Friday, September 17, 2010


About three weeks ago, Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero sent his Chief Counsel John Kurtzman to the Stark County commissioners to ask for more money.

Kurtzman danced all over the place in his quest to justify the commissioners providing Prosecutor Ferrero with about $288,000 to finish 2010 without having to make dramatic cuts in his prosecutorial staff.

It was argument A, and if that is not strong enough; here is argument B, and if that is not strong enough; here is argument C.

The SCPR thought at the time.  No offense to Mr. Kurtzman, but the commissioners are going to be put off that Mr. Ferrero himself did not show up to make the request.  And, as it turned out, when he did the following week, he was told by commissioners that could not understand his absence the week before.

What was astonishing about Ferrero's presentation was his admission that he had known from early on in 2010 that his office was going to be short of money to finish the year with, but that he was "hoping and praying" (The Report characterization) that a "miracle" happened and the needed money would just show up.

Commissioner Meeks took the commissioner lead in a kind of "tough guy" approach.  Paraphrasing:  "We have no money.  If we give out money from our budget stabilization fund (aka "rainy day fund") ,  budget cuts for next year will be 21% rather the projected 16%.  Go ask the judges (Stark County Common Pleas Court) for the money."

At first, yours truly took all this in on a serious vein.

On reflection, however, it now appears to the SCPR that this parade of appearances by the prosecutor's staff in interaction with the commissioners was more a theatrical performance than anything else.

That is not to say that the shortage is not real.  The Report believes it was.

However, the commissioners were in a bind.

They knew that they have other county officeholders drinking all of this in.  How to give Ferrero the extra money he is asking for without opening the proverbial "Pandora's Box" to other officeholders with financial needs?

And, of course, Commissioner Bosley is running for office (against Republican Todd Snitchler for 50th Ohio House representative) and Commissioner Meeks is trying to retain his commissioner's seat (opponent:  former Canton mayor and Republican Janet Creighton).

So the political factor also plays into this drama.

So with hat-in-hand, Ferrero supposedly went off to implore the judges to help him.  The Report says "supposedly" because yours truly has it on good information that Ferrero never showed up Stark County Common Pleas.

The SCPR did e-mail Ferrero with questions of whether or not he showed up and whom did he talk to.

No surprise to the SCPR, Ferrero - being the public servant (in terms of accessibility; notwithstanding his website "Contact Us" invitation) he is not - in the opinion of The Report, blew off the inquiry.

And, by the way, both Kurtzman and Ferrero showed up a seeming retinue of "support" staff with them.  Kind of a curiosity given the Kurtzman/Ferrero plea of how overwhelmed the office is with work given the unfolding of what local attorney and civic activist Craig T. Conley has dubbed as "Zeiglergate."

Well, The Report has learned that Ferrero and the commissioners had to know that the judges have no money to give. 

While the judges do have a fund of about $3.1 million (as of the end of 2010), it is mandated to be used for specific purposes and not for a prosecutor's inability to properly budget for his office over a 12 month period of time.

The SCPR has learned that when large numbers of mortgage foreclosure suits (because of a developing and flowering real estate financial crises - i.e. "credit default swaps, et cetera) of the  started filling up the Court's docket, the Court imposed a $200 fee on the filing of such cases to provide for the financial burden placed on the courts on account of the huge influx of suits.  However, the judges did provide for a "waiver" of the fee if the imposition of the fee would impede a satisfactory resolution of a particular case.

Consequently, the courts took in about $5 million to $6 million of which $3.1 million remains.

Naturally, word got around.  The SCPR has been hearing it for a number of years that the Stark County Court of Common Pleas is awash in money.  Hearing it from who?  Various and sundry county officeholders including some past and present county commissioners.

But the bottom line is that the county officeholders including the commissioners are wrong and they know better than to pass around the suggestion that the Stark County Courts of Common Pleas is sitting on surplus money that could be used to offset the county's financial shortfalls because of the cessation of the 0.50 imposed sales tax.

Accordingly, the SCPR believes that the interaction between the commissioners and Ferrero were for show only.

Everybody involved had to know from the beginning that Ferrero was going to get his $107,400.00 from the county's "rainy day" fund.

Of course, Stark Countians need to be aware that what started out to be a $5.5 million "rainy day" fund has be drained by the $2.96 million (so says federal judge John Adams) lost by the Vince Frustaci theft of Stark treasury funds while serving as chief deputy.

For the rest of the story.

So were the commissioners waiting "with baited breath" for Ferrero to come back to them with a report from the judges at their September 8th meeting?

Not at all!

What they did was slip in a resolution among the myriad of agenda presentations by commissioner employee Jean Young to quietly dip into the "rainy day fund" and provide Ferrero with his requested $107,400.

No speeches, no discussions.  Quite a contrast to the high drama of the interaction of the commissioners (especially Meeks) with Kurtzman and Ferrero at their previous two meetings.

Go to the minutes of the September 8th meeting.  Try to find any reference to the resolution.

So why is September 17th before The Report writes this blog?

Because The Report could not make it to the September 8 commissioners' meeting.

But The Report did ask Commissioners Bosley and Ferguson about Ferrero's report as to what the judges had to say.  Bosley was evasive.  Ferguson genuinely appeared not to know.

So when yours truly got the opportunity at the September 15th meeting to inquire, Commissioner Meeks responded.

Here is the video of his response.

At the end of the day, the SCPR believes that the commissioner/prosecutor interaction was a bit of political theater that Stark County could do without.

Prosecutor John Ferrero was a "no show" for the final act.  Go figure!

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