The Stark County Political Report (begun in March, 2008) is an online only publication that purposes to offer incisive political analysis (journalistic opinion), and, to some degree do investigative journalism, for the benefit of the Stark County public, on Stark County-based politics and government.
Yours truly (unrelated to the fact of being an attorney for some 37 years now) has thought for a number of years that Stark County's only countywide newspaper (The Repository) is so hooked into "the powers that be" in Stark County, that many times its editors have made decisions not to work certain stories or to become apologists for certain political and governmental officials.
So what to do?
Answer: create an alternative!
Hence, the birth of the Stark County Political Report (SCPR, The Report).
One of most democratizing forces in the world today has been the explosion of the Internet. Because of its ease of use and inexpense, the Internet provides folks like yours truly the opportunity to take their storehouse of knowledge and share it with the public for the public benefit.
The Report has published over 1,150 blogs to date.
The Stark County public's reception has been gratifying.
But there are some (in local government and politics) who are not so pleased.
And they have used a number of devices to attempt to nullify the SCPR.
The latest in a series of attacks on The Report appears to be coming from Judge Edward Elum of the Massillon Municipal Court.
As readers know, Elum has been the subject of a number of public controversies in recent times. His latest is a flap that the SCPR believes Elum initiated on the competence of Massillon Chief of Police Rob Williams.
But beyond the Williams thing, the SCPR has been hearing for a couple of years that a number of Massillonians (chiefly, Massillon Mayor Francis H. Cicchinelli, Jr.) that Elum is on a political power grab quest that goes beyond Elum's role as judge.
Cicchinelli broached Elum as a subject - with a "why does Elum hate me? ponderment - with the SCPR in the late spring, early summer of 2008 when The Report went to Massillon and did about a two hour videotaped interview for publication on The Report.
Now mind you. This interview had nothing to do with the fact that yours truly is an attorney. It had everything to do and only to do with the Stark County Political Report.
Over the ensuing two years, The Report has received a steady diet of information on the Cicchinelli/Elum "disagreement." In the judgment of yours truly - from a journalistic standpoint - the acrimony ripened to the point of deserving detailed treatment in the context of a blog within the past week on the basis of an e-mail received from a reader and on the basis of media reports prevalent in area media in recent times.
Here are links to SCPR blogs that reference Elum:
- ELUM: GET OVER IT
- TIGERLAND IN AN UPROAR
- CICCHINELLI/CATAZARO-PERRY WAR ERUPTS ANEW
- TRIAL HEAT: CATAZARO-PERRY/CICHINELLI POLITICAL FIGHT?
- DEMOCRAT TO DEMOCRAT
1. Some Stark County political/government officials refuse to talk to The Report about questions concerning their political/governmental actions. A prime example is Mayor William J. Healy, II. Moreover, The Report believes that Healy (along with Plain Township trustee Louis Giavasis) put pressure on Q92 general manager Don Peterson to take the SCPR periodic political analysis (started at the initiative of Pat DeLuca - DeLuca in the Morning) off-the-air.
Peterson took yours truly aside, after one such appearance, and told yours truly that his son played soccer with Healy's son and that therefore he was in a position to know that the SCPR had the wrong take on Healy. Moreover, he offered to set up a Healy/SCPR connect which evaporated when The Report continued critical blogs of the Mayor.
Another interesting side to the Healy/SCPR saga was an Adam Herman initiative (prior to a Canton City Council meeting) to know what it would take for the SCPR to be less critical of Healy.
2. The SCPR has done a series of blogs criticizing local officials for "apparently" setting aside public jobs (or having their office holding political friends) for family, friends and political loyalists to the exclusion of the Stark County and political subdivision general public.
An example that the SCPR brings forth periodically is the move from the Stark County recorder's office by Lisa Jackson Campbell (daughter of former Commissioner Gayle Jackson, sister of Massillon deputy clerk of courts Shane Jackson [also political director of the Stark County Democratic Party] and political ally of Massillon clerk of courts [and former chairman of the Stark County Democratic Party] Johnnie A. Maier, Jr., who is also a political appointee member of the Stark County Board of Elections.
Campbell, when she became Recorder Rick Campbell's wife had to find a new job because Ohio Ethics law prohibits a husband/wife hire situation in a public office context. Where did she end up? As chief administrator for the Plain Township Board of Trustees.
The SCPR has written several blogs questioning whether or not the "apparent" consideration of an alternative (to Campbell) hire was the "real" thing or "for appearances only."
Obviously, Recorder Campbell and Trustee Louis Giavasis did not like the SCPR's inquiry. About a month and one-half ago the two showed up at a Stark County commissioners meeting "apparently" to deliver public request documents to yours truly (which had been requested of the Stark County auditor - not the recorder) and then to try to jawbone The Report on its blogs concerning the Plain Township hire of Campbell. It was shortly after this episode that DeLuca of Q92 told yours truly that Giavasis had called in and complained about on-air statements I had made about him.
3. Now the Elum thing. Saturday night at 10:17 p.m., Judge Elum sat down and wrote an email to yours truly saying that it come to his attention that two blogs had been written that "may" have been in violation of disciplinary rule regarding the governance of the bar and that he is directing attorneys to file complaints against yours truly with Board of Disciplinary Counsel branch of the Ohio Supreme Court.
First, such an allegation presupposes that the SCPR's blogs are written in the context of yours truly writing from the standpoint of being a lawyer.
However, such is not the case. The SCPR is written from the standpoint of "journalistic opinion and, to some degree - journalistic investigation."
It had not occurred to yours truly that there are those out there who are so desperate to get at the SCPR and the blog's pointed critique of Stark County government and politicians that they would endeavor, through the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct, to get at a journalist.
Accordingly, The Report revised the two blogs in question to make it clear that yours truly's analysis of Elum, Maier et al has nothing whatsoever to do with the SCPR happening to be an attorney. And that the blogs - as are all blogs - are journalistic endeavors in The Report's exercise of his U.S. Constitution First Amendment rights.
The rule in question: Bar R. V. Section 2. Duty of Lawyers.Well, even as a journalist, yours truly has the highest and deepest respect for Stark County's courts. And, Elum is a temporary incumbent. Nothing in the blogs was intended to reflect on the office of the Massillon Municipal Court judge.
It is the duty of the lawyer to maintain a respectful attitude toward the courts, not for the sake of the temporary incumbent of the judicial office, but for the maintenance of its supreme importance. (emphasis added).
When someone like Eddie Elum gets out in the public square of political opinion, does he think he can weigh-in as a citizen like every one of us and not be subject to criticism?
The SCPR has been a lot more respectful of Judge Elum, even out in the "political" public square than vice-a-versa.
Take a look at what Elum had to say to yours truly in his referenced email:
Again:MartinI received some excepts (sic) on your blog covering a meeting that I had last week with Chief Rob Williams and Chief Prosecutor John Simpson. Our meeting was very constructive and helpful. Your statements are false and misleading. You have no conscience, lack professionalism and make no effort to ascertain the facts. As a member of the Bar, you are an embarrassment. You do nothing to promote the high ethical standards of our legal profession.
"Your statements are false and misleading. You have no conscience, lack professionalism and make no effort to ascertain the facts."
False/misleading in what respect?No conscience? Isn't that a little bit over the top? Think that might not ought to be narrowed down a bit?
Lack professionalism? For commenting on Elum's public square involvement? Exercising First Amendment rights? Maybe there are different perspectives on whether or not the SCPR blog is professional?
Yours truly gets told many times over that The Report is professionally done and does substantiate blogs to a much higher degree that most other blogs.
No effort to ascertain the facts? Talking with Mayor Cicchinelli is not an effort to ascertain the facts? On other issues, the SCPR talked with Elum himself, Public Safety Director Mike Loudiana, Council member Larry Slagle, Mayor Cicchinelli, Pat DeLuca of Q92, Matt Rink of The Independent, and others - "no effort to ascertain the facts?" Really?
It appears - that whereas The Report is not writing as an attorney, but as a blogger/journalist - very clearly that Judge Elum is acting as a judicial officer in his personal attack email directed against yours truly. Question? Should yours truly file a complaint under the Judicial Code of Conduct against Elum?
The SCPR has a thick hide and will treat Elum's tirade as understandable in the context of being evaluated in his extrajudicial conduct and The Report will not endeavor to turn his intemperate email into a Judicial Code of Conduct complaint against Elum. Because The Report wants to be generous to Judge Elum and take the personal attack as not being against a licensed Ohio attorney of 37 years plus who might some day appear in his court. Rather The Report chooses to take the attack as being against a journalist.
Another interesting aside to this back and forth between the SCPR and Elum is - what The Report believes to have been - an Elum attempt to deter (if not intimidate) yours truly from writing a blog based on a citizen inquiry in the first place.
The question here becomes whether or not Elum is trying to be coercive on the SCPR in the context of being a judge? If that were the case, such could be another basis for a complaint to be filed under the Code of Judicial Conduct. As before, though, yours truly is not inclined to so act. From yours truly, this is all about journalism and nothing about a judge/court - attorney relationship.
However, it should be interesting to blog readers to know why The Report even thinks there might have been an attempt at coercion.
First, in a penned note on a copy of the initial "asking questions" email I had sent him, Elum seems to yours truly to be playing on The Report's sense of ego in trying to deflect the SCPR's effort to pursue a tip that a SCPR reader had sent in, to wit:
Second, in a reply email Elum tries to steer The Report to another topic, to wit:
You are missing the fact that the courts, with the assistance of the clerk of court, has expended over $1M to assist the City in capital improvements, repairs, maintenance, and computers that we were not obligated to do. These expenditures had to be made by the City, but it had no funds to do them. The court and clerk found creative ways to assist the City in the completion of these projects to make everything work for the general public. Your blog should focus on the collaborative efforts of all three branches of government to make our community life better place to live. eddieNo harm in Elum trying, but the SCPR doggedly pursues stories and is not vulnerable to being distracted even if the person happens to be a judge. No doubt about it, some journalists would feel a bit intimidated by a judge having an opinion on what is "smart" to write about. Just not the SCPR.
For 37 years yours truly has been an attorney and for all of those 37 years has never once questioned the sanctity of the courts. In fact, in The Report's blogs, yours truly has praised Judge Lee Sinclair (Stark County Common Pleas) for doing justice in the case of Marlboro Township Police Chief Ron Devies' case. Such is yours truly's take on our court system. It is clearly the best in the world.
Yours truly is proud that his middle daughter is an attorney who practiced as a prosecutor on a daily basis over a 5 year span.
The Olson family is squarely a "rule of law" family!
While the Stark County Political Report is a journalistic effort and The Report is solely written as an opinion/investigative journalism blog, inasmuch as yours truly is co-incidentally an attorney, yours truly has many times over in his 37 years as an attorney manifested profound respect for Stark's judiciary and hereby reaffirms that respect.
The Report believes that the real actor in this attack on yours truly is by former Stark County Party chairman Johnnie A. Maier, Jr who also happens to be Massillon Municipal Court clerk and a politically appointed member of the Stark Board of Elections (BOE).
Recently, The Report got into a "stare down" with the BOE over The Report's right to videotape the Board's public meetings. Apparently, the objector was Board president William Cline. But the SCPR doesn't buy that at all.
The Report believes that Maier is the "real" actor.
Maier has been the subject of many SCPR blogs because of how consummately involved he is in the "back room" side of Stark County politics. Reports have gotten back to The Report of how very, very angry Maier gets at The Report's political opinions of his political activities.
Could it be that Elum's directive to go after yours truly be a contrivance of Johnnie A. Maier, Jr?
The Report thinks so.
In any event, yours truly will deal with Elum's "apparent" attempt to make yours truly's journalistic enterprise into something that it is not!
Such is the price that one pays for pursuing the truth.
The Stark County Political Report is about journalism-in-action and ONLY about journalism-in- action!!!