Yours truly could scarcely believe his ears when a motion was presented at the Stark County commissioners meeting this past Wednesday to hire Jessie Boron (stepson of recently resigned Commissioner Tom Harmon, and, son of former Nimishillen Township clerk/fiscal officer Carlene Boron Harmon) as Stark County deputy dog warden. This hiring took place 29 days after Tom Harmon's resignation effectivity date.
Why is it that Olson could "scarcely believe his ears?"
Because the hiring smacks of "political insider" stuff, no matter what Commissioners Todd Bosley (a former Nimishillen Township trustee) and Pete Ferguson say to rationalize the hiring.
Well, with Stark's judges convening meetings of elected public officials plus others (including some of the "Vote No Increased Taxes" committee folks), one wouldn't think that county officials would want the Stark County voting public to think for one second that county funds are being spent to finance what some may think is the commissioners approving the hiring of a person with poltical connections.
One wouldn't think that such hiring will set well with the Stark County voting public. And it certainly doesn't with the SCPR.
Commissioner Bosley called yours truly aside after Wednesday's commissioner meeting to explain why he didn't have any choice but to support the hiring of Boron.
To hear Bosley tell it, he actually did Stark Countians a good turn going along with fellow Commissioner Pete Ferguson in hiring Boron. We (Stark County) got the best of the three finalist, Bosley explained.
Yours truly believes that Bosley's explanation was done in an "affected" tone and manner (in the sense of having no other alternative) designed to get The Report to infer that Bosley did a public service by getting the best out a less than ideal field of candidates.
But the SCPR is not buying.
There were 28 other candidates. If it was agonizing for Bosley to approve the Boron hiring (and, it is a capital IF), why didn't he simply look at the 28 other applications. Bosley especially should have been on alert because one of the finalists (according to Bosley himself) was the "handpicked" favorite of the Warden himself.
The SCPR reads the Bosley effort as being a ploy to put The Report off-the-track of a real alternative.
The Report's response?
Commissioner Bosley, don't save us (Stark Countians) from the Warden, go look at the other 28 applications. If none them measure up to Bosley/Ferguson standards, advertise again. This time more widely.
When you advertise give the job the widest possible Stark County dissemination. After all, Stark County does have an 11.5% unemployment rate!
After the Bosley justification session, the SCPR did some checking with county administrator Mike Hanke on Boron's remuneration, qualifications for the job and how much of an effort was made to make the general Stark County population aware of the job availability.
Here is Hanke's response (in its essence) to a SCPR email, to wit:
His exact salary ... is $16 an hour (it is a union job)
Prior to deputy dog warden job ... he worked as a Nimishillen Township Fire Dept. dispatcher, prior to that as a deputy auditor in the Stark County Auditor's Dept., prior to that as a security officer at Aultman Hospital, prior to that as a substitute teacher in Stark County schools.
As far as the SCPR can determine from Bosley's account; all three "finalists" had someone on the inside of county government that were "rooting" for them. Bosley did say that neither stepdad Tom nor mother Carlene contacted him about the hiring, prior thereto.He holds a bachelors degree in criminal justice from Bowling Green State University, with a minor in sociology. He was honorably discharged from the United States Air Force Reserve in 2002.
This was a posted job, meaning it -- like all posted openings for commissioners' departments -- was posted on the wall outside our office.More importantly, it was posted under the jobs category on the commissioners web site. As a result, there were 31 applicants, according to the dog warden. The dog warden then narrowed them to his three recommended candidates.
It is interesting to note that Boron worked at the Nimishillen Township Fire Department. Hmm? What did his mother and Bosley have to do, if anything, with that hiring?
Bosley saying that the Harmons did not contact him about the stepson/son application, cuts no ice with the SCPR.
The Report knows that most politicians, in this day and age, would not dream of direct intervention. Political influence in the modern era is much more subtle and sophisticated than it was back in the out-and-out political boss days.
Stark County recorder Rick Campbell has tried this "Dad, (Stark County Democratic Party chairman Randy Gonzalez) never said a word to me" on the Kody Gonzalez hiring ($53,560.00 annually - 2009). According to Campbell, he would have picked Kody Gonzalez to be his chief deputy with its sizable income (to most Stark Countians) from a sea of applicants because of his obvious "best thing since sliced bread" credentials and presence.
It could be so, but who in Stark County is going to believe Campbell given Gonzalez's political pedigree?
Campbell does not stop at the Gonzalez hiring.
The SCPR has been critical of the hiring of his wife Lisa Jackson Campbell as Plain Township administrator because The Report is highly skeptical of two phone calls that were made relative to her hiring.
One by then Stark County Democratic Party chairman Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. to Plain Township trustee Louis Giavasis (according to Lawrence Township trustee Mike Stevens - who was also vying for the job) to ensure that Lisa got "a fair chance" at the vacant Plain Township administrator's job. Remember from previous blogs how the SCPR has spoken of the "family" atmosphere that exists between Maier and the Jackson (e.g. Shane Jackson is Maier'e chief deputy [Massillon clerk of courts])
A second one (the order may be reversed) by Campbell himself to Giavasis (this is a Giavasis account of the conversation) to ask whether or not it was permissible for wife Lisa to apply for the Plain Township job.
Wow! Is it permissible? Sounds pretty disingenuous, doesn't it?
Lisa Jackson Campbell is not just anyone.
She happens to be the daughter of former Stark County commissioner Gayle Jackson who now serves as Governor Strickland's appointee with the Ohio Lottery Commission.
Campbell's wife (his former chief deputy) may well be qualified for the job that she landed with Plain Township. But the fact of the matter is that when she and Campbell married, Ohio Ethics law would not allow her to remain in Campbell's public office employment.
The Report does believe that there quite of number of Stark Countians who were qualified for the Plain job including, perhaps, applicant Mike Stevens who is a Lawrence Township trustee.
The critical question (given that this is a taxpayer funded job) is whether or not qualifications were the only criterion for the job?
Consider the following.
The SCPR believes that Giavasis may have set up Michael Stevens to apply for job to make it appear that there was "real" competition for the job that eventually went to Campbell's wife.
Why would the SCPR posit that possibility?
Shortly after the SCPR did a blog on political patronage (Deember 9, 2009 CLICK HERE to see the blog), an interesting course of events occurred.
The SCPR on or about December 2, 2009 asked the Stark County auditor's office, in a public records request, for a list of recorder office employees (date of hire, income level, et cet ). Well, little did yours truly know that he would get "special delivery" of the requested information from none other than Chief Deputy Recorder Kody Gonzalez. He hand delivered the public records requested information to The Report at the December 10th Stark County commissioners meeting.
Gonzalez was accompanied by Rick Campbell, the Stark Counhty recorder himself.
Who else would show up?
Louis Giavasis (who "just happened" to be at the meeting - according to him - on an "unrelated" matter (Plain Township business) on a combination of his county job lunch hour and vacation). Hmm?
No sooner had yours truly began preparing to video the commissioners meeting, when Campbell begin going after yours truly on the December 9th blog. The opener: "I understand that Mike Stevens is not happy about not getting the Plain Township administrator's job."
Who should join in?
None other than Louis Giavasis. Remember, Giavasis just happened to be at the commissioners meeting on Plain Township business.
The Campbell/Giavasis "double-whammy" was obviously a planned event.
Lo and behold, Giavasis, at the invitation of Campbell, offered insight as to why Mike Stevens did not end up with the Plain Township job.
Giavasis volunteered at Campbell's urging that the first question he asked Stevens (when they were discussing the Plain Township administrator job) was whether or not Stevens was willing to give up being Lawrence Township trustee so he could devote full time to being administrator (a claim Stevens denies to the SCPR).
As a follow-up to the first point he made, Giavasis added that when he applied to be Canton service director; the first thing out of his mouth to his interviewer (presumably Healy) was that he - if selected - would resign as Plain Township trustee.
In Giavasis' mind, such as it is, his Canton interview was proof positive that he had asked the same question of Stevens. Hmm?
The Report refused to indulge the Campbell initiative and continued on with the business of recording the commissioners' meeting.
Campbell, who was a row behind yours truly, sat there, muttering to himself for awhile about how qualified his wife was to be Plain Township administrator.
The Report had not asked for the Gonzalez "special delivery" of the public records request. In fact, David Maley of auditor's office was asked to send the requested information in electronic format; which, he did the day after Gonzalez's personal delivery.
A question? Was Gonzalez being at the commissioners meeting an efficient use of his taxpayer financed time?
Count I. Gonzalez did not have to deliver anything. David Maley of the auditor'f office (to whom the request had been made) was handling the request. Even Maley did not make a personal delivery. He sent it to The Report electronically as requested. Also remember, Campbell was at the meeting.
Count II. Gonzalez also made about a 30 second presentation on the recorder's willingness to help the commissioners set up a scanning and electronic publishing project. And remember, Campbell himself was at the meeting.
So let the SCPR get this straight. The two highest paid officials in the recorder's office (well over $100,000 combined income) spend about an hour each for one of them - Gonzalez - to do 45 seconds of official business. Wow!!! Taxpayers will really love this account.
The Report does understand that Campbell did spend pre-meeting time counseling with Commissioner Bosley as to whether or not Bosley should run for the Ohio House.
So what was the real reason Campbell et al showed up in force?
The SCPR takes the Campbell generated episode as a "gang up on and try to intimidate" The Report.
Some Stark County-based politicians take offense to the SCPR's endeavor to show the Stark County public how prevalent it appears political connections play a significant role in who does or does not get public jobs or, worse yet, who does or doesn't get the opportunity to apply for and be seriously considered for taxpayer funded positions.
The moral of this whole story (err blog) is that all too many politicians try to control press reports and analysis on political patronage phenomenon either by finesse or duress.
With the SCPR, neither works.
If abuse of the public trust is as widespread as it appears to the SCPR to be, then what effective remedy does the public have?
Cut off the money?
It may come to that.
The SCPR is convinced that the Stark County general fund will be in dire need of additional revenues by 2011. But there does come a point when enough is enough of the "political connections stuff" and voters should consider seriously cutting local government funding until such time as the politicos have shown they have gotten the message.
If county officials want to persuade the Stark County voting public that it should provide more revenues to the county general fund, then it would seem prudent that "wise" public officials take measures with their "unwise," offending colleagues to ensure that all public jobs are genuinely open to the public-at-large.
A sad side to the Bosley, Giavasis and Campbell sagas is that the SCPR believes that this these three are, perhaps, among Stark County's best elected officials.
However, in the view of the SCPR, all three have tarnished themselves in the machinations described heretofore in this blog and deserve special scrutiny in the performance of their public jobs.
Campbell in particular.
What The Report believes he foolishly tried to do is the height of stupidity and a case of someone being too close to a situation.
So if he can get that dumb in this situation, are the parallels of stupidity going on inside the recorder's office?