Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Update:  11/10/2010 at 6:00 PM

Yours truly misread Young's report to include the actual meeting as a part of the surprise.  Young says it was not.  Only the appearance of the reporters was a surprise.

Notwithstanding the correction, the SCPR stands by the assessment that the tactic of giving the press a heads up without letting Koher know beforehand was of questionable ethics at best.

What Zumbar's tactic does for him in the future is take away any objection he might have if someone who has pre-arranged a meeting with him shows up with reporters who were not announced beforehand to Treasurer Zumbar.


Republican Alex Zumbar started out as a "above party politics" candidate for Stark County treasurer as did his Democratic opponent Ken Koher. 

In order to restore public confidence in county operations so that some day county officials can convince Stark County voters that they should be willing to vote additional revenues to the county operations, the partisan, "good ole boy," political featherbedding way of governing by both the Democrats and Republicans must stop.

Ken Koher was appointed interim treasurer on September 7th.  He assumed office about a week later and seemed well on his way to doing his part to restore public confidence when political reality hit him square in the face:  he had to get elected in his own right.

But he didn't.  On November 2nd, Stark Countians choose Alliance Republican Alex Zumbar instead.

Stark Countians will freshly remember that the whole reason for an election to fill the "unexpired term" of Gary D. Zeigler (removed from office by county commissioners on Augsut 23rd under the authority of Ohio statutory law) was the theft of several million dollars of county money by Zeigler's chief deputy Vince Furstaci.  Though Zeigler has been determined by federal and county prosecutors to have absolutely nothing to do with the theft, commissioners removed him on the fact that money came up missing as provided for in Ohio Revised Code Section 321.18.

Fast forward to yesterday, November 9, 2010.  Kelli Young of The Repository (Zumbar starts transition as new county treasurer)  reports that Zumbar, yet to be certified as the 11/02/2010 winner and yet to be bonded, gathered a couple of reporters and showed up at the Stark treasury unannounced to begin preparations to assume office.

Reading between the lines of the Young story and on the basis of a contact with by the SCPR with Zumbar and one his supporters on October 31, 2010; The Report is beginning to believe that Zumbar may be far more political than previously believed.

More politics - this time with a Republican stripe - is the last thing Stark County needs if there is to be a restoration of public confidence in the integrity of county governmental operations.

Regarding October 31.

Picky, picky, picky was the reaction by yours truly to communications received by the SCPR from Zumbar and his key Sarah Brown (wife of Stark County Court of Common Pleas - Charles E. Brown, Jr.) on a blog by the SCPR about campaign finance aspects of the treasurer's race.

Picky, picky, picky; how so?

The "picky, picky, picky" complaints:
  •   Jane Vignos (a Zumbar contributor) was inadvertently identified as having formerly been Stark County auditor rather than Stark County recorder.
  • Charles E. Brown, III (another Zumbar contributor) was inadvertently identified as being Judge Charles E. Brown of the Stark County Court of Common Pleas.  The third is Judge Brown's son.
On receiving the Zumbar call, The Report updated the blog to correct the inadvertent errors

However, it was the third Zumbar complaint that the SCPR rejected.  It had to do with The Report highlighting the contribution of a Terrence Verble to the Zumbar campaign in light of the fact that Terrence is the husband of Susan Verble who is a regional liaison for Ohio Auditor Mary Taylor's office.

Readers will recall that the State of Ohio over a number of years failed to catch the Frustaci theft until Frustaci tripped himself up by taking a trip to Florida from whence he could not be doctoring records as the auditor's audited in a adjoining room.

The SCPR views the contribution by Terrence as being a smokescreen for Susan.  Obviously, it would raise eyebrows for examiners of the campaign fiance report to see that an employee of an office which has auditing responsibilities vis-a-vis the Stark County treasury to be contributing "direct" to a candidate for the county treasury.  However, the thinking might go:  how about an "indirect" contribution; let's say through a spouse?

Such is what the SCPR believes happened with the Verble contribution. 

It should be disturbing to Stark Countians that Alex Zumbar, in light of all the controversy that has surrounded the Stark County treasury, to be so insensitive to public perception as to not blink an eye at the Verble contribution.  The SCPR has examined quite a few campaign finance reports of Stark Republicans and The Report has noted the name Verble but not Terrence Verble as a contributor here and there.  The contributor recalled?  Susan Verble, that's who!

So far as the SCPR is concerned, Alex Zumbar has tainted himself on the issue of restoring public trust in allowing what the SCPR believes to be a camoulflaged Verble contribution.

Moreover, the SCPR has another crow to pick with Zumbar, and one can add in for good measure, his Republican cohort Alan Harold about Zumbar's $200 contribution to Harold's campaign in the pre-general reporting cycle.

Much ado (Auditor-elect Harold, in particular) was made about the apparently personal and certainly political relationship (both Democrats) between former Treasurer Gary Zeigler and Auditor Kim Perez while they both were still in office.  And the SCPR thinks that political alliances should be strictly scrutinized.  But why should there be a different standard for the Republicans?  Answer:  there should not be.  For the SCPR, exactly the same standard will be applied! 

Again, insofar as the SCPR is concerned, both Republican Auditor-elect Harold and Republican Treasurer-elect Zumbar (on two counts) have tainted themselves on the issue of restoring public trust.  Neither has even assumed office yet.

Just a word on the Brown contribution to Zumbar.  It is well known in Stark County political circles that the Alliance Zumbar clan is in thick with the Charles E. Brown, Jr family.

But first let yours truly say this.  There is no indication whatsoever that Judge Brown (former head of the Stark County Republican Party) is anything but of the highest ethical and professional standards when it comes to his impartial administration of justice in the Stark County Court of Common Pleas.

Under current Ohio Supreme Court articulated standards of ethics, judges are not prohibited from making campaign contributions to candidates for public offices.  Some judges as a matter of personal policy will not make campaign contributions.  The SCPR can cite readers to many contributions to various candidates made by Stark County based judges.  And, to repeat, such is perfectly permissible under legal profession ethical rules.

In the case of Zumbar, the Brown contributions in the pre-general election cycle did not come from Judge Brown rather from his son Charles, III and wife Sarah.  But who in their right mind - the lack of direct contributions notwithstanding - believes that Judge Brown did not privately support Alex Zumbar?  Hello there!  Alex Zumbar worked for Judge Brown at one time in his career.

To The Report, the Zumbar and Sarah Brown outcry on the inadvertent SCPR Brown misidentification is in of itself a reason for further assessment.  Why the "hue and cry?" 

Now to the Young report.

Why did Alex Zumbar "surprise" interim Treasurer Koher with the pre-arranged reporter accompanied visit?

Apparently, Zumbar did not trust Ken Koher enough to have called him beforehand to let him know that he wanted to come in to begin the transistion.  Wow?  What was the basis of this apparent distrust?  Doesn't Zumbar owe the Stark County public and explanation?  Zumbar never breathed a word during the campaign that Ken Koher was not trustworthy. 

But thinking back to the October 31st conversation that yours truly had with Zumbar, he did impliedly reflect on Koher in suggesting that he had stolen Zumbar's idea of revamping the office.  However, he did pass it off as being a case of "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."

Among the things that surfaced in the "surprise" visit include:
  • the apparent inability of Zumbar to deal with "all" Stark County treasury employees as "at will" employees given the representation of seven deputies by the union AFSCME
  • Zumbar's take that Kim Perez's IT employees are sitting on their collective duffs not getting the job done in a timely fashion on the rework of software to do the impending county property tax billings (January, 2011)
  • the treasury's ability to meet a required 16% reduction in county budget appropriation for FY 2011
Revealatory on a trust issue between Zumbar as treasurer and Perez as auditor (until March, 2011) in the following dialogue reported by Young:
He suggested that Koher write a letter to Stark County Auditor Kim Perez, whose IT employees are responsible for the implementation, to “at least light a fire.”

Koher said he’s in constant contact with the auditor’s office, “Those messages have been said.”

“Maybe it’s time to journalize it, to put it in writing,” Zumbar said.
Obviously, there are many trust issues that remain with Stark County taxpayers with the whole of Stark County government.  But it is not good when a man who is about to take office may have propriety issues (e.g. surprise Koher to ensure transparency and in the area campaign finance).

As readers of the SCPR know.  The Report can be relied on to report on and comment on all county and political subdivision officials (elected and unelected) as they deal with the public's business

And Alex Zumbar is no exception!

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