Kasich shellacking of Democrat governor candidate Ed FitzGerald of Cleveland but also in the face of having a hard time raising money.

The number one priority for the Stark County "organized" Democratic Party was getting George T. Maier elected sheriff.

Even though Hartnett is a political ally of Stark County prosecutor John Ferrero (a man who tried to keep George from becoming sheriff), there is no indication that the Maier Massillon Political Machine held her association with Ferrero against her.

However, there is no doubt that the Maier political cabal had their priorities straight and Chryssa was not it.

It was former, of course, Stark County Party chairman Johnnie A. Maier, Jr's brother George.

But Chryssa, her mother (Nicholas) and presumably husband Thomas (he is a leading lawyer at Day, Ketterer Law Firm) were able to cobble together the necessary finances to not only give Werren "a run for his money" but, in fact, to defeat him by the scantest of margins (131 votes [after counting provisional ballots and recount; she led by only 29 votes at the end of county on election night).


Though the SCPR was skeptical that she could pull it off, she did and The Report thinks that Stark Countians are better off with a Judge Hartnett than a Judge Werren as a statement by voters that credentials of merit should trump political connections.

Apparently, it was devastating to Werren that he lost.  A highly reliable SCPR source says that after a North Canton City Council meeting Werren spouse Stephanie (Ward 3 councilwoman) was heard to say in a plaintiff manner that "Hartnett has a job (i.e. had she lost inasmuch as she is a lead Stark County prosecutor) but now her husband doesn't."

Isn't that interesting?

So now it appears that hubby Curt is out to rectify his loss to Hartnett in applying for a second appointment from the governor.

Several weeks ago, Canton Municipal Court Judge Stephen Belden abruptly announced he was resigning (which he did on or about November 30th).

It has been revealed that he is under investigation by Ohio Disciplinary Counsel for allegations that he has misused his power as a judge to create a de facto imprisonment for debt which is as a matter of law (i.e. de jure) in outlawed in the nation and, of course, in Ohio.

So the question is whether or not Werren will get "a second bite at the 'appointment' apple."

The SCPR thinks he will.

And here are the reasons why.

First, the SCPR has learned that state Senator Scott Oelslager has told the head of one of Stark County's premier law firms (not Day, Ketterer) that he will not be seeking the appointment.

Oelslager has been in either the Ohio House/Senate for a combined 30 years and is now at the pinnacle of his political power.

So The Report is not surprised that he wouldn't want now to switch careers at about age 63 which means he could only run for reelection one time because of Ohio's limit that once one reaches age 70, one cannot run for judge.

And there is a question that maybe he is not qualified because it does not appear that he has been practicing law for the - by Ohio law - minimum six years.

Yes, he has been a lawyer since 2001, but has he practiced law over the last 13 years?

Second, the only other Republican name mentioned is North Canton law director Tim Fox.

When the SCPR queries local lawyers about him being a possibility in that he is rumored to be interested; all The Report gets are "disbelieving" looks.

Fox's only political success has been as North Canton Ward 3 councilman (which Werren's wife got as an appointee) when Fox stepped aside in less than a year as councilman to take the law director position.

Come to think about it, there must be something in the blood of the Werrens conducive to them getting political appointments, no?

Sounds like to the SCPR that the Werrens despite their high level of financial/economic status might be thought to be of "the entitlement mentality."  That's reserved for welfare recipients, no?

The Report is told that when Stephanie Werren was told that it was rumored that Fox was interested in succeeding Belden, she reportedly was aghast and "not buying."

And she may be right.

In his race against Hartnett, Werren won the Canton Municipal Court District portion of the Stark Countywide vote by a margin of some 1,000 votes.


With Oelslager and Fox out and his proven vote prowess in the Canton Municipal Court District, that leaves Werren as the only viable Republican candidate.  

Accordingly, the SCPR fully expects him to get "a second bite at the apple."

But The Report thinks he may be in for "a second" loss.

And it will not likely come from Earle E. Wise, Jr who the SCPR thinks makes for a very poor candidate by force of his aloof personality.

Here is some SCPR history on Wise:
  • E. J. Wise is a highly respected Stark County Democratic political figure (who has pedigreed entree into Stark County Democratic circles through his father, former 5th District Court of Appeals judge Earle E. Wise, Sr.): among the most respected in the entire county. 
  • It is well known that he (E.E, Jr.) aspires to be a judge. He, a former prosecutor associated with the Bob Horowitz prosecutorial team, ran against incumbent judge Dixie Park (of the Stark County Probate Court) in 2004 and ran a relatively close race.
  • E.J. did try to get Governor Ted Strickland to appoint him to a general jurisdiction Stark County Common Pleas judgship when Sara Lioi was appointed by President Bush to the federal bench (March, 2007). But he was up against the equally "highly respected" Democrat Canton Law Director Joe Martuccio and the properly "politically credentialed" Taryn Heath. Heath ended up with the appointment.
And here is some other third party source material:


All-in-all, the SCPR does not see Wise as a viable political candidate and should he win the Democratic nomination, Werren, the SCPR thinks, will "win in a walk over" over him.

In short, the SCPR sees Wise as a minimal factor in determining which Democrat (assuming Werren is the Kasich appointee) will face Werren in November.

Wise's candidacy might hurt Kristen Guadado with those Stark County voters who are turned off by Walls-Alexander having most of her legal experience in Summit County.  Perhaps some of the votes that might go to Walls-Alexander, but for her extensive Summit County ties, will, instead go to Wise.  However, the SCPR thinks Guardado will get most of the "I prefer a Stark County centered candidate" vote.

There is, of course, the possiblity that the two women will split the vote and Wise will slip in by a few votes.

Turning now more specifically to the two candidates that the SCPR thinks have the best chance to win the May Democratic primary:
  • Angela Walls-Alexander, a native of Canton (graduated from McKinley in 1992) and now lives in Plain Township with her husband and criminal defense attorney (Summit County) John Alexander,
  • Kristen Guardado, a 1989 graduate of McKinley High School,  also of Plain, who, in addition to being Canton's chief criminal case trial attorney, is a member of the Plain Local Board of Education,
Most of Walls-Alexander's legal experience since graduating from The University of Akron School of Law in 2001 and passing the Ohio Bar examination in the same year has been in Summit County.

But she did work in Masillon for Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero when he was law director in Massillon in 1999.  However, her running for the Belden seat has not involved Ferrero's input. Walls-Alexander says that the decision to run for the Canton Municipal Court opening was entirely  one made by herself in consultation with her husband.

Her work in Summit County has been impressive.

For starters here is an award given to her for her current boss Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh, to wit:

Angela Walls-Alexander joined the Prosecutor’s Office seven and one-half years ago.  She is an integral part of our Domestic Violence Unit and helped to create the first felony Domestic Violence Court in Ohio.

Her dedication to helping victims of domestic violence was never more apparent than during the capital murder trial against Dawud Spaulding.  Angela worked with Erica Singleton, the mother of Spaulding’s children, for many years.  When Erica finally left Spaulding, he murdered her and another man and paralyzed another.  It was devastating for everyone who had tried to help Erica, especially Angela.  As difficult as the case was, however, she was able to secure a guilty verdict against Dawud Spaulding.  He is scheduled to be executed next year.    

While most employees in the Prosecutor’s Office are fairly vocal and gregarious, Angela is known for her calm, quiet demeanor.  She works equally hard on every case assigned to her, from low-level felony Domestic Violence charges to cases involving Rape and Murder.

Many people may not know that Angela and I have something in common beyond our passion for ensuring justice for victims.  We are both parents to a child with autism.  Being a working mom is tough.  Being a working mom to a child with special needs is even tougher.  You never know what challenges will present themselves with your child.  Yet, no matter what those challenges are, you must set them aside every day while you’re at work.  Only those with a child with special needs can fully grasp what you’re going through, and even then it is merely a guess as to your particular situation.  So I find it impressive and inspirational that, despite the trials and tribulations in her personal life, Angela is still able to successfully manage a heavy caseload without complaint and treat every victim with dignity, respect and compassion.

It is my pleasure to give this High Point Award to Angela Walls-Alexander.
As impressive as the award is, the details of Walls-Alexander's career and her aspirations for abating if not eliminating "domestic violence" from the American family landscape are compelling as well.

Other credentials include:
  • she has worked for the Summit County prosecutor's office for almost 10 years,
  • she has about six years experience working in the Summit County Public Defender's office doing criminal defense work and because she was permitted to have a private practice in that position, other experience includes working,
    • civil cases,
    • juvenile cases,
    • domestic relations cases,
      • across multiple jurisdiction in northeast Ohio
As far as the political side of running for judge are concerned, Walls-Alexander's plan is to run "a grassroots campaign" staffed by family and many Stark County-based friends she says she has.

She has an undergraduate degree in political science and says consequently she understands the political realities of getting elected.

The SCPR notes that she had an entry on Chryssa Hartnett's campaign Facebook page and asked Walls-Alexander whether or not she had a connection with Hartnett's campaign.

She did not.   However, her husband who has a practice in Summit County and who bills himself as "the peoples' lawyer" represented a person connected to the Bobby Cutts murder case (one of Hartnett's prize achievements as a Stark County prosecutor) and that consequently she met Hartnett on several occasions.  But Walls-Alexander has no personal political connection to Hartnett.

The most impressive thing about Walls-Alexander to the SCPR is her plan for bring a Family Violence Court to Canton should she be elected.

It would be modeled after the one that she has been a key figure in instituting in Summit County.

She (as a public defender) worked in the Akron Municipal Court (which has a 13 year old domestic violence specialized docket) representing clients with domestic violence and mental health issues.  For Walls-Alexander, the specialized docket court has a structure that facilitates resolving these very difficult cases.

She says Canton has about 1,200 domestic violence cases a year.  Her idea is to have a specialized docket handling only domestic violence cases.   Her objectives are to have consistency in outcome and treatment options.  In Akron she says, if an offender completes the treatment program, there is a  possibility that the original charges could be amended or dropped.

Walls-Alexander believes that courts need innovative thinking such as hers and that she has seen how an effective family violence court intervention program can change lives.

Right off the bat, one has to say that Guardado has an advantage in a Democratic primary over Alexander due to the fact that all of her legal practice has been in Stark County since graduating from The University of Akron School of Law.

Guardado (licensed to practice law in Ohio since 1995) tells the SCPR that yesterday - consonant with her pulling petitions from the Stark County Board of Elections - she did sit down and discuss her plan to run for the Belden seat with Stark County Dems' chairman Phil Giavasis and Kody Gonzalez.
  • SCPR Note:  Kody is the son of the immediate former chairman Randy Gonzalez who succeeded Randy has Giavasis' "second in command" chief deputy clerk of courts who the SCPR thinks is "the chairman in training."
Guardado says that Giavasis and Gonzalez did not commit to support her candidacy in the May, 2015 Democratic primary election but were encouraging of her running.

An interesting thing about Guardado is that one wonders where she finds the time to do everything that she "has on her plate."

She is:
  • Canton chief prosecuting attorney (going back about 20 years as an intern and then a prosecutor),
    • she also serves as head of the domestic violence unit,
      • working 20 hours a week at that job for the past 16 years,
  • has a private practice doing:
    • devoting 40 hours a week and having done so for the past 16 years, doing:
      • civil work,
      • guardian ad litem for children,
      • civil litigation,
      • personnel injury,
      • probate,
      • adoption,
      • corporate work
  • is a Plain Local Board of Education member going back 13 years, and 
  • is actively engaged in several civic activities
Add on top of the foregoing, the numerous hours it takes to operate a "state-of-the-art" political campaign; one has to wonder how she could possibly do justice to the effort needed to be competitive when it seems that she faces an uphill challenge, no?

Make no mistake about it.  Again, assuming Curt Werren is going to get a second Kasich appointment, his running well against a very strong candidate in Chryssa Hartnett winning by some 1,000 votes in the Canton Municipal Court District seems very daunting to the SCPR.

And it should not be forgotten that a second chance for Werren is "a do or die effort" in terms of his even having a job.

Think he and his supporters will not "pull out all the stops" on this opportunity to redeem himself?

Nevertheless, the SCPR thinks that whomever among Guardado and Walls-Alexander survives the Democratic primary (note:  the SCPR does not take Wise to be much of a candidate in terms of viability) does present Werren with a highly competitive scenario.

As with Walls-Alexander, Kristen Guardado has strong credentials in dealing wth day-in, day-out problems faced by central Stark County families.

One of her prime interests pretty much parallels Walls-Alexander in what Guardado calls "a diversion program."
  • that is to say, Canton Municipal Court's "Discretionary Rehabilitation Program,"
  • which can result in an offender having his/her arrest/conviction record expunged
Guardado also is interested in and has talked with court officials about creating a drivers license diversion program to aid participants to maintain driving privileges.

Her focus if elected judge will be to make a person's contact with the Canton Municipal Court be an experience in which lessons were learned with a minimum of consequences.

Guardado says she might apply with the Stark County GOP/Governor John Kasich for the appointment to replace Stephen Belden.

While the SCPR thinks that whomever comes out of the Democratic primary will have a uphill climb to defeat the presumptive Republican nominee Curt Werren, as did Chryssa Hartnett.

As things now stand, one should expect Werren to become Canton's next "new" municipal court judge.

The rallying call for the primary-surviving Democrat ought to be:  "Remember Chryssa Hartnett!"

Monday, December 15, 2014

A CHRISTMAS GIFT TO OHIOANS WHO WANT TO ENJOY "SUNSHINE" IN DECEMBER!



The Stark County Political Report has never heralded a press release of the sort reported on today as "breaking news."

But for those of us who want a more transparent government and for more and more Stark County citizens to be equipped to acquire the knowhow to make Stark County village, city, township and board of education governments more transparent, today's press release is both "good news" and "breaking news" that Ohio's recently re-elected attorney general is making Ohio Sunshine Law training available with the ease of Internet access.

Here is the entire press release (reconfigured for ease of blog viewing):

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
December 15, 2014

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Dan Tierney: 614-466-3840
Lisa Hackley: 614-466-3840

Attorney General DeWine Announces Sunshine Laws Training Now Online

(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced today that his office’s Sunshine Laws Training, traditionally presented in-person at regional sites, is now also available as an online video course. 


The course is available to anyone through the Attorney General’s website at no cost to the user and is approved for three hours of self-study Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit by the Supreme Court of Ohio.

“The public’s access to government is the cornerstone of a vital and participatory democracy, and Ohio’s Sunshine Laws are among the most comprehensive open government laws in the nation,” said Attorney General DeWine.


 “Promoting open and transparent government is a priority of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, and I hope that this new online format will increase convenience and accessibility to our Sunshine Laws Training.”

The Online Sunshine Laws Training breaks down the three-hour live training into thirteen separate lessons.  

  • Each lesson combines a video covering important topics under the Ohio Public Records Act or Ohio Open Meetings Act with a short quiz.  
    • Topics cover the length and breadth of the Ohio Sunshine Laws, from defining a public record to appropriate redactions before release. 
    • To complete the training, users must watch each video lesson in its entirety and correctly answer the quiz questions concerning the material covered.
  • The training lessons can be completed at the user’s own pace, and the entire three-hour training does not need to be completed in a single sitting. Users are able to return to the videos they have completed if a specific topic is of particular interest. The online training is approved for CLE credit, as are live Sunshine Laws trainings, and can be completed at home or in the office.
By statute, every elected official in Ohio must attend public records training once every term of office. 

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office provides this training on the Ohio Sunshine Laws to elected officials across the state, providing elected officials and other public employees with information concerning public records law and compliance to help ensure accountability and transparency in the conduct of public business. 

In the last four years, the Attorney General’s Office has conducted trainings in all corners of the state, drawing more than 5,300 attendees.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office will continue to offer live Sunshine Laws Trainings across the state.

The online training is available online at https://sunshinelaw.ohioattorneygeneral.gov. 


A schedule of in-person regional trainings is available at http://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/sunshinelawtraining.

This email was sent to tramols@att.net using GovDelivery, on behalf of: Ohio Attorney General  30 E. Broad St.  Columbus  OH  43215


The SCPR is highly impressed with DeWine in his having made this training available to the general public AFTER the November, 2014 election in which he was reelected by a comfortable margin.

The Stark County community of North Canton has been particularly troublesome in providing public records to its citizens.

Recently, apparently North Canton Council (though the SCPR knows of no formal action authorizing the act) through its law director Timothy Fox refused a citizen-requested mediation by the Ohio attorney general's office with North Canton officials on the citizen's public records request.

The SCPR has had difficulty with the Canton Joint Recreation Board (misusing, The Report thinks, an attorney/client privilege to deny information that the public should know) and with Massillon financial officials (in providing information not comporting with 21st century software standards).

Generally, Stark County subdivision officialdom has been diligent in complying to SCPR requests for public records.

Hopefully, licensed Stark County attorneys will do the training online for the continuing legal education credit they can earn and consider offering citizens pro bono legal services in obtaining 100% compliance with the law.


1992 TERM LIMITS COME BACK TO HAUNT STATEHOUSE REPUBLICANS IN 2015?



One of The Stark County Political Report's favorite sayings is:  getting hoisted by one's own petard.

A number of years ago, yours truly used the expression in a Lake Rotary Club meeting in describing the comeuppance visited on the perpetrator of act as a recipient of the effect of his own action.

A table mate burst out:  "Martin, do you know what that expression means?"

"Ya gotta be kidding," I said.

But maybe he was asking the question to the wrong person?

Perhaps the questioner ought to have been around in the inner circles of the Ohio House/Senate Caucuses when they teamed up being behind the effort of putting the 1992 proposed legislation as an Ohio constitutional amendment on that year's ballot.

Used in tandem with control of the redistricting process gained by the Ohio Republican Party in the 1990 statewide elections, the Republican beginning in 1995 a control (except for the Ohio House in the first two years [2007 and 2008] of Democratic governor Ted Strickland's term in office); Republicans have had a virtual stranglehold control over Ohio government ever since.


In Stark County, Republicans Scott Oelslager (the 29th Ohio Senate District) and J. Kirk Schuring (the Ohio House, the 48th) have traded off Stark County's senate seat and the Jackson Township House seat (the number and configuration of both have changed slightly) in a game of musical chairs except in this game each get a chair to sit in; only its a different chair as a way to defeat the effect of term limits.

For being the Ohio General Assembly for a combined 50 years and much of it with Republican control (or in a supermajority), Oelslager and Schuring have produced relatively little for Stark County.


Their time in the legislature appears to more about their personal longevity as elected officials (reference:  "the musical chairs thing") and not much about taking care of the needs of Stark County.

In the 2014 election, Republicans increased their control in the Ohio House.

But the problem is that the veto-proof Ohio General Assembly Republican  majority could prove to be like "a drunken sailor at the helm of 'the ship of state.'"

The Ohio House in particular is dominated by right wing extremists (e.g. Christina Hagan of Marlboro Township) who in recent years have been tamped down "somewhat" by one William Batchelder who has been 101st Ohio Speaker of the House beginning in 2011.


Batchelder's significance to keeping the political wackos from gaining control of the asylum was noted in yesterday's Cleveland Plain Dealer, to wit:
Years of experience are walking out the Statehouse door on Dec. 31 when the 130th Ohio General Assembly expires, and with it the terms of term-limited state legislators.

First and foremost is the loss of House Speaker William Batchelder, a Medina Republican who was conservative before many Ohioans even knew what the word meant.

Term limits will retire Batchelder, one of the smartest and most adroit legislators the Statehouse has ever seen. The irony is that term limits, which Ohio voters approved in 1992, were directed first and foremost at Democrats' 22-year control of the Ohio House, and the 20-year speakership of Democrat Vern Riffe, not at Republicans, and certainly not at Bill Batchelder.
 Beatchelder, being a House member in 1992 (having initially become a member in 1969), undoubtedly voted for term limits.

Generally, one-party-control is bad for the people and good for the political party.

However, the one-term-limit aspect of the Ohio GOP gaining supermajority status might prove to be bad for the people of Ohio and Stark County it could also end up being bad for the Ohio Republican Party.

Without the thoroughly conservative but stable Batchelder being at the helm, it could be that especially in the Ohio House that redistricting power and term limits will put the "inmates in control of the asylum."

Only Governor John Kasich, not exactly a "flaming political liberal" and a few conservative and politically stable Republican Ohio senators stand in the way of the extremists.

To the SCPR, term limits with the ouster of Batchelder is clearly a case of the Ohio Republican Party being set up - at its own hand - to be a prime example of "one being hoisted by one's own petard."

Just desserts for them, no?

But how about everyday Ohioans?

Friday, December 12, 2014

WILL HAGAN'S DRIVE ON "HEATBEAT BILL" BE HER POLITICAL BANE OR PATHWAY TO POLITICAL STARDOM?


On August 13, 2013 Stark County's Christina Hagan (Republican - Ohio House District 50) of Marlboro Township introduced House Bill 248 which is known as "the Heartbeat Bill."

A co-sponsor was fellow Stark County Republican Kirk Schuring (Ohio House District 48) of Jackson Township.

It appears that unlike Arkansas and North Dakota which have passed similar legislation and which, predictably, are in the process of challenge in the federal court system, Hagan's bill in Ohio has about the same chance as the proverbial "snowball in Hell."

The bill would prevent medical doctors from aborting fetuses at about six weeks into a pregnancy which is the point about which a heartbeat can be detected.

While the life of a mother is an exception to the provision; pregnancy due to rape and incest is not.

But this legislative week has not been without some success for Hagan.

She did gain passage of her House Bill (HB) 10 with the support of all three of her fellow Stark County legislators.

HB 10 is legislation designed to prevent a repeat of the April, 2009 discovered theft of some $3 million from the Stark County treasury by former Chief Deputy Treasurer Vince Frustaci.  He is now serving time in federal prison for the theft.

While Hagan's work on HB 10 was significant for Stark Countians in light of the Frustaci matter, it did not get the near the notoriety that HB 248 got her.

As the SCPR sees it, Hagan's fixation on the heartbeat legislation could have either of two effects:
  • it could doom any future political aspirations she has, or
  • it could, especially in a federal office context, catapult in a limelight that might someday be the equivalent of:
    •  Christine O'Donnell of Delaware fame for her extreme right wing Republican politics, or alternatively
    • Michele Bachmann of Minnesota

That's how right-wing the SCPR thinks Hagan is.

For Hagan the key is whether or not she can avoid the tag of being "way out there somewhere" in the minds of more circumspect voters than the core right wingers who support her no matter what.

She did get a plurality for HB 248 in the Ohio House, but a majority is needed.



However, political observers who know Statehouse politics doubt she can get it through the Ohio Senate and, even if she does, through a gubernatorial veto.

Recently re-elected Governor John Kasich has presidential aspirations and he certainly does not want to be identified with the extreme right wing of the Republican Party.

A show of divisiveness even within the Ohio Republican Party is the fact that 11 of Hagan's fellow House Republican voted against her heartbeat bill.

Stark County's lone Democrat; namely, Stephen Slesnick of Canton, took the coward's way out and did not vote on the final voted upon version of the bill.

It will be interesting for Stark Countians to track Hagan's political future.

It could be that Stark County and Ohio's 50th House District could be in the national news, wanted or unwanted.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

THE "AD" THAT CAUSED JOHNNIE A. MAIER, JR'S LATEST FLIP-OUT?



UPDATED:  08:30 AM

WHAT?
FRANK CICCHINELLI MIGHT BE COMING BACK!


The Stark County Political Report thinks that:
  • Massillon clerk of courts
  • former Stark County Democratic Party chairman,
  • Stark County-based political confidant to former Ohio governor Ted Strickland, and
  • the "would be" king maker in Stark County politics, namely;
Johnnie A. Maier, Jr  (JAM) must have been flipping-out big time when this advertisement appeared recently in a Massillon publication focusing on selling services and products in the Massillon area.


The Report has talked with the business owner of this advertisement and he says that the ad has absolutely nothing to do with the question of whether or not former 24 year Massillon mayor Francis H. Cicchinelli, Jr. is going to run in the May, 2015 Democratic primary election against Massillon surrogate (i.e. the face of the JAM administration) mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry.

And, of course, you and The Report will take the man at his word.

But will Johnnie A. Maier, Jr?

The SCPR thinks not.

By the way, the copy of the advertisement was supplied to the SCPR by a person who The Report thinks is friendly with Johnnie if not an outright political ally.

A previous ad that Maier, Jr. apparently thought reflected negatively on him, The Report is told, resulted in his stopping by the business and having "a word or two" with the owner.

The owner says that putting up humorous ads is his thing and he is not getting political.

Hear that Johnnie?

The Report believes Maier is Stark County's foremost paranoid politician and likely has been flipping-out ever since the ad appeared.

It is nothing unusual for politicians - in general - to be paranoid about the security of their position and political power, but knowing him as well as the SCPR does; Maier, Jr. has to be the "King of 'Hill Political Paranoiac'" in Stark County.

The SCPR is being told by some who have access to Maier that he comes politically "unglued" on a regular basis with the publication of SCPR blogs dealing with his Massillon and Stark County political interests.

His sidekick R. Shane Jackson (see his credentials below) flipped-out on the SCPR with an email to a list of Stark County office holders months ago (LINK).


Even before that, way back in 2008, Jackson went ballistic with The Report at a Celeste DeHoff for State Representative political event in Canal Fulton (LINK).


It took SCPR "good friend" and former Stark County Democratic Party chairman Randy Gonzalez to pull Jackson away from yours truly.

A belated thank you, Randy!

For some odd reason, the Maiers think (according to George T. Maier) that the SCPR singles them out for blogger attention.

All that is evidence of is that the politically-involved-Maiers ought to rethink being in politics at all.

Last time the SCPR checked: for "a responsible to the public media outlet," scrutiny of public officials and candidates for office is the order of the day, no?

What is the expression:  "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen," no?

Moreover, anyone who reads The Stark County Political Report in a non-narcissistic way knows that this blog is - in the words of former Local 94 Plumbers and Pipefitters Business Agent Dan Fonte - "an equal opportunity critic."

In the SCPR's journalistic fantasy world, The Report gets a phone call from either Johnnie, Jr. and/or George, to wit:  "Okay, Martin let's set a date and a time for a "no holds barred interview."

As readers of this blog know, subjects get every opportunity to respond to SCPR critiques.

But behind the bravado of Johnnie and George, the SCPR thinks, is cowardice.

Neither of them have the "b*l*s"  (let's be nice now) "intestinal fortitude" to do such an interview which the SCPR is certainly game for.

But no other Stark County media outlet is.

For anyone who can go toe-to-toe with them and whom they have no leverage over, they slink away and become incommunicado.
 
A number of Stark County politicians have tried to bully the SCPR including Johnnie's "political 'friend for life'" and Massillon Municipal Court judge Edward J. Elum.

No surprise here.

Elum has been chastised by nobody less that the Ohio Supreme Court for pushing around folks who have dealt with or appeared before him.

And including Johnnie's brother and sheriff-elect George T. Maier.

And including a number of other Stark County elected officials who are beholden to the Maiers.

And some (e.g. Stark County prosecutor John Ferrero) who are not and are, in fact, thought to be bitter enemies of the Maier politicos.

Apparently, quite a few Stark County politicos fear the political power of Johnnie A. Maier, Jr.

And, no doubt, he, especially with the election of George is a mighty powerful man in our county.

These are folks who do not belong in the hurly-burly world of politics.

Stark County's only countywide newspaper and its sister publication in Massillon seemingly shy away from journalistically confronting either Maier, but not The Stark County Political Report.

Johnnie has to be riding high these days and probably is thinking like a lot of powerful politicians do; that is to say, to wit: he and his elected official followers are not accountable to the Stark County public.

But they are, and the SCPR will continue to focus on them as well as non-Maier beholdens who share the same grandiose mentality and resent anyone poking around to find out how they may be using political power for self-enhancement rather than for the public good.

Johnnie had an expert in the accumulation and use of political power teach him the fine art of power politics.  That was Vern Riffe, Jr. former long term speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, 1975 through 1995.

Johnnie served at Riffe's pleasure in a political capacity while he represented parts of Stark County in the Ohio General Assembly from 1990 through 1999 at which time he was forced to leave due to term limits (eight consecutive years).

In responsible hands, political power can be beneficial to people.

However, there are relatively few politicians who have the self-discipline to use political power responsibly.  And the SCPR does not count Maier, Jr. and many of elected officials and appointed officials followers of his as being among them.

The SCPR is particularly concerned about Johnnie's brother George being Stark County sheriff.

The Report has said in prior blogs that the SCPR thinks that it is only a matter of time until county officials will find themselves "in the soup" in trying to explain this or that official action by the sheriff-elect.

Hopefully, The Report is wrong because another county crisis could make it impossible for county officials to get a renewal, if not an enhancement, of the "to expire in 2019" 1/2 cent county sales tax.

If The Report proves to be correct in the expectation that George will somewhere along the line abuse his power of office, then those county officials who supported him in very his close election victory over Republican Larry Dordea will have some accounting to do with the Stark County public.

The SCPR in quite a number of blogs raised the specter of "unanswered questions" on allegations of Maier conduct (e.g. the Columbus Dispatch article on his #2 Ohio Department of Public Safety days, the Mike Stevens incident and the Altieri reserve deputy sheriff matter, among others).

However, the county's only countywide newspaper refused - as evidenced by its silence - to press Maier with obvious questions and, thereby, it too, better hope that Maier stays on "the straight and narrow" as sheriff.

For the SCPR will be there to hold "their feet to the fire," should Maier fail.

Of course, if he "turns over a 'new' leaf," The Report will be quick to recognize such.

Now that he has placed his brother in Stark County's most powerful policing office; Jr. will be focusing on maintaining himself as the de facto mayor of Massillon.

Anybody who thinks de jure mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry is the "real" mayor of Massillon clearly does not understand how anybody who is dependent on Maier, Jr. for political support and sponsorship cannot not be her or his own person.

Once the SCPR wrote a letter to the editor soon after Ted Strickland became governor that was critical of the way Strickland was handling education reform in Ohio.

Johnnie (then the Stark County Dems' chairman) was not a happy camper.

Consistent with "the control person he is," Johnnie tried that game on yours truly which, of course, fell on "deaf ears."

Up until the first incident, The Report had not seen much if any of that side of Maier, Jr.

Later on he tried to weigh-in on having yours truly vote in favor of validating his replacement of 13 year board member and Ironworker Billy Sherer as one of two Stark County Democrats who serve as Board of Elections members.

All that showed was that Johnnie is a slow learner.

The answer?

A straight to the point:  "No!"

Of course, Johnnie prevailed on the Sherer replacement.

But "the SCPR in the making" showed him - if he was looking and hearing - that there are those of us who can remain his/her own person when politically correct politics militates (in the interest of personal advancement) - for some - otherwise.

Interestingly enough, like when the curtain was pulled away from in front of the Wizard of Oz, there was nothing but a disappointed whimper from Maier at yours truly's refusal to vote Maier's way on the Sherer matter.

Ever since the direct confrontations did not work, it seems that Maier and friends work among the dark shadows of Stark County government and politics to get a handle on The Stark County Political Report.

Good Luck, Johnnie!

At one time, yours truly hoped that Maier would use his knack for acquiring political power for the public good.

But as the SCPR sees it, that is not what has happened.

The Report sees Maier as predominantly using his acquired political power for the benefit of himself and his group.  A group which by and large (but not exclusively) the SCPR thinks encompasses those pictured in the following graphic.


The SCPR thinks there is a 50/50 chance that Maier minion Kathy Catazaro-Perry will waltz uncontested into a second term as de jure, but not de facto mayor of Massillon.

The Report has written that it appears that former Mayor Francis H. Cicchinelli, Jr will not challenge the Maier stand-in next May.

But Cicchinelli tells the SCPR that he has not decided and may well not decide until the filing deadline for the May, 2015 Democratic primary election.

He has sharpened his rhetorical attack on Mayor Catazaro-Perry calling her a "township-girl" and not a true Massillonian.  Her origin is Perry Township.

These are the SCPR's words not Cicchinelli's, but it appears to The Report in talking with the former mayor that a 2015 campaign would feature Frank Cicchinelli as "a political attack dog" going after the "political jugular" of Catzaro-Perry and her mentor/controller Johnnie A. Maier, Jr.

If decides to run, he does have a Catazaro-Perry record to go after.  Something that was pretty much unavailable in 2011 when she had merely been one council person among ten.

Should Cichinelli not challenge Catazaro-Perry as the SCPR expects, then the next hurdle for the face of the de facto Maier, Jr administration is Councilman Ed Lewis, IV (Republican, Ward 6).

But maybe they have nothing to worry about.

Yesterday, a key Massillon Republican told the SCPR that it is appearing more and more as if Lewis will not challenge whomever the Democratic nominee is in the November, 2015 general election.

The Report thinks that should Cicchinelli and Lewis bow-out, it won't because be of a fear of the Maier Massillon Political Machine, but rather because Catazaro-Perry (err Maier [and Stark County Dems political director and Massillon chief deputy clerk of courts Shane Jackson]) have by their antagonistic relationship with most of the members of Massillon City Council made Massillon one huge financial mess.

The thinking has to be:
  • Who wants to take on "cleaning the mess up?"
  • Let Catazaro-Perry, Maier, Jr and Jackson field the irate input of Massillonans when the all but certain draconian cuts come as a consequence of two recent income tax increase failures, no?
    • Note:  Catazaro-Perry outright did not support the first effort and was "lukewarm" at best on the November, 2014 effort.
And who can blame Cicchinelli, Lewis or anybody else from leaving it to the perpetrators of the mess to clean up and absorbing the political consequences for being the primary cause of it in the first place?
  • SCPR Note:  Financial mess to get worse? 
    • Recently, an article appeared in Crain's Cleveland Business which suggests that the vaunted Baker Hughes facility in Massillon (a key factor if Massillon is to get out of financial trouble) continued Massillon existence may be in jeopardy.
  •  
Isn't it interesting that the mayor did not respond to Crain's Cleveland Business phone calls.

Did Maier, Jr. instruct her not to?

Johnnie, Jr. may have some skill at playing political "hardball" and, some think, "gutter" politics; but a citywide administrator for multiple departments of Massillon government - he is not!

Even The Report's take on Maier, Jr's political prowess is mixed.

Starting with the recent election.

Not nearly as impressive as Chryssa Hartnett's victory over Republican incumbent-appointed judge Curtis Werren, but you have to chalk it up to Maier, Jr's consummate effort for having gotten his brother elected sheriff.

But the SCPR thinks he had Republican help.

Had Stark County Republican commissioner Janet Creighton gotten off her duff and come all-out-for-Dordea, he would have won.

So the question is this.

Did someone from the Maier political operation get to her and persuade her to "sit this one out?"

Moreover, where were all those other Republican stalwarts (e.g. Stark County auditor Alan Harold) in being involved in the Dordea campaign?

Harold, in particular is troubling, because he ran as a more or less reform candidate against former Stark County auditor and stanch Democrat Kim Perez back in 2010, making some pretty serious charges on Perez about his political relationship with former Stark County treasurer Gary D. Zeigler.

Harold's alleged that the relationship caused Perez to be less than diligent in protecting the Stark County public interest in county financial operations.

To The Report, Larry Dordea has unquestioned character and is a highly competent policeman and police administrator.

What more could the Republicans want in a "Republican" election year?

Something does not smell right about how the Stark County GOP leadership seemingly - highlighted by Creighton's "refusal to endorse" - mostly sat the Maier/Dordea race out in an election that Republican governor John Kasich bested his Democratic opponent by over 37,000 votes.

The big political thorn in Johnnie A. Maier's side is that his cheerleader-esque mayor has to work for the most part (Note: the SCPR thinks it her and the Maier group "in-your-face-political style") with a hostile Massillon City Council.

While in 2011 Maier, Jr. and his Massillon political operatives were busy helping the insubstantial (in terms of government leadership ability) Catazaro-Perry take out Cicchinelli; they let control of council slip into the hands of Massillon's Republicans.

The Report is convinced that the Republicans were prepared to work with the public-relations-esque mayor, but she was having none of it.

Catazaro-Perry certainly understood that when one is beholden to Maier, Jr. and his ilk; one gets marching orders from "the power behind the throne."

And that is where political paranoia comes in.

The SCPR thinks, Maier's political paranoia undermines his ability to effectively function in the face of those who are willing to "stand front and center" with:
  • questions, 
  • criticism, and, 
  • OMG! - the unthinkable - outright opposition.
It would be one thing if only Maier, Jr. and his political friends suffer because he cannot get a grip on his suspicious attitude in relation to anyone who differs with him.

But the SCPR thinks that much of the financial mess that the city of Massillon and its everyday citizens face today is the doing of the "wariness of everybody who questions me" attitude emanating from the Maier Massillon Political Club which, of course, is the culture imparted by the group's leader.

And, who in the end will suffer?

It certainly will not be the Maier and his loyalist friends.

One way or another they will be taken care of, even if they lose an election here and there.

However, it would be catastrophic should they lose "the big Kahuna:  the mayoralty of Massillon."

For it certainly would mean a long unemployment line for the Catazaro-Perry/Maier loyalists on the Massillon government payroll who some think have been placed on the job for their political loyalty and not necessarily for their up to doing the job for Massillon taxpayers.

In the main however sufferers from the current Massillon financial mess, which the SCPR thinks is now entirely owned by the Catazaro-Perry administration, is and will continue to be everyday Massillonians.

And as the complaints to Massillon City Hall kick-in, the question has to be - as in the Nixon presidency - will political paranoia click-in and ordinary Massillon end up on a Maier/Catazaro-Perry/Massillon Political Machine "enemies list?"

Catazaro-Perry has already let it be known that the SCPR is not welcome at the Massillon mayor's office.  As if executive office of Massillon's seat of government is her private domain.  But she is typical of how those who cannot handle media scrutiny react.

They try to ban, they select which media they will talk to and on and on goes the list of methods they used to punish those who persist with telling questions.

That's exactly where political paranoia can lead.

Currently, the SCPR is reading a book entitled "The Fifties" by David Halberstam.

One of the things that Halberstam glomed onto in his political analysis of the early 1950s was the beginning of Nixon's political paranoia.

Only one year into his presidency (1969), some think Nixon had already began to fill out his "enemies list."

And we know all too well what end that brought Nixon to.

Nixon got what he deserved.

But not the people of the United States of America.

Because of Nixon's early-on unchecked paranoia and his acting on it; political cynicism took a giant leap forward and has been added to by succeeding paranoiac politicians over ensuing years so that in 2014 very few Americans trust political party leadership.

Once public officials and political leader lose the public trust, "Katy bar the door," no?

Hopefully, somebody, anybody will step up in Massillon and prevent a Nixon-esque problem from developing in Tigerland, and, indeed, in Stark County as a whole.

To the SCPR, in Massillon it is looking more and more that it is not going to be Francis H. Cicchinelli, Jr or Ed Lewis, IV.

And another surprise might be in the offing.

With the elections 2015, Mayor Kathy may actually get a council that will knuckle under to her will which, if it happens, could be an out-and-out disaster for Massillonians.

The Report hears that Republicans are having difficulty in getting leading Stark County Republicans (the likes of party chair Matthews, Creighton and others) interested in helping Massillon Republicans maintain the substantial gains the have made on council (i.e. Cunningham-Hedderly, Halter, Lewis and Chovan).

Whether or not that happens or Maier surrogate Catazaro-Perry stays in office, Massillonians can depend on the SCPR to keep the scrutiny going.

And Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. can just keep on flipping out!

American democracy is not the province of personal political interests.

American democracy is about our government officials and institutions providing for "the general welfare."

Monday, December 8, 2014

NORTH CANTON GOVERNMENT: "THE KILLING FIELDS OF DEMOCRACY?"


UPDATED:  08:45 AM

VIDEO

CONCERNED CITIZENS OF NORTH CANTON
ON
  • JUDGE HAAS DECISION
  • COMPLAINTS ABOUT COUNCIL
  • COST OF COUNCIL TO  TAXPAYERS
  • WE'RE NOT GOING AWAY  
APPENDIX

THE HAAS OPINION 
(without footnotes)
============
FULL COMMENTS
OF 
OSBORNE'S
ATTORNEY
================
COLLECTION
OF
OSBORNE QUOTES

Last Tuesday's decision by Judge John Haas, Stark County Court of Common Pleas (Court) as interpreted by the SCPR clearly indicates that leading North Canton civic activist Chuck Osborne (a burr in the posterior of North Canton City Council and Mayor David Held) may have gotten "the cart before the horse in submitting his initiative petition denying part-time council members taxpayer paid health care insurance benefits for  voter consideration in the November, 2012 general election.
  • SCPR Note:  Judge Haas was as trial judge a key figure in the Ohio Supreme Court finding that Lake Township officials in the election of November, 2011 on the advice of legal counsel Charles Hall had not properly framed the issue whereby Lake Township was seeking to convert Lake's police department into a township-wide department.
Perhaps Osborne should have submitted - first - an initiative petition to amend North Canton's charter changing that part of (Section 4.04) North Canton's charter, although the editors at The Repository apparently think that he did not have that option.

In a recent editorial, probably "the worst editorial board" for a city newspaper the size of Canton (so the SCPR thinks) erroneously says that it will be 2017 before amendments can be done to North Canton's Charter.

Well, just take a look at this language from the Charter itself:
Section 6.04.  Charter Review.

     In January, 1967, and in January of each tenth year thereafter, the Council shall appoint a commission of fifteen (15) electors of the municipality who hold no other municipal elective or appointive office, except on advisory bodies of the municipality, as members of a Charter Review Commission.  Such commission shall review the Municipal Charter, and within five (5) calendar months after such appointment, recommend to Council such alterations, revisions, and amendments, if any, to this Charter, as in the judgment of the Charter Review Commission are desirable.  The Council shall cause the recommendations of the Charter Review Commission to be published in a newspaper of general circulation within the municipality on two successive weeks, and Council shall hold a public hearing on such recommendations within one week after the second publication thereof.  Meetings of the Charter Review Commission shall be public meetings
 And.

Section 6.05.  Amendments.
This Charter may be amended in accordance with the terms and provisions of the Constitution of the State of Ohio. 
To be sure, every ten years North Canton is mandated by the Charter to review its provisions via a body of review commissioners which council appoints.

Let's see if these editors have the journalistic maturity to publicly correct their error.

On second thought, maybe North Canton government should have Judge Haas issue a declaratory judgment on The Rep's interpretation of the Charter on when it can be amended.

Who knows?  He may find a basis to side with the editors.

Could we be looking at:  

This Charter may be amended [only in seven year intervals beginning from 1967] in accordance with the terms and provisions of the Constitution of the State of Ohio.
.  .  .  .

The editors are mighty powerful people; at least in their own eyes, no?

Though Osborne's initiative passed by an overwhelming margin, Haas "got cutesy" in his opinion adopting the position of North Canton Law Director Tim Fox that the measure was invalid for running afoul of North Canton's Charter.


Currently, the Charter read thusly on the matter of compensation included "fringe" benefits (e.g. health care insurance):
The Council shall have the power to fix the compensation of its members and that of the Mayor, the Director of Administration, the Director of Finance, the Director of Law, officers of the municipality, of each job classification, and the members of any board of commission of the municipality, wither elected, appointed, or chosenl
Haas got all hung up (for months of seemingly interminable deliberation) on the fact that in the cited Section 4.04 language whether or not the omission of the word exclusive from the phrase (where the SCPR puts three dots) had legal significance:  The Council shall have the . . .  power to fix the compensation . . .

In a strange piece of reasoning that the SCPR cannot follow, he says that in omitting "exclusive" from the phrase (reference the .... above) the framers of the Charter in legal effect made Council the exclusive authority to deal with matters of North Canton government compensation.

Wrap your heads around that one!

It could be that Haas is wrong (in 'legal' error) and will get reversed on appeal either by the Fifth District Court of Appeals and/or the Ohio Supreme Court.

Osborne says the he is going to appeal.

But do not count on a reversal!

Percentage wise, relatively few trial courts get reversed, even if they made some mistakes in getting to a decision.

The Report has word that the longstanding antagonistic battle between Citizen Osborne (a former councilman, probably going back pre-year-2000 days) and more recently the Concerned Citizens of North Canton (CCNC) will likely include not only Osborne's appeal but an amendment initiative (not necessarily by Osborne) on the matter of power of the electorate to deal with compensation of North Canton government employees (including, of course part-time council persons).

The amendment initiative could come as soon as 2015 and perhaps in a special election.

But only if the initiators get permission from The Repository Editorial Board.

Ha! Ha! Ha!

Only kidding editors.  Journalism has to have humor to it, doesn't it?

Should the electorate approve the North Canton Charter being amended, then any North Canton elector can once again go to North Canton voters to ensure as a matter of the fundamental law of North Canton (subject only to superseding and Ohio and federal constitutional limitations) that the electorate (i.e. "the people" of North Canton) has the right to "ultimately" decide what the compensation for city officials will be.

While the SCPR thinks that Haas could have just have easily interpreted (and, found legal precedent justification) the Section 4.04 language of the North Canton Charter language on compensation to allow the people's decision of November, 2012 to stand; it appears that he is more a of philosophical "republican" (leadership by the few) than a "democrat" (participation of the many) when it comes to the fundaments of American government and therefore his decision was predictable.

It is surreal that in a democracy a vote of the people gets overturned on the flimsy basis of Haas' ruling.

The Supreme Court case Haas cites as legal justification for his North Canton decision dealt with a situation that NEVER MADE IT TO THE BALLOT.

Decisions like these should be - going forward -  a strong factor as to whether or not to vote for John Haas or those of his seeming philosophical persuasion in future elections.

And decisions like this should give Ohioans "pause for thought" on Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor's desire for Ohio judges to be appointed rather than elected.

No, thank you!

Elected officials like Haas should be held accountable at the polls for overturning a vote of the people on what largely boils down to his difference of opinion with Osborne's attorneys over whether or not Section 4.04 requires that he in effect "judicially" insert the word "exclusive."

Does Haas' action sound just a tad like a case of judicial activism (i.e. legislating from the bench)?

This decision the SCPR thinks undermines democracy and gives aid and comfort to imperial types in government (e.g. North Canton law director Tim Fox?) to interpret against the peoples' right to participate or to know (public records) in the peoples' government.

It is getting nearly impossible to get day-in, day-out citizens to be involved in government at any level (even vote) and the SCPR thinks government officials like Haas and Fox are to blame.

The Report does not ever want to hear from the lips of either lamentations regarding ordinary people disdaining government.

Here the people have clearly spoken, but their choice is wiped out by the stroke of Judge Haas' pen.

It would be nice for a judge to err on the judge of democracy rather than as a thwart to democracy.

It appears to the SCPR that Haas is implying in referring to the "mirror" legislation to the passed citizen initiative ordinance amounts to "no harm, no foul."

Maybe he's not suggesting such.  But if he isn't, why is that fact in his decision?
 
In promising to file an appeal, Osborne certainly is not assuaged by the reference.

Lamentations are not likely, especially from Fox.

If there ever is a person who - in the opinion of the SCPR - ill suited (by temperament and his apparent "anti-citizen" attitude) to be a public official, it is North Canton Law Director Tim Fox.

Reports of his applying for a Republican Party (i.e. Republican governor John Kasich) appointment to replace Stephen Belden (who resigned effective November 30th) as a Canton Municipal Court judge is just a tad scary to the SCPR.

Stark County already has enough of power mongering judges, for example:
we certainly do not need another.

Stephen Belden was egregious enough in that regard.

For him to be replaced by the autocratic Tim Fox would be more of the same if not worse, the SCPR thinks.

Most local politicos that the SCPR talks to think that that a Fox appointment is not going to happen.

If it does, by chance, happen, there is general consensus that nearly any of the Democrats considering the race would be odds on favorites to defeat him in November, 2015.

And maybe, on second thought, that is a win-win for everybody?

Of course, in enabling North Canton's imperial acting law director, his supporters on North Canton Council share responsibility (to name names) for citizens opting out in increasing numbers (e.g. percentage of citizens registering and actually voting going down) of our democratic-republican processes.

No doubt about it!

North Canton government is broken when it comes to most of the councilpersons and the mayor being citizen-participation-friendly.

However, over time it could be that a group of hardy citizens (Concerned Citizens of North Canton) will prevail in fixing what ails North Canton government.

The SCPR sat down with two representatives of the CCNC yesterday and videotaped these reactions to the Haas decision, the group's overall mission vis-a-vis council and its durability.

REACTION TO THE HAAS DECISION


ARTICULATION OF CCNC EFFORT TO REIN-IN COUNCIL & SPECIFIC COMPLAINTS ABOUT COUNCIL


IF NORTH CANTON COUNCIL MEMBERS RESUME COVERAGE, THE COST TO NORTH CANTON TAXPAYERS



"WE'RE NOT GOING AWAY"



And, to repeat, Baughman and McCleaster tell the SCPR that CCNC's message to North Canton City Council and Law Director Tim Fox is:  "We are not going away!"

Look for council as a whole and the mayor to do everything they can to stymie the CCNC effort.

North Canton City Council is the only hostile council in all of Stark County in relationship to any Dogwood City citizen that dares to question or disagree with a majority of them.

Only a replacement next November of four of the seven (pick any four) will change the culture of North Canton City Council.

APPENDIX

THE HAAS DECISION


This matter came on for consideration upon separate motion.

This action involves the validity of the Initiative Healthcare Ordinance passed by the voters of the City of North Canton in the General Election held on November 6, 2012. On March 28, 2014, North Canton initiated this action with the filing of a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment seeking a declaration that the Initiative Healthcare Ordinance is invalid.

The parties have filed stipulations leaving one disputed legal issue for the Court's consideration: whether the Defendants' initiative action is contrary to North Canton's Charter or whether the initiative ordinance is a valid and enforceable ordinance in the City of North Canton.

North Canton asserts that because the Defendants initiative action seeks to reduce or deny North Canton's elected officials' health care benefits, it conflicts with its Charter requirement that City Council shall set those compensation levels, which levels include health care benefits. Defendants, on the other hand, maintain that the Initiative Healthcare Ordinance is valid and enforceable municipal legislation.

It should be noted that, even though North Canton believes that the Charter conflict rendered the initiative action void, because it reflected the will of the electorate, North Canton enacted a mirror ordinance to repeal the initiative and enacted a mirror ordinance in its place. The parties have stipulated that North Canton's elected officials have not just reduced their health care benefits to comply with the mirror ordinance, all eight of them have completely waived North Canton-paid health care benefits for themselves and their families.

Declaratory Judgment

In order to obtain a declaratory judgment, a moving party must show the following essential elements: 1) a real controversy exists between the parties; 2) the controversy is justiciable in character; and 3) speedy relief is necessary to preserve the rights of the parties.

Given the facts as admitted in the pleadings and Joint Stipulations, the Court finds that all three elements have been met.

Initiative Healthcare Ordinance is Void

North Canton has been a charter municipality since November 8, 1960. The Charter specifically adopts and incorporates the provisions of the Constitution and laws
of Ohio regarding initiative petitions and setting compensation for council. The initiative provision contained in the Charter provides as follows,
(1) INITIATIVE. The electors of the municipality shall have the power to propose ordinances and other measures by initiative petition in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and laws of Ohio now
or hereafter in effect. Article V, Section 5.07(1).
The initiative power is, without doubt, an important component of a democratic government. However, the power is not without limitation. It is a well-settled principle that that a municipal ordinance in conflict with its charter is void.  This is true whether passed by the legislative body or initiated by the electorate. North Canton's Charter provides as follows:

The Council shall have the power to fix the compensation of its members and that of the Mayor, the Director of Administration, the Director of Finance, the Director of Law, officers of the municipality, of each job classification, and the members of any board of commission of the municipality, wither elected, appointed, or chosen. Article IV, Section 4.04.

Defendants contend that because Section 4.04 does not say that Council shall have exclusive power, the power of both city council and the people to legislate compensation runs concurrent. The Court is not persuaded by this argument. North Canton's charter does not conflict with Ohio's statutes regarding City Council setting compensation levels and with initiative actions.  Additionally, "[m]unicipal charters must be construed to give effect to all separate provisions and to harmonize them with statutory provisions whenever possible.  In applying these principles, the Court finds that no ambiguity exists, and, even if there is an ambiguity, in harmonizing all provisions, it is clear that only council, as the legislative body, may set compensation for its members.

The Supreme Court of Ohio has spoken to the issues before this Court. In State ex rel. Werner v. Koontz, the Supreme Court examined an initiative petition for a proposed ordinance that five men filed with the City of Columbus Clerk of Council.  The initiative petition contained provisions fixing a minimum number of officers, members, and employees of the fire and police departments and fixing their minimum salaries. After examining the initiative petition with respect to the Columbus Charter, the Court found that the charter provided that the city council shall fix the salary or compensation of council members, the mayor, and all other officers and employees. The Court found that "(I]t is perfectly plain that the designated proposed ordinance if adopted would be directly contra to the charter's compensation provision."

The Court held that the initiative was actually a proposed charter amendment, cloaked "under the guise of initiating and adopting and ordinance."  The Court went on to say that any amendment to the charter could be effected only in the manner prescribed by the charter. Likewise, if the North Canton electorate wishes to amend the Charter, it may, but the proper procedure must be followed.

Based upon the foregoing, the Court finds that the Initiative Healthcare Ordinance is invalid because it conflicts with the North Canton Charter. Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED that Defendants' Initiative Healthcare Ordinance is void, ab initio. Because Defendants' remaining claims are contingent upon the validity of the ordinance, those claims are hereby DISMISSED.

This is a final appealable order and there is no just cause for delay.


EXTENDED COMMENTS BY OSBORNE'S ATTORNEYS

“We are, of course, disappointed that the Court elected not to uphold the rights of all citizens to exercise their right to initiate legislation and actively engage in the legislative process.

The Ohio Constitution reserves to the people the inherent right of self-government, so when the concerned citizens of North Canton proposed and the voters overwhelmingly approved legislation to address fiscal irresponsibility by permanently restricting the benefits available to city employees, the peoplenaturally expected that their will would be done.

North Canton, like most governmental entities today, views itself as a superior legislative authority over and above the citizens they purport to represent.

The Court has again sided with the government to suppress the inherent power reserved to the people by the Ohio Constitution. We no longer live in a government of the people, by the people and for the people, but rather a government of the politicians, by the politicians and, most importantly, for the politicians.

We are discussing with our client his appellate rights.”

A COLLECTION OF OSBORNE COMMENTS

The ruling by the court was rather pathetic, especially given the statewide importance of the question before the court, the constitutional issues that were at play here and the work invested by both sides in this case. Our arguments were not even addressed by the Court. Nine months and this is the best the courts can come up with. I intend to have my attorneys move ahead with an appeal.

I am stunned that a court would find it so easy to throw out an entire election.


SAD DAY IN NORTH CANTON FOR DEMOCRACY!

Attached is the Trial Court ruling released this morning on the validity of Health Care ordinance that was initiated by the citizens of North Canton and passed overwhelmingly 3 to 1 by the voters of North Canton in the November 2012 General Election. North Canton’s elected officials raised no objections during the initiative process and actually participated in placing the issue on the ballot. The ballot issue was known as Issue 5.

Fourteen months after the Stark County Board of Elections certified the vote and the Initiative became law, North Canton’s elected officials raised objections claiming citizens had no right to restrict health care benefits to part-time elected officials under the North Canton City Charter.

The proposed ballot language was filed with the City of North Canton on May 9, 2012. At that time, City Law Director Hans Nilges raised no objections. Long-time North Canton Law Director Roy Batista, appointed interim Law Director soon after petitions signatures were turned in to the City raised no such concerns.

On February 27, 2014, Mayor Held released the legal opinion of Law Director Tim Fox claiming the Initiative Health Care Ordinance violated North Canton’s City Charter.

Why did it take North Canton Elected Officials from May 9, 2012 until February 27, 2014 to makes these claims?

ONLINE COMMENTS

POSTED TO [REPOSITORY] DECEMBER 6, 2014, EDITORIAL TITLED: 

 "ITS BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD IN NORTH CANTON"

This editorial is factually incorrect just as, I believe, the court was in throwing out an entire election and ruling against the citizens of North Canton.

North Canton’s charter does NOT limit changes to its charter to 10-year intervals as stated in the editorial.

Did the Repository Editorial Board totally forget last year’s charter amendment to make the office of Mayor a full-time position? It was Issue 13 on the ballot. This paper did cover the story in numerous reports, and later urged voters to reject the proposed change!

I might add that there is nothing magical about “council appoint[ing] a 15-member charter commission that can recommend to voters changes it believes are appropriate.” The recommendations are actually made to Council.

It fact there is a major downside to that process. Council can introduce politics and refuse to place Charter Commission recommendations on the ballot.

This happened to the Charter Review Commission in 1977 when Council refused to place one of the four recommendations of the Charter Commission on the ballot. Citizens collected signatures on an Initiative, which were validated, forcing Council to place the fourth recommendation of the Charter Review Commission on the ballot.

Government exists to serve the people. Not the other way around. The right of Initiative is a protected right under the Ohio Constitution. It is too bad that the trial court had no interest in asserting rights of the people that are provided for in Ohio’s Constitution and instead chose to throw out an entire election.

The City’s charter does say, “The Council shall have the power to fix the compensation of its members and that of the Mayor” but that statement is not exclusionary. Two previous North Canton Law Directors had no problem with the ballot issue before the current City Law Director came along.

The trial court offers one opinion. And it will be reviewed by judges who hopefully realize the significance of the issues raised in this case.

Thank you,

Chuck Osborne