Many of us remember, either because we lived through it or have read it in the history books, one of the most productive things done to get to the heart of the Nixonian Watergate matter (the Committee to ReElect the President [CREEP] sent burglars into the Democratic National Headquarters office the Washington DC Watergate office complex to steal the "campaign secrets" of 1972 Nixon opponent George McGovern) was a question: What did you know and when did you know it?
For Stark Countians to get more at the truth of the matter of what local civic activist and attorney Craig Conley refers to as Zeiglergate, there needs to be answers to some compelling "unanswered" questions that the Stark County commissioners have an obligation to get answered.
Here are the questions as posed to commissioners in a letter to them sent today by Conley (see the entire letter at the end of this blog).
The SCPR agrees with Conley. The commissioners have the legal authority to delve into the questions posed and get the Stark County public the answers.
The commissioners are being "played like a fiddle" by Stark County Treasurer Gary Zeigler and his attorney Dennis Thompson, in the opinion of the SCPR.
The commissioners are allowing Zeigler and Thompson to set the commissioners' agenda (executive session to discuss what the SCPR believes to be non-executive-session stuff).
Why aren't the commissioners taking advantage of their statutory authority as set forth in Conley's letter which was the subject matter of a prior SCPR blog?
The SCPR believes that many county non-judicial officeholders (all of whom are Democrats) want to keep the lid on Zeiglergate as much as possible.
On June 25th, Republican Auditor of State Mary Taylor issued her supplemental report of findings on the office of Stark County Treasurer Gary Zeigler with regard to deficiencies which may have played into the ability of former Chief Deputy Vince Frustaci's to steal $2.46 million from the county treasury.
In the Taylor report, it is obvious that only when Frustaci went on vacation (March, 2009) and unable to cover his tracks at the county treasury from a distance, did the auditing work of Taylor's office become productive in catching his theft of county funds.
Immediately, Stark County's office-holding Democrats pounced on Taylor.
While the SCPR thinks that Taylor is a valid target in terms of rectifying the structure of audits to make them meaningful and productive in ferreting out fraud, the The Report believes the Democratic quest is not to work for improving the way audits are done by Ohio. Rather, the attack is designed to shield themselves from any political fallout from the Stark treasury problems.
Before he fell from grace, Gary D. Zeigler was political friends with Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero, Stark County Auditor Kim Perez, all three Stark County commissioners, Stark County Sheriff Tim Swanson and Stark County Recorder Rick Campbell.
There are probably others.
But those named above, have been very obvious to yours truly over the years of being involved with the Stark County Democratic Party.
The SCPR believes, perhaps, because of the the historically "close" political relationships, that some of the "former political friends of Zeigler" may not have the detachment and drive (from the public's perspective) one would normally expect in a quest to get to the bottom of things at the Stark County treasury.
Obviously, county officials are going to deny the suggestion.
What are the premises for The Report's begging to differ with the county officials?
Here is The Report's analysis.
But for the work of Conley, (70 weeks after April 1, 2009 - the date the Frustaci theft was revealed to the public) there would be very little headway by county officials to remove Zeigler from office, to collect on bonds and insurance, to collect remaining deficiencies in the missing money from Zeigler personally.
What has Conley done to get the county moving?
- Issued a demand letter to Stark County Prosecutor to initiate litigation against Zeigler.
- Initiated the lawsuit on behalf of Bethlehem Township citizen Tom Marcelli (acting as a stand in for Stark County taxpayers) alleging personal "strict" liability.
- Issued a demand letter to Stark County Auditor Kim Perez and the Stark County commissioners to pursue Zeigler now via litigation (per ORC Section 321.37) on bonds and insurance covering Zeigler (bonds) and insurance (Frustaci).
- Issued a demand letter to the Stark County commissioners that they initiate removal proceedings against Zeigler pursuant to ORC Section 321.38 on the heels of Prosecutor Ferrero filing the ORC Section 321.37 action.
Well, the fact that Ferrero filed the ORC Section 321.37 action puts that to rest, doesn't it?
The Report will not be surprised to see Zeigler escape the effort of the Stark County commissioners to remove him under the aegis of Ohio Revised Code Section 321.38.
The Report's impression is that the commissioners themselves are concerned at their chances for success.
It could be that John Ferrero senses the commissioners' concern and this is why the SCPR believes he may have made a comment to a Repository reporter which appears to make Conley the problem rather than a person deserving praise for his work for the Stark County taxpayers.
What did Ferrero say to The Rep? Here is Shane Hoover account:
Not one to take anyone's word at face value, Craig Conley sent a public records request to Ferrero's office asking for documentation of Ferrero's claim that he [Conley] "has done enough in costing the count for Zeigler's defense.
Result of the records request?
No such records exist.
If the county commissioners lose in Court, they will undoubtedly have some legalese rationalization to cover themselves. And they will say "we did the best we could!"
And that may be.
The SCPR would feel a lot more comfortable with the county's legal chances, if Craig T. Conley were to be lead legal counsel.
Conley is really well schooled on all the statutes and cases which apply to the two filed cases against Zeigler.
As far as the SCPR is concerned, there is only one Stark Countian who has pursued Zeigler with the zeal that the matter deserves, to wit: Attorney Craig T. Conley.
In the course of litigation, he may actually produce his own answers to the questions he posed to commissioners via the discovery process provided for by civil procedural law.
It would not be a negative reflection on Prosecutor Ferrero to let Conley to take the lead on the existing cases.
Judges Haas and Brown of the Stark County Court of Common Pleas have recused themselves from hearing the merits of either of the cases assigned to them.
Why would they recuse?
Because they are fellow office holders with several of the litigants in the cases. Though they undoubtedly believe they can make a lawful and fair decision on the merits, they see the wisdom in stepping aside so that there is no question with the Stark County public.
Ferrero should take his cue from the judges. He, too, undoubtedly thinks he can represent without any conflict in interest notwithstanding his historical political connection with some of the parties in the case.
And he has the perfect out.
Conley is ready, willing and able to take charge of both cases involving Zeigler.
Ferrero would being doing himself and the Stark County public a good turn in stepping aside from the bond case and remaining out of the personal liability case in favor of Conley.
Apparently, he is unwilling to do so. It is his prerogative.
Here is Conley's entire letter.