At Wednesday's Stark County commissioners meeting an interesting matter came up.
Board of Stark County commissioners president Todd Bosley paused commissioners' clerk Jean Young in her more or less "routine" approval presentations when the name of a Frank C. Braden travel reimbursement request was presented.
Over recent weeks the commissioners have been getting bugged with county employees who do not get prior authorization to travel at county expense on government business.
The SCPR captured one such exchange on camera on Wednesday.
One of the pleasures of covering local government for The Report comes to the fore in hearing revelations like the one concerning former Stark County GOP chairman Frank C. (Curt) Braden. According to Bosley and Young, Braden made a trip to Columbus on board of election business, but failed to get prior fiscal authorization.
Well, Braden's failure perked up the SCPR's interest for several reasons.
First, Braden undoubtedly knows the rules about prior authorization (and this request was not to cover an emergency trip), but apparently thumbed his nose (as self-important people in government often do) at the rules and then submitted a request for reimbursement after-the-fact.
The Report finds this interesting because Braden is one of four rule enforcers at the Stark Board of Elections (SBOE). Yours truly saw him in action this past Monday at the regular monthly meeting of the SBOE. He, Maier, Cline and Ferruccio were observed by The Report poring over petitions for various candidates and a liquor sales initiative to determine whether or not they comported with election rules.
Point One: Isn't Braden more than a tad hypocritical? He is an enforcer in one context yet he demonstrates in the travel authorization context that he sees himself as an exception to the rule.
The SCPR would have like to included a video segments of the SBOE Monday meeting. However Braden sat silent (as did members Maier and Ferruccio and Repository reporter Tim Botos) as Board chairman William Cline unilaterally and arbitrarily stopped The Report from filming a public meeting.
Cline (who is a lawyer for a well known local law firm) said the denial was based on the Ohio secretary of state (SOS) having provided no guidance on the videotapping of local board of elections public proceedings. Cline, according to SOS legal counsel is wrong. Counsel says that public meetings are covered by Ohio's Open Meeting law and not by SOS policy guidelines.
The SCPR has never been stopped by any other Stark County public entity from recording a public meeting. In fact, many private organizations allow The Report to record their events.
Yours truly must say that it is understandable why the Board would not want to be shown on camera. A video of the Monday meeting, for instance, would have, in the opinion of The Report, shown facial expressions and other mannerisms of some of the members that would have communicated an attitude that would not have impressed the viewing public favorably.
Back to Curt Braden and the travel reimbursement request.
Second, Braden stayed at one of the finest hotels in all of Columbus at taxpayer expense but did not get the lower cost government rate.
The SCPR is in the process of tracking down the actual Braden bill, but indications are (see the accompanying video) that he paid $144 per night and failed to get the government rate which, according to the Hyatt Regency website, could be as l;ow as $80 per night.
So why couldn't Braden stay at a Motel 6? Is he too good for a Motel 6? Or, is it that when you are on the public's dime; you don't worry about the cost?
The SCPR does have a bone to pick with the Stark County commissioners over the Board's approval of the Braden request.
Why did they give Braden a pass on his not complying with the rules? Bosley says "I don't want to be hard on him?" Why not? Braden, in the course of making assessments as a SBOE member makes judgments that the affected probably think are harsh. Think maybe he just might be just a tad more demanding on some than others; especially where the partisan stakes are high?
For the SCPR's part, the Stark commissioners should have made an example of Braden; especially Braden.
Why is that?
Because Braden is no novice at this sort of thing. It is absolutely inexcusable for a man of his experience and longevity not to have complied with Stark County's fiscal rules. Moreover, his conduct is specially grievous in light of the Bosley/Meeks contention that he did not even bother to get taxpayers the benefit of the very best rate at one of Columbus' finest hotels.
To the SCPR, Braden's flouting of the rule fits with The Report's take on Braden. He obviously thinks he is up a rung or two over the rest of us.
Accordingly, the Stark County Board of Commissioners failed the taxpaying the Stark County public in approving the Braden request for reimbursement.
At the very least, the Board should have paid only at the government rate.
But then they would have offended one of the most powerful politicians in all of Stark County!
After all, they do have to live with Frank C. Braden in the political world!!!