Wednesday, June 2, 2010


On May 6th and again on May 27th the Stark County commissioners were happy that they had just approved a second contract of no pay raises for deputies, lieutenants and captains.

It was kind of "in your face" time (especially for County Administrator Mike Hanke - see video below) on Stark County community activist and local attorney Craig T. Conley.  On March 16th, Conley wrote a letter to commissioners asking them to see to it that the deputies' contracts reflect the financial/economic realities of these troubled money times with Stark County government, to wit:

Hanke seems particularly offended by Conley's reference to Summit County.

The SCPR last week (post-commissioners meeting) talked with Conley.  He said he is not impressed with the wage freezes per se as he believes that the Sheriff's payroll cost is going up significantly notwithstanding the commissioner office's ballyhoo of the "pay freezes."

Conley pointed to things such as heathcare costs (which commissioners did say on May 6th are going up "slightly" - whatever that means), time-in-grade increases, uniform allowances and other less obvious payments that he believes deputies receive which need to be looked at and curtailed.

The SCPR does believe that commissioners and other county officials need to get a grip on the cost of the administration of justice which is 70% of the county budget.  Sheriff Swanson's budget is about 1/3rd of the county budget (nearly $17 million).

With the loss of the 0.50 sales tax in December, 2008 imposed by Commissioners Bosley and ex-Commissioners Harmon and Vignos, the proportion of the cost of administration of justice and the Sheriff's share of the county budget will become a larger share of Stark's financial pie.

And the place to make huge savings is in personnel costs.

County commissioners should have Sheriff Swanson come to a commissioners' meeting and lay out in chart form the real cost of year-to-year over the past five years including not only actual wages, but any and all other personnel costs.  Moreover, Swanson should be asked to do a Q&A with the public during the meeting.

Rather than rely on conclusionary statements by Administrator Hanke and commissioners, the Stark County public has a right to know in detail exactly what makes up the cost of having a deputy.

To the degree that Swanson and other county officials try to mask the real personnel costs, they undermine their chances of getting the Stark County voting public to support retention of the 0.25 of a percent renewal of county sales tax that most certainly will be on the November ballot.

It appears to the SCPR that Conley (a member of the Stark County Review Committee along with fellow "Vote No for Increased Taxes" member Charles Snyder - also a member of the financially stressed Fairless School Board) will be revitalizing the Vote No's to oppose the renewal.

Here it is June (only five months before November) and it seems as if the commissioners and Stark County's Common Pleas judges together with Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero (appointed liaison by the judges) and their Stark County Review Committee (SCRC) are making very little progress in examining county finances.

The activities of the SCRC are not being publicized which is a huge mistake.  Whatever the results of the committee's final report, the process being secretive as it is; will make it especially vulnerable to criticism and probably not helpful in terms of the public trusting the thoroughness of the work and the meaningfulness of criteria used in doing the examination.

And when will the final report come out?

In October?

Timed to give very little space to scrutinizers to take a thorough look at how the committee got to the final report?

Here is a video out of the May 27th commissioners meeting in which the response to the Conley letter (in the opinion of the SCPR) is made.

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