The STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) has learned that Stark County Engineer Michael Rehfus is about to hire a part-time (no benefits) Project Compliance Officer which is a job designed to investigate whether or not contractors hired by Stark County are complying with Ohio's prevailing wage law.
Stark County has a Prevailing Wage Coordinator; namely, Marilyn Hoover who works in the commissioners' office. But she does not do field visits. She only checks the paperwork. That's where the need for a Project Compliance Officer comes in. He will be the field work aspect of enforcing Ohio's prevailing wage law.
What are prevailing wages, anyway?
The website of the Ohio Department of Commerce - Division of Labor & Worker Safety defines "prevailing wages" this way in a broad sort of definition:
Ohio’s prevailing wage law applies to construction projects undertaken by public authorities and requires that the public authorities pay the locally prevailing rate of wages to workers on the project.is hiring a "project compliance officer" a good thing for Stark County?
Yes, according the local tradesmen.
And the STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) agrees.
What is the rub then?
From The Report's perspective, it is the fact the person being hired is a relative of recently elected Stark County commissioner Doctor Peter Ferguson.
As far as The Report is concerned there are too many relatives, political supporters and the like of elected officials that somehow end up with public jobs and the general public never had a chance to apply.
Yes, public jobs.
That is what they are.
But somehow the public never learns about these jobs.
How did all this hiring stuff of the Ferguson relative come about?
The Report did contact Mike Rehfus for an explanation.
Rehfus told The Report that this hiring (the position, not the specific person) has been under discussion for a year or more. He said that Stark County ironworkers among other tradesmen have pushed the county to hire an investigator to better equip the county in its efforts to effectuate prevailing wage compliance.
According to Rehfus, in discussions among county commissioners including commissioner-elect Ferguson, a decision was made to hire a Project Compliance Officer. And it was decided that the hire would come out of the Stark County Engineering Department budget.
Rehfus further says that within a week of the discussion and concomitant decision taking place, Commissioner-elect Ferguson contacted him to tell him about a relative who was interested in the job; a person that Ferguson - again, according to Rehfus - recommended.
Paraphrasing Rehfus: "It was nice to have Ferguson's relative fall right into my lap." Not because the person is Feguson's relative. But just to have someone readily available to plug into the position.
Rehfus said he does not advertise for part-time workers. Moreover, he says that he probably gets six applications a week from truck drivers who want part-time work and so he doesn't need to advertise.
Asked by The Report if he had any concerns that the public might see this hire as a political hiring. Rehfus said he had not given the public's possible perception any thought.
Lastly, Rehfus indicated that the trade unions are on board with the planned employment action.
The hiring is to take place in about two weeks.
Recently The Report was down to Engineer Rehfus' office and did an "on camera" interview with him. One of the topics that came up in the interview is what role, if any, politics plays in the operation of the engineer's office.
Watch Refus' response below, then comment on whether or not you are okay with the hiring process.
More specifically, is it appropriate - in your judgment - for Commission-elect Ferguson to weigh-in on behalf of a relative? Shouldn't the position be advertised to the public-at-large? Is the fact it is part-time position, a distinguishing factor?
The Report thinks not. What do you think?
View the following Rehfus video and then make a comment.