Tuesday, November 30, 2010

(VIDEO) CITY OF CANTON: A LEGISLATIVE FIGHT OR A POLITICAL FIGHT?


Canton City Council has been fighting over the form of updating its building code and concomitant inspection requirements for about a year.   It's a fight between the "white hats" (those favoring mandatory inspections at sale or once every five years) and the "black hats" (those who worry about the cost to slumlords and whether or not the increased standard of inspection will pay for itself or threaten an additional drain on the city's general fund).  An outsider might think this is a good thing.

Why?

Because one of Canton's many problems is neighborhood deterioration.  For what good building codes are, Canton's prior codes have not been effective towards deterring slumlords from coming to Canton in droves to collect their rents, put very little - if anything, into the rental units and then move on when their houses/apartments collapse.

And the SCPR agrees that it would be a good thing for Canton to vigorously attack its neighborhood.deterioration problem.

But is restoring the neighborhoods "really" what's at play in this fight?

The Report thinks not.

This fight is against a political backdrop of incumbent Democratic Mayor William J. Healy, II straining to survive an intraparty challenge from Councilman Bill Smuckler come May, 2011 and the Democratic primary.

What the Smuckler forces on council will be doing from now until May will be to find one issue or another to make political hay for the challenger.  And, Healy supporters will be doing the same for the mayor.

Doesn't mean that some "good for the citizens" won't come out of the political vying.  But it does mean that the governors (the mayor, the appointed officials and the council members) cannot for the life of themselves get out of their primarily political stance into a more civic model.

Unless and until Canton's governing class learns to minimize the political, Canton will continue its downward slide.  New businesses will not be attracted to a city in constant political turmoil.  All that will get any new economic development to Canton will be the special deals (i.e. tax incentives, et cetera).  Once those evaporate, the businesses will vamoose.  For there is nothing inherently compelling about Canton as it presently stands and is operated.

All Cantonians can hope for is for May 3, 2011 to come and go quickly.

Perhaps, if Smuckler wins - remember, the word is "perhaps," Canton has a better chance to get out of the "politics for the sake of politics" mode and move on to a bona fide repair of its image, its infrastructure and onto "real" economic development.

Smuckler appears to be less political than Healy.  However, that may not be saying much.  Mayor Healy is, in the view of the SCPR, a master politician.  Maybe enough of a master to survive as mayor of Canton.

Here is a video snippet of the argument between the two adversaries Healy (West) and Smuckler (Hawk).


Monday, November 29, 2010

MAY 3, 2011 COULD BE A VERY INTERESTING PRIMARY ELECTION DAY


UPDATE:  1:30 PM FRANK MORRIS TO TAKE OUT PETITIONS FOR CANTON'S 9TH WARD




In just a little over two months the slates will be set for whom is squaring off against whom to in the Stark County Democratic and Republican parties to run for various municipal offices in 2011.

Added political spice will come after the primary for independent/non-partisan possible candidates make their decisions not later than August 10, 2011.

Of course, the leading races will be for mayor of Canton and Miassillon in the sense of internal party competition for who will be the party standard bearer come November. 

For Canton, look for a rematch between Councilman-at-Large Bill Smuckler and incumbent Mayor William J. Healy, II.  Back in 2003, Healy was relatively new in town in the sense of returning from New York in taking on established Canton Democrat Smuckler.


This time around, the SCPR is told by Jimmy Babcock and his boss Kim Perez (who had been rumored to be interested in running for mayor, if he lost the auditor's race - which he did) that neither is likely to run for mayor this time around.

Looking at the list of individuals taking out petitions, it seems as Smuckler versus Healy will be only "real" choice for Canton's Democrats as to whom will come out the Democratic nominee.  The main question for November (when the winner has to face off against any independents and a Republican nominee) is how heated the Smuckler/Healy race becomes and whether or not the winner gets the support of the loser.


The same scenario is likely to play out in Massillion among Democrats as to whether long time Mayor Francis H. Cicchinelli, Jr. is going to be continuing on as mayor.  Right now there is a smattering of potential candidates.  One on the Democratic side, two on the Republican side; one being arch-Cicchinelli enemy Carl Oser.


But Cicchinelli worries about a Republican candidate, he will be looking for someone more politically significant that Michael Slater to take out petitions.  Likely possibilities are Councilwoman Kathy Catazaro-Perry or Municipal Court Judge Edward Elum.  It would be truly stunning, if neither took out and filed petitions as they both are thought to be in the virulently anti-anything-Cicchinelli camp.

To The Report, the most likely of the Catazaro-Perry/Elum duo is Catazaro-Perry.  It appears that the Cicchinelli administration was noting Catazaro-Perry's clout in Massillon politics in deciding not to push annexation of the Tuslaw schools.  Had Cicchinelli pushed on and lost at the hand of Catazaro-Perry led opposition in the defeat of a required ordinance for the proposed annexation to move forward, he would have risked a public perception of political vulnerability that might serve to weaken his chances of surviving a Democratic Party primary.

The SCPR hears that there could also be a Republican primary contest in North Canton.  Last time around, Mayor David Held ran without opposition.  However, in the meantime (between the November, 2009 election and the upcoming primary) he embarrassed Councilman Jeff Davies by insisting that North Canton's law director investigate alleged Davies misconduct in relationship to specified city employees.  The Report is told that Davies has not forgotten the embarrassment and would like to be mayor of North Canton.  So it will be interesting to see whether or not he decides to take Held on in May of next year.

On the city council front, there are likely to be a number of contested races, especially in Canton.

Before it is all said and done, look for a repeat in the Democratic council-at-large seats.  Bill Smuckler, of course, is not running for re-election, which leaves an opening.  The same thing happened two years ago when Don Casar decided not to receive re-election.


Political observers expect that Mary Cirelli and Joe Cole (first elected in 2009) to run for re-election.  Cirelli is as automatic as anyone gets in Canton (second only to Smuckler in 2009), but Cole may be a different picture.  Cole has been quiet as councilman and therefore he could be vulnerable to the likes of a Jimmy Babcock, especially if the field get narrowed to let's to to four or five rather than the ten who ran in 2009.

Other Canton city council races in the offing?

Indeed.

In 2003, Kevin Fisher upset the then Democratic Party chairman Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. and other party officials when he took on Ward 5 incumbent Councilman Terry Prater (not running for re-election because he as taken a job with the Stark County Board of Elections).  Fisher nearly won.  Fisher tells The Report that he has repaired his relationship with party officials and therefore he likely will not be running against the wishes of the Stark County Democratic Party this time around.  However, he may have opposition.  If elected, he says he will be doing a non-traditional thing by paying attention to Canton city government policy issues in additional to the standard - for councilpersons - servicing of constituent needs (roads, zoning issues and the like).



Ward 9 could also be the scene (once again) of a hot Democratic primary.  Frank Morris, III lost by a mere 7 votes to the now deceased Joe Carbenia.  Carbenia's precinct committeeperson choice Brian Horner already faces the prospect of opposition in 2011.




All-in-all, 2011's May primaries could present some very interesting local races.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

STARK COUNTY DOG POUND VOLUNTEERS: A CASE OF "NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED?"



Stark County Dog Pound (SCDP - Pound) volunteers - are they "a gift to the [Stark County] community?"

The Stark County Political Report says:  ABSOLUTELY!

Civic volunteers are the personification of everyday citizens being part of the governance of our local community.  They have no political motivations (i.e. getting re-elected, et cetera).  They are involved because they consummately care about their specific project.

In the case of the dog pound volunteers, if the animals do not have the volunteers looking out for them, their needs and safety concerns may go unmet.

So why raise the question in the first place?

Because the SCPR  is increasingly hearing suggestions that the volunteers (i.e. unpaid Pound workers and Stark County Dog Pound Advisory Board [SCDPAB] members) have become a case of "the tail wagging the dog."

The Report has been hearing these rumblings ever since the SCDPAB got very active in forcing the county commissioners' hands in removing Evert Gibson as dog warden earlier this year and in weighing-in against a last minute "surprise" candidate to replace Gibson.  Other criticisms of the commissioners include the appointment of former commissioner Tom Harmon's stepson as a deputy dog warden, the failure of the commissioners to control the union (Local 94, Teamsters Union) and ensure that the Pound function properly.

And there is also the matter of the Animal Welfare Society of Stark County (AWSOSC) being led to believe (by Commissioner Bosley?) that the county would be putting county money into a facility on SCDP grounds to house a spay/neuter clinic operated by AWSOSC (a non-proift).  So far as the SCPR knows, commissioners have not delivered on the commissioner suggestions of financial help (i.e. $1 a year lease, and, perhaps up to $100,000 for reconstruction costs?).

The commissioners "apparent" change in attitude is probably the case (in addition to the evaporation of the political motivations - see below) because of the very limited funds that the county has for such purposes these days.  When it was "more or less promised."

While he has been commissioner, Todd Bosley has been "apparently" been very supportive of the volunteers.  It will be interesting to see whether or not his support continues as ex-commissioner Todd Bosley.  The SCPR suspects that Bosley's interaction with the volunteers will disappear now that he has no political purpose in doing so.

Moreover, former Commissioner Steve Meeks seemed to be on board with Bosley on being gungho for the volunteer groups until November 3, 2010.  Whether or not Meeks genuinely supports the volunteers will be shown by his involvement or non-involvement now that the political purpose is gone.

The Report believes that "in reality" the volunteers have been "a pain in the __ __ ___" to the commissioners including Bosley and Meeks and that the negativity has been embraced by Commissioner Ferguson (see yesterday's video in which he talks about "the - limited - role of the SCDPAB" (a body of volunteers).

Within the past few days, the SCPR has learned that an employee of the Stark County Dog Pound has been written up a second time and/or suspended, depending on whom you believe.

Commissioner Ferguson tells the SCPR (last Wednesday that a Pound employee was "written up a second time", but not suspended).  However, here is a edited e-mail that The Report has gotten on the matter which suggests a suspension, to wit:

I heard that ...  was hosing out a dog cage with the dog still in it. ( supposed to take the dogs out before cleaning the cages , which is more time consuming) The volunteer reported this to the Warden and she said she would handle the situation. A short time later ... came up to the volunteer screaming at her , saying she should not go behind his back , she did not see him spraying the dog ,and on and on .....About this time the Warden walked up and ... stopped shouting (sic) and walked away. The Warden told the volunteer to write a report of the incident and give it to her.

After this, ... again approached the volunteer , saying he wanted her to talk to his wife in the parking lot, implying that his wife would handle the situation, if the volunteer got smart with her.

I heard some of the volunteers that witnessed this, passed the info on to the commissioners, and ... was suspended with pay until a hearing takes place. Not sure how long the suspension is.
Here is another excerpt from an e-mail received by the SCPR that suggests reasons why acrimony is seeming to prevail between the volunteers, county commissioners, and Pound employees. To wit (with minor editing):
I see that this issue is taking a disturbing turn; that being that the real problems that have existed at the pound for some  time, the very same issues that provoked the installation of video cameras in the first place (by Evert Gibson) to record abuse and unnecessary rough handling by the deputies are now being used to defend the abusers.  I believe the freedom of information act makes the tapes available, but the reason they were installed was so that the WARDEN (who it now appears has become the darling of Ferguson and Hanke) can review them on a regular basis.  Obviously the darling is not doing so.  It should also be noted that according to inside sources the deputies have learned how to avoid being photographed.  I have been told that the "program" to view the videos is complicated, hence the evidence that does exist may not have been thoroughly viewed/edited.

As for the dog food:  Food has always been supplied by donations.  When Evert was the warden, if donations ran out, he bought food for the dogs out of his own pocket, but such needs were very few because the pound had (PAST TENSE) the support and respect of the community, so donations were usually plentiful.  I think the current issue is not (as suggested in your video) that dogs are starving, but that moldy food is considered acceptable by this warden.  In some cases there are dogs that come in so malnourished that feeding them extra would be a logical and humane act, but (as I understand) the deputies refuse to allow volunteers to provide extra food to such animals, not for any economic reason, but because the dog might poop more, thus the deputies who are being paid outrageous salaries to CARE for these dogs might have to clean the cage. 

I have personally experienced the irresponsible, inexcusable and irreversible act of ... kill at will behavior.  I have personally seen ...  lift a big dog using a snare pole.  Several people in this neighborhood have seen him exert utterly unnecessary force and roughness, in addition to extreme rudeness to themselves when the pound was called regarding 2 apparently lost dogs that did not require the force used. 

To suggest that the volunteers are making false claims regarding what is and is not basic humane and responsible treatment of animals, civil behavior toward the tax-paying public and competent management by the person who was hired to 'fix' the problems is disturbing to me.  While there may be a volunteer or two who have unrealistic expectations is possible.  I don't know as I don't go down there, but I do know that these people (volunteers) are not working their asses off for any gain or glory.  They are doing so because there is a tremendous need and that need exists because the employees do NOT work their asses off.  Rather, they prefer to do little more than sit on them.

It should also be noted that one of the final blows to Gibson's tenure at the pound came because Ferguson didn't feel   he had received an appropriate response to a personal issue he'd reported.  Now that citizens have boldly come forth to reveal some inexcusable behaviors at the Pound (Greathouse and Beaver) that have resulted in the loss, not to mention heartbreak and financial costs due to a lack of competence and management under the new warden, Ferguson himself seems to be very forgiving. 

Does anyone think that this warden who lives in another county is going to even show up for work when the weather gets bad?  I doubt it.  Has anyone asked WHY she left her previous job?  I'd like to know that answer.  And finally,  her public statement that the heart-stabbing ... and a few other deputies can't bear to have dogs named because it's too upsetting when they have to "put them to sleep"just about made me spew! 

It appears to this reader that certain commissioners have tired of this issue and are taking the easy way out by siding with their new hire rather than making management demands upon her as they did upon her predecessor.  I hope that the new commissioners will use their authority to address this situation. 

So there you have it folks!

It appears that the relationship between the current commissioners (not including the "new to be soon installed" Tom Bernbei) and the volunteers is not the best.

As stated by the second e-mail writer, the new commissioners (Creighton and Bernabei) need to take a firm hand on matters at the Stark County Dog Pound and solve this festering problem "once and for all!"

It is disturbing that there may be those and including, perhaps Commissioner Ferguson and County Administrator Hanke, who find the volunteers as communication "inconvenient truths" especially at a time the county is experiencing severe financial shortages and therefore are to be diminished in terms of their believability so that they do not get in the way of county officials getting public support for additional revenues so sorely needed by the county.

Had Bosley, Meeks, Ferguson, Vignos and Harmon effectively tackled the long brewing SCDP problems over the past five years, the commissioners would not have the current set of problems.

But they didn't.

The SCPR finds it to be an outrage that there might be a subtle trashing of the dog pound civic volunteers by public officials.  If such is the case, cooler heads (Creighton and Bernabei) need to step forward immediately and diffuse this problem which seems to be at "a low boil" currently before it hits "a high boil" and gets out of control.

Civic volunteers and their "check and balance" on how government functions is a critically important part of the public's confidence in government institutions, the local government included.  Commissioners should be pleased that the Pound volunteers are bringing the problems of the Pound to the public's attention.  The way to honor the volunteers is to take their complaints seriously and to solve the problems, post haste

Stark County, with the Frustaci matter fresh in the local collective memory, does not need another "bad taste in the public's mouth" event.  If the commissioners fail "to take the bull by the horns" and solve the Pound problems, "Hell will freeze over" before any kind of tax issue passes in Stark County.  And, inaction or ineffective action could result in a new round of ex-commissioners dotting the Stark County political landscape.

The SCPR applauds the Pound volunteers for exposing the SCDP problems and pushing for resolution.

In doing so, they can expect to kicked around.  The Report has experienced the same fate with the reports and investigations that surface in these pages.  One of the reasons that politicians and many elected officials are disdained by the public (only about 20% of Americans have confidence and trust in government) is because they look after themselves and their political hides rather than the general welfare of the governed.

So rather than fix problems as they can and will continue to surface, the politicos and highly politicized elected office holders either bury the problems or try to make victims out of those in the greater Stark County community who "put the light of day" on their self-serving ways.

Lamentably, the SCPR reminds the Dog Pound volunteers that in looking after the public interest, oft times "their good deeds will not go unpunished."

Such is the reality of life, especially when the electoral fate of public officials may be at stake!

But the Stark County public undoubtedly esteems the likes of the Stark County Dog Pound volunteers!!!

Here is a video of SCDP Advisory Board members discussing "volunteer policy," "whether or not there is a dog food shortage," and "whether or not there is abuse at the Pound."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

(VIDEO) WHO HAS THEIR FACTS STRAIGHT ABOUT THE OPERATIONS THE STARK COUNTY DOG POUND?



The SCPR has been hearing about allegations of "dog abuse" and "not enough food to eat" BUT FOR food being brought in by volunteers at the Stark County Dog Pound (SCDP - Pound).

It is beginning to look like - to The Report - that Stark County commissioners are becoming increasingly annoyed with Pound volunteers.

Last Wednesday, yours truly asked Commissioner Pete Ferguson (on camera, but after the formal commissioner meeting) about the allegations made by volunteers at previous commissioner meetings and at the monthly meeting of the Stark County Dog Pound Advisory Board (SCDPAB - whose members are appointed by the commissioners).

Here is his response:  (note what Ferguson has to say about the role of the SCDPAB)



The SCPR has asked SCDPAB officials for a copy of the video some members claim shows abuse.  So far the promised copy has not been produced.

The Report will keep digging to find out whom among the commissioners and the volunteers has the correct facts on whether or not dog abuse has been recorded on Pound cameras and whether or not the dogs at the pound have enough to eat.

At this juncture, the SCPR has been unable to determine where the truth lies. 

The SCPR, "keepin them honest!"

Friday, November 26, 2010

(VIDEO) NIMISHILLEN TWP TRUSTEES PROVING THEY ARE NOT UP TO GOVERNING, TRUSTEE ALLEN GRESS - ONCE AGAIN MAKES A "SILLY" ARGUMENT: "COMMISSIONERS NEEDED TO FIND FOR NIMISHILLEN ON ROAD VACATE ISSUE AS A MATTER OF GOV'T SUPPORTING GOV'T," HMM?


The SCPR has been around to quite a number of Stark County-based township trustee offices over recent years.  Of all The Report has had contact with, the Nimishillen trustees, immediate past and present, appear to be among the most troubled in terms of how they function.

Many thought that when Trustee Todd Bosley left in January, 2007, Nimishillen's troubles were over.  Bosley and Trustee Goffus did not get along and when Trustees Lisa Shafer and Mike Lynch appointed Allen Gress to replace Bosley (Gress was sworn in on January11, 2007), many thought that the three would work harmoniously together.

But it appears very few are thinking that now.

So how is it that the three have fallen into disharmony?

Well, it is kind of like in a team sport when the players fail to figure out that there is no "I" in the word team.

Who suffers when trustees cannot get along and/or make poor decisions?

Of course, it is the taxpaying citizens.

It is appearing more and more that Nimishillen trustees (not the current board) made a financially unsustainable decision when they decided to build and equip Fire Station #3.  The Report hears that about $1 million was financed to put the fire and dispatch facility together.  With Stark County making steady progress on putting together a countywide emergency call receiving, dispatch and radio operation, it is hard to see how Nimshillen is going to keep its customers so as to generate sufficient revenue to be able to pay what Gress tells The Report says is about $750,000 remaining on the station's capital debt.

Since the Fire Station #3 decision, matters have only gotten worse for the trustees.

There have been a number of employee issues the latest being the firing of a fireman.  A firing over which the trustees were divided.  Gress against the firing.  Shafer, and Lynch for it.

One of the easier tax issues for local governments to pass is road maintenance issues.  However, Nimishillen Township trustees to a sound beating on an issue earlier this month.  Does this mean that Nimishillen voters have lost confidence in the trustees?


Another problem among the current set of trustees is what to do about neighborhood allegations that noise and customer conduct has gotten out of hand at a neighborhood bar known as the Carriage House.

When the SCPR last wrote (September 23, 2010) about the battle between Mike Ritchie, one of the owners of Precision Holdings, LLC (Bob King being the other owner) which operates a bar in Nimishillen Township doing business as Carriage House (hereinafter referred to as "Carriage House" or "Bar") The Report referred to an argument made by Nimishillen Trustee Allen Gress in opposition to the Bar's petition to vacate an alleyway that intersects Bar property as being silly.

At the September 22nd Stark County commissioner hearing on whether or not to vacate the alley, Trustees Gress and Shafter appeared on different sides of the issue.

The argument by Gress?

If the alleyway was not vacated, then it remains a public way and therefore makes it more difficult for the Bar to hold concerts outside.  Ohio law does not permit serving alcohol on a public right-of-way.   Moreover, Stark County commissioners somehow - according to Gress - had an obligation to find for the trustees and vote not to vacate the alleyway because governments need to support governments (this is the silly part) and keeping the alleyway a public street was the only way that Nimishillen trustee could control the problems that trustees and neighboring citizens allege to be emanating from the Bar.

The citizen allegations have been going on since Richie and King agreed to purchase the bar under land contract about two years ago and initiating outside concerts.

Back on  September 22nd, the commissioners asked the two sides to take 60 days to try to work out a compromise.  And they tried.  Carriage House did have an easement surveyed so that next door neighbor  Mathie could get her vehicles in and out of her garage.  But she was unwilling to accept an easement as a solution.  So it was back to hearing and decision time.

But before the hearing resumed, acrimony among the trustees surfaced at the trustees' October 28th meeting, to wit:
A resolution to close the alley [Honey Alley] offered by Trustee Allen Gress brought an angry response from Trustee President Mike Lynch. Lynch said that the action could result in the township becoming involved in a civil suit.  (David Scheurer - The Repository)
On Wednesday past (November 25th),  the commissioners did refuse to vacate the alleyway, but on a standard of law - public convenience and welfare -  not on Gress's "silly" government supporting government argument. 

The SCPR mentions the Gress's "silly" argument again only because Gress himself brought it up at the commissioners' meeting of the 25th (see the video posted below).  However, Gress, at the meeting of the 25th, misrepresented the scope of The Report's "silly" attribution in the September 23rd blog to include the Nimishillen citizens attending and speaking out at the hearing of September 22nd.

Not so!

Here is exactly what The Report wrote, in part, on September 23rd:
Gress looked pretty silly to the SCPR in his presentation. (meaning the "government supporting government" argument)  Mathie [the next door neighbor to the Carriage House] presented very effectively. (emphasis added)
In making his "silly" argument, The Report believes that Gress ran the risk of jeopardizing the effectiveness of the telling criticism coming from Bar area residents present at the hearing who were having a obvious effect on commissioners.  In effect, The Report's take on Gress's "government supporting government" plea as being a bailout request.

For two years Township trustees have not been able to broker a resolution of the problem, so Gress's solution is to punt to the commissioners?  With Trustee Shafer standing up for Carriage House at the initial commissioner hearing and Lynch lashing out against Gress on October 28th, is his appeal to the commissioners for "government to support government" a case of Gress trying to show up the other two trustees?

The Report believes that Commissioner Ferguson was all set to vote "yes" on the road vacate, but relented in the face of the powerful points being made by the people who actually live in the vicinity of the Bar.

The SCPR believes that the county commissioners listened intently to their complaints made at Wednesday's hearing  about the noise made at outdoor concerts (said to be two a year) being unbearable, that some bar patrons were conducting themselves in an unseemly manner out in the surrounding neighborhood, that more customers came to the Bar to attend concert events than was permitted by the Bar's occupancy permit, that parking on the Bar's property was insufficient to house all the vehicles of the patrons and, for one adjoining neighbor (Kellie Mathie), - the inability to get her vehicle in and out of her garage.

So with the commissioners denying the petition to vacate, is the matter dead?

No, is the SCPR's read of  Carriage House attorney Robert Soles and his client Mike Ritchie.  An appeal to the Stark County Court of Common Pleas seems likely.

Indications are, that in the meantime, Carriage House can and will continue to hold its outside concerts notwithstanding the inconvenience of having to deal with the public right-of-way running through the Bar property that is Allen Gress's grand solution to the problem.

If the concerts continue and if the Township finds itself in the middle of a lawsuit (Lynch's concern), what will Gress come up with next? 

More silliness?

Here is a video of highlights the exchange between Commissioner Ferguson and Trustees Gress and Lynch.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

THANKSGIVING 2010


Stark County has had a number of local political figures step forward with a positive contribution to the well-being of our county in 2010.

The STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) recognizes the following for their contributions to better government and/or making current officeholders more accountable.

JANET CREIGHTON

The former county auditor, mayor of Canton and now commissioner-elect of Stark County has an opportunity to turn a bad Stark County situation into a markedly improved one.

For Creighton to run for county commissioner in the worst of times is a clear indication that she truly cares about Stark County and its citizens.  As mayor of Canton she was a cheerful person who connected well with everyday people.  Moreover, this loyal Republican worked well with an overwhelmingly Democraticall- controlled council.  Better by far than the current Democratic mayor.

Stark Countians should be thankful that a person who has been there and done that in terms of leadership has been willing to answer a call to leadership that Stark County so desperately needs.

TOM BERNABEI

For this former city councilman, longtime law director and Healy administration official to, along with Creighton, to step up and seek leadership in the most difficult of times for Stark County shows that he too cares about the county and its future.  He did the same thing when the Stark Area Transportation Authority (SARTA) needed someone to step into the breech when agency's leadership was suddenly vacated.

Bernabei could have passed on getting back into politics especially in view of the indignant way he was treated by fellow Democrat Mayor William J. Healy, II.  Healy was foolish enough to fire Bernabei from his key administration post.  Any chance Healy had to have a successful administration, vanished with the firing.  Bernabei could have said to himself:  Who needs the grief after his many years of public service? But he didn't.  Being the consummately civic person he is, he put personal comfort aside to answer the call to leadership.

His troubles will be different this time around.  He will not be humiliated by his peer leadership as with Healy, however, there will be troubles aplenty.  The finances of Stark County are about as bad as they can get.  As he said during the campaign to go from $56 million to about $35 million in the space of a few years just will not wash.  Somehow, someway he, Creighton and Ferguson will have to find ways and means to avoid financial catastrophe.

Solutions willbe  hard to come by for the trio of commissioners.  However, Stark Countians should be grateful that Tom Bernabei is one of our new commissioners.


STEPHEN TODD

Though a neophyte politician, he did very well as an independent candidate running against Bernabei/Walters in the "unexpired" term of Tom Harmon race.

Very impressively, he garnered 9.87% of the vote.   In doing so, he, perhaps, encourages others who do not carry the Republican/Democratic label to run for office.  More and more, voters are thinking that Rs and Ds do not have the answers we are all looking for.  Stark Countians should be appreciative that Todd has blazed a path for other independents and non-mainline-party hopefuls to seek office in Stark.  These are folks who could energized Stark County government and politics with fresh approaches, fresh ideas.

One other thing to be thankful for.  But for Stephen Todd, the SCPR believes Republican Jamie Walters would have been elected.  Such, The Report believes, would have been a disaster for Stark County.  Walters apparently is a man who really believes that Stark County can be run on $35 million when the criminal justice part of Stark County alone costs about $39 million.


BILL SMUCKLER

Cantonians should especially be pleased and gratified.  The Hall of Fame City needs relief from the Healy administration and quick.  Smuckler has already defeated Healy in one Democratic primary and appears to have an excellent chance to do it again come May, 2011.

While the SCPR is not real wild about Smuckler and his ideas of economic development via annexation, he appears to be a better choice than Healy.

Smuckler's best positive point that Stark Countians as a whole should gratefully anticipate, if he is elected mayor of Canton, is his interest in consolidation, merger, cooperation within the political infrastructure of Stark County.

ALEX ZUMBAR

It will be a relief to Stark Countians to finally put the Gary D. Zeigler era behind us with Alex Zumbar's ascension to the Stark County treasurer post.  Beginning on April 1, 2009 through August 23, 2010, Stark Countians had to be demoralized as they looked on as the spectacle of Zeigler hanging on as treasurer despite calls for his resignation for not having measures in place to prevent a loss of taxpayer monies from the county treasurer at the hand of former Chief Deputy Vince Frustaci.

Zumbar has done a terrific job wherever he has been as a financial person in charge be it Alliance or North Canton.


ALAN HAROLD

As auditor-elect, Harold has the promise of taking the politics out of who serves in the day-in, day-out jobs in the auditor's office at the pleasure of Stark County citizens and taxpayers.

It seems like the auditor's office like all too many Stark County elected offices have been places where wel -connected Republicans and Democrats have ended up with jobs to the exclusion of ordinary Stark County citizens.

The SCPR believes that outgoing auditor Kim Perez made progress in keeping politics out of employment decision.  However, The Report thinks - despite Perez's denials - that a number of his employees are on the job because of their political connections.

Harold says he is going to completely do away with politics having anything whatsoever to do with whom gets a job in the operation he runs.  Moreover, Harold says that his own partisan political connection with other Stark County officeholders will not factor in when he sees something amiss in how a county office is being run.  He repeatedly bashed Perez on this count during the campaign just concluded.

Stark Countians have to be thankful that Harold is on the record to a commitment to remove politics from who works for the county.  These jobs are for the people of Stark County; not the politically connected.


PETE FERGUSON

Stark County Commissioner Pete Ferguson has embraced local government efficiency as his thing to focus on during his first term as commissioner.  Up until he found this cause to promote, it appeared to the SCPR that he was floundering in his effort to find an identity as commissioner.

Ferguson's finding is calling should be a delight to Stark Countians.

While the county and City of Canton has been working on merging some of their duplicative services for a couple of years, the commissioner side of the discussions has undergone a major change and will be experiencing additional changes.

Tom Harmon is gone (December, 2009), Todd Bosley is leaving (December,2010) and Steve Meeks (in the opinion of the SCPR) served his last day as commissioner yesterday.

So Ferguson, a man with staying ability (at least until December, 2012), and a person who can see to it that Stark County government becomes more efficient.

Ferguson has embraced the rework of 9-1-1 "countywide." the notion of political subdivision coming together on putting together an Internet-based competitive bidding program, combining the Stark County and Canton health departments and a coalescing of building department functions.

Undoubtedly, Stark Countians are thankful to see government official Ferguson working diligently to save taxpayer dollars.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

(VIDEO: FOR CITIZENS & PUBLIC OFFICIALS WHO ARE INTERESTED IN "EFFICIENT" GOV'T) - BID EXPRESS - ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY FOR STARK COUNTY GOVERNMENT TO BECOME MORE EFFICIENT?


At Commissioner Pete Ferguson's initiative, local officials assembled at the Stark County Regional Planning Agency to hear a presentation by Bid Express officials to interest county, township, city and village officials in an Internet program offered for a fee by the company which appears to more than pay for itself in savings to local governments who have to competitively bid out government business (by state law) and, where not required to do by law, should do so.

By coming together, local governments can pool their resources to make the program affordable.  Commissioner Ferguson and Councilman-at-Large Bill Smuckler (who will be running for mayor of Canton in May, 2011) are spearheading the effort.  Although Ferguson is newer at the effort than Smuckler (who has been the foremost advocate of regionalism in Stark County), he is pushing hard to get better cooperation.

But will local governments be receptive to the Ferguson/Smuckler prodding?

Yours truly has written before on this topic and will continue to do so in an effort to push efficiency and effectiveness in local government.

It has been like pulling teeth to get local governments (17 townships and 19 villages and cities) to work together on such things as developing an efficient and effective countywide 9-1-1 call and dispatch system, consolidating health department functions and merging building department duplicated operations.

On 9-1-1, for instance, a major 9-1-1 player with its CenCom center - Nimishillen Township - refuses to cooperate with county officials putting together a countywide system. 

On the building department issue, there is a problem with outright merger because Canton has more detailed requirements than Stark County and therefore a countywide agency would not suffice.  However, the county can and the SCPR believes should contract with Canton to do the county's work.

One has to wonder where Canton Mayor William J. Healy, II is on the issue of consolidation.  He talks a good game.  However, his administration presented and had Canton City Council pass a measure Monday evening to continue an independent contract for building code oversight and enforcement and not coordinate with Stark County officials despite Canton's supposed interest in   His prime opponent in May, Councilman Bill Smuckler seems to be much more consistent and hence reliable on government consolidation, merger and cooperation than Healy.  Smuckler voted against the Healy administration proposal.

On another front, apparently the mergers of the health departments are pretty much a certainty with the Canton Health Department likely to be the surviving entity.

Ferguson issued an invitation to many more political subdivision officeholders than showed up at the October 19th meeting he called for them to hear Bid Express make its presentation.  The Report has prepared a video for those not attending and for citizens interested in the taxpayer savings to be realized in an adopting of the Bid Express program to see.

The presentation is compelling and Commissioner Ferguson tells the SCPR that he believes that its adoption will become a reality.

With the county facing as much as a $20 million drop off of revenues from 2010 to 2012 and with many of Stark's villages, cities and township facing financial difficulties, the time has never been a better time to push for more cooperation, sharing and merger of duplicative services among all of Stark County's governments.

Much more needs to be done than is currently being considered.  However, Stark Countians should be encouraged with the efforts underway.

Here is the video presentation by Bid Express.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

CAN PROSECUTOR JOHN FERRERO LOOK MICHELLE SWONGER IN THE EYE? REPOSITORY MUFFLES MOM'S STORY; FOX8 "I TEAM" AND SCPR LETS MOTHER OF SEXUALLY MOLESTED SON SPEAK HER PEACE ON STARK COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE!



Today, the SCPR provides a Stark County citizen the space to express her frustration with the functioning of the Stark County prosecutor's office.  Citizen Michelle Swonger, whose family, has had occasion to interact with Stark's prosecutor steps forward to give her account of the experience.

It is interesting to note that Mrs. Swonger's hometown newspaper, The Repository, in its editorial function has been silent on Prosecutor Ferrero's handling of the Swonger matter.  Prosecutor Ferrero seems to get a pass from Jeff Gauger et al.  Readers of Stark County's only countywide newspaper need to be asking themselves:  why does The Rep treat Ferrero with kid gloves?

A few days ago, The Report included a synopsis of the basis of the Swonger family experience, to wit:

There is a citizen living in Stark County that is absolutely furious with Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero.

She (Michelle Swonger) believes that the prosecutor's office undercharged the now former Canton City Schools official James Irvin for illegal activities in his relationship with her son Nick.  Moreover, she believes - because of the undercharge - that the prosecutor's office is responsible for Irvin serving only 61 days of an 18 month sentence, and only required to register as a sex offender for 15 years rather than for a lifetime which would have been attained if Irvin had been charged with and convicted of  sexual  battery and/or attempted sexual battery in addition to gross sexual imposition, sexual imposition and providing alcohol to an underage person that Irvin was actually charged with.

Swonger's son, Nick, came into contact with Irvin, who was pupil services director for the Canton City Schools at $101,972 annually, when Nick was 15.

CLICK HERE for a look at a FoxNews (Channel 8 - Cleveland) I-Team investigation video of Swonger's allegation and a history of the Irvin/Swonger relationship.

The question the SCPR has about the handling of the Irvin case (note that Curd talks about her "supervisers" in the Channel 8 video which one has to believe included Ferrero) is this:  Prosecutor Ferrero obviously has as a priority going after sexual predators, and it is widely known that prosecutors are prone to overcharge not undercharge (as Swonger alleges).

John Ferrero needs to explain his standard for charging/indicting to the Stark County public!

The SCPR will provide Prosecutor Ferrero with unfettered access to the Stark County public via The Report to explain in more detail (than is contained in the Fox 8 report) why his office handled the Swonger matter the way the office did.

Here is Mrs. Swonger's response (edited to take out material that might be offensive to some SCPR readers and also editing out what The Report considers to be irrelevant or otherwise objectional material):  

I voted for John Ferrero myself,at the time never having a clue my son would be the victim of a high profile sex abuse case of a top level Canton city School official-James Alan Irvin-
initially when my son was intimidated at coming up against such a community icon as Irvin, I went to Ferrero's website and pulled up cases of sex abuse of kids, and I printed many cases off for my son Nick to review,along with sharing with young Nick that Ferrero had allocated nearly 360,000.00 of Federal stimulus strictly to the Prosecutor's sex crimes unit.
As a registered voter, and tax payer myself, who must I remind Ferrero once again, that I helped vote him into office in this county, I am apalled at the fact that his office had this police recorded confession, along with two other police officers hear Irvin out of his own mouth, confess to Canton Baptist Temple outreach pastor, what act he had done on my son.
And how Irvin cried I quote " Neal my life is over, you dont understand  I sucked the kid's ...". (...) however two Summit County-Penninsula, OH police officers heard this on an open call from the pastor's cell phone to their precinct, police station-plus a 58 minute recorded confession by Stark County sheriff's dept investigators-encouraged my son Ferrero's office would fairly prosecute the case despite Irvin having such community influence-now my son Nick claims he would never turn in a sex offender again, he says all it did was make his life worst, public ridicule and humiliation, folks getting on the radio stations calling him horrible names and STATING IRVIN HAD TO PLEAD guilty because the kid set him up so bad,thus that is why he had such a short term sentence and the fact Irvin was allowed early judicial release.
...  This county has an agenda and they have key players and they all stick together to protect whomever till they can keep to their political agenda. ...
needless to say Ferrero wont be getting my vote again, if he wants to rectify anything he needs to fire Asst Prosecutor Curd, or perhaps she should have been included in last  weeks layoff announcement for his office.
I guess since either one are happening this speaks loud and clear this decision was HIS!!! What disillusionment of the justice system for such a young impressionable young man. 
How does a prosecutors office that allotted 360,000.00 specifically to their sex crimes unit allow a top school official of one of the top 8 school districts in OHIO walk free in just 61 days???  
Michelle Swonger
Canton, OH
Mother of Victim

Monday, November 22, 2010

NEW OUTBREAK OF HOSTILITIES IN MASSILLON'S POLITICAL WAR?


Matthew Rink of The Massillon Independent wrote an interesting piece last night:  Massillon panel rejects renaming Shriver Park.  In the article he has a number of quotes that, when one knows the full history of the "open" aspect of an internal Democratic Party political fight that has been going on in Massillon for about a half of dozen years (not long after Johnnie A. Mailer, Jr. became Massillon's clerk of courts), indicate that the fight continues unabated while changing its manifestation from time-to-time.

The focus of the fight in the Rink presentation is from the Massillon Parks & Recreation Board which met recently and decided to recommend NO! to Councilman Tony Townsend's desire to rename Shriver Park in honor of Massillon's esteemed T. Roy Roberson who served as Ward 4 councilman (Townsend's ward) from 1982 through 1993.

The SCPR believes that nobody on the Cicchinelli side of the War of Massillon "really" opposes the renaming.  However, they are at loggerheads with the Maier-led "anybody but Cicchinelli" forces.  And, whomever gets caught in the crosshairs of the scope the rifle seeking opposition target in the political battles that erupt is likely to get hurt.  "No harm to third parties intended," but "war is war" and the innocent will get caught up in the fight; the thinking goes.

So The Report thinks Massillonians can take Mayor Cicchinelli at his word when he says he is not against the renaming.  On the other hand, if he can deliver a black eye to his political opponents through the work of others (i.e. the park board members who voted NO! on Townsend's idea), he will do so and then take the high ground claiming that his appointees voted their conscience and not at his directive.

The target is not the memory of T. Roy Roberson,  The target is multiple:  Maier, Elum, Catazaro-Perry, Townsend et al. The folks who have been going after Cichinelli for a number of years now.

It appears to the SCPR believed that the hallowed memory of Roberson was a mask behind which they could hide in effecting a political victory over Cicchinelli and his loyalists.  For public consumption, Townsend's move for Roberson was a magnanimous thing to do.  For inside Massillon politics, his move was a poke in the political eye and message to Mayor Francis H. Cicchinelli, Jr that "We're coming after you Frank.  Se ya in May, 2011! And, by the way, winning this battle over the park renaming is an indicator of our political strength!"

As Townsend said in the Rink piece, the park board vote is one thing; however, the city council vote may well be another.  However, the vote turns out, no one will admit in public that fight is not about Roberson is worthy of being honored; it is, rather, about political gamesmanship and affording the "Cicchinellis" and the "Maiers" an opportunity to get at one another.

The main question presented by this blog, however, is will this political war in Massillon ever end?

Answer:  only when Francis H. Cicchinelli, Jr is no longer mayor of Massillon, Ohio!!!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

(VIDEO) CONFUSION REIGNS AT SC DOG POUND. COMMISSIONERS ARE DOING VERY LITTLE TO CLEAR THINGS UP? SCPR: "COMMISSIONERS NEED TO APPOINT A 5 MEMBER INVESTIGATORY COMMISSIONER TO DEAL WITH PERCEIVED PROBLEMS WITH THE POUND!



There is a lot of talk going on with the Stark County commissioners about the "problems" at the Stark County Dog Pound (SCDP - Pound), but very little action.

And confusion seems to reign supreme among volunteers at the SCDP on a number of issues.  At Thursday night's meeting (November 18th) of the Stark County Dog Pound Advisory Board (SCDPAB), it was apparent to one and all that the confusion was the dominant topic of discussion.


One topic that ought to catch the attention of Stark Countians is whether or not dog abuse is taking place at the SCDP.  Thursday night SCDPAB members were totally confused as to Commissioner Pete Ferguson's take on the existence or not of abuse at the Pound.  Members said (see video below) that Ferguson has said (contractorily) that his view of video taken by video equipment installed at the Pound revealed evidence of serious questions of abuse and, then, on another occasion - according to board members - that "all?" he saw was a bunch of employees sitting around doing nothing.

And there are other issues.

Questions of the financing the operations (e.g. funds to buy sufficient food for the dogs), capital improvements in terms of needed repair, the role of volunteers at the Pound and on and on and on goes the list.

SCDPAB members are in the process of developing a form for volunteers at the Pound to use to record incidents at the Pound which the volunteer believes to be a problem in need of a response/solution.



The SCPR would go one step further.  The SCDPAB or the commissioners or Warden Tetreault should develop a Pound user evaluation form for citizens who use the services of the Pound to use in evaluating the quality of their experience with Pound employees.

Moreover, the SCPR believes that with the entrance of newly elected Commissioner Tom Bernabei at Wednesday's upcoming meeting (November 24), the commissioners need to seize the day on all of these issues and appoint a official five member nvestigatory commission composed of a commissioner (either Ferguson or Bernabei), a SCDPAB member, Warden Reagan Tetreault, a citizen who is not a Pound volunteer or SCDPAB member who has experience in dealing with the Pound and Canton law director Joseph Martuccio to develop a list of perceived problems with the Pound and to either substantiate them and recommend specific remediative measures or to debunk them and thereby put them to rest.

Here is a video of SCDPAB members discussing the contradictory take of Commissioner Ferguson on whether or not he believes the video he has seen is evidence of abuse.


Friday, November 19, 2010

(VIDEO - 911 PROJECT MGR/CONCATTO) "DON'T WORRY-BE HAPPY!" $2.75 MILLION TO STAY WITH 9-1-1? PROBABLY NOT. INDICATIONS ARE THAT THE $2.75 MILLION WILL STAY WITH 9-1-1. HOWEVER, "THERE CAN BE MANY A SLIP BETWEEN THE CUP AND THE LIP, NO?"


Not too long before Stark County Commissioner Tom Harmon left the commissioners office, he and Commissioner Bosley got into a bit of a face-off on whether or not the entire amount designated in the commissioners resolution of December, 2008 when Commissioners Bosley, Harmon and Vignos voted to "impose" a 0.50 of one percent sales tax on Stark Countians would actually go towards 9-1-1 for the repair of a system that has been said by many Stark emergency force officials as being broken.


Harmon took the position (supported by Commissioner Pete Ferguson) that the entire amount (which, according to Project Manager Joe Concatto at Thursday night's Stark County Association monthly meeting was $5.2 million) owing to 9-1-1 under the original resolution,  was not going to go towards 9-1-1 but rather only $2.75 million would and the remainder would go to the county general fund because of the fiscal crisis the county then faced.

Persistent as he is, the SCPR's recollection is that Bosley brought it up again when Steve Meeks replaced Harmon as commissioner who quit his term early.  Meeks checked with his pal Randy Gonzalez (who is chairman of the Stark County Council of Governments [SCOG] Governance Committee) and was told that  SCOG could get by on the $2.75 million.

Gonzalez's position made it a "no-brainer" for Meeks and Ferguson and Bosley again lost the fight for the entire $5.2 million to go to the SCOG-Governance Committee.

Issue over?

Not at all!

With Sheriff Swanson and Prosecutor Ferrero set to layoff employees soon (Swanson - 41; Ferrero - 12), talk surfaced that the $2.75 million should go into the county general fund and not to 9-1-1 as safety and criminal justice enforcement is more dire and pressing that rehabbing 9-1-1.

Apparently, Gonzalez et al got nervous about the possibility that SCOG-Governance was going to lose the $2.75 million and so apparently prompted the Jackson trustees meeting at their meeting on November 15th  to send a letter to the commissioners, to an official of the Stark County Township Association (Anna Capaldi) and to all Stark County township halls entreating them to weigh-in on asking the commissioners maintain the $2.75 million for the 9-1-1 rework.



Well, the SCPR has just checked with the key players in the decision:  incoming commissioners Janet Creighton, Tom Bernabei (certified as commissioner yesterday by the Stark Board of Elections) and "continuing on" commissioner Pete Ferguson and, on the basis of the contacts, The Report believes that there seems to be little doubt that the commissioners - as of November 20th - will maintain the status quo on the $2.75 million and reaffirm that it will go towards the establishment of a countywide call receiving and dispatching rework of the emergency service.

Creighton told The Report she is in favor of the money remaining with 9-1-1 and Ferguson has told yours truly that he is of the same mind as he been and voted when the question came up before.

However, it will be about five to six weeks until the commissioners will make a final decision on the 2011 budget  In the meantime budget hearings for all Stark County's departments of government that get general fund money will be held and department heads are to appear before commissioners to discuss cuts in their 2011 budget appropriations.  Undoubtedly, the commissioners will have it brought home to them over and over again in various and sundry ways that the $2.75 million sure could soften the financial blow as it affects the rendering of critical services to Stark Countians.

One can imagine that it will even be suggested to commissioners and commissioners-elect that the $2.75 could be restored to 9-1-1 when a renewal of the 2011 expiring 0.25 sales tax occurs or, if it can be cobbled together, that the same could be made a provision in a being worked on possible proposal to have a dedicated "criminal justice sales tax" replace the 0.25 tax up for renewal.

Expect intense "behind the scenes" lobbying to take place with Ferguson, Creighton and Bernabei between now and decision day.

Are Stark Countians about to witness political sausage being made?

The Report believes so and the sausage making could alter what the commissioners will ultimately do with the funding issue.

Randy Gonzalez (being the consummate politician he is as chairman of the Stark County Democratic Party) knows better than most that in the world of politics one must anticipate movement.  Accordingly, he is wise in going on offense in using Jackson Township government (where he is fiscal officer) as a springboard to bring counter pressure on the commissioners present and to be not to waiver on the two previous stands already made by the body.

It is somewhat ironical that the political subdivisions (cities, villages and townships) may be instrumental in preserving the $2.75 million for 9-1-1 reconfiguration.  Originally, Commissioner Bosley's plan was to use the promise of "free" call receiving/dispatch to the subdivisions in order to get support for imposing the 0.50 of one percent sales tax.  However, that plan was shipwrecked by the "Vote No Increased Taxes Committee" headed by local attorney and civic activist Craig T. Conley and sidekick Tom Marcelli.  Moreover, Nimishillen Township Fire Chief Rich Peterson threw a monkey wrench into the mix by presenting an alternative plan which was bought into for a while by a number of the political subdivisions.

It was Gonzalez who bested Peterson by steering subdivision support away from the "Peterson plan" back to a "modified" original plan. 

Now the question is this:  How skilled Randy Gonzalez will be in closing the deal?

We shall find out soon.

My mama used to tell me as a kid:  "there can be many a slip between the cup and the lip."

But the ultimate question here is:  "will the cup runeth over with $2.75 million ever make it to the lip of Stark County 9-1-1?"

Here is a video of 9-1-1 Project Manger Joe Concatto speaking to 25 or so Stark County township officials on at Thursday's monthly meeting of the Stark County Township Association held in Plain Township.

(SNITCHLER VIDEO) REPUBLICANS OELSLAGER & SCHURING ("THE MUSICAL CHAIR LEGISLATORS") HAVE LARGELY BEEN INEFFECTIVE FOR STARK CO. (AS HAS DEMOCRAT STEPHEN SLESNICK); WILL REPUBLICAN TODD SNITCHLER BE DIFFERENT?


Recently, an article appeared in The Repository celebratory of the fact that Republican W. Scott Oelslager has had 18 victorious elections without a defeat.

Impressive, indeed - for Oelslager and his ego needs!

But what about Stark County?  What has Oelslager, as legislator, done for ordinary Stark Countians that would cause Stark's citizens to roar a "hip, hip, horray," for Stark's good fortune to have him having been in office for about a quarter of a century?

The SCPR says:  very little.

His claim to fame is his work on Ohio's Sunshine laws (open meetings and public records).  And, we are all appreciative for his efforts and his success.  However, even on this score, Oelslager has much more to do than he has accomplished in his 25 years or so in the Statehouse in terms of providing an avenue to everyday citizens to have an avenue (via the Ohio attorney general or some alternative public vehicle) to gaining enforcement of openness in government laws.

By and large, Oelslager and his "musical chairs pal Kirk Schuring" [in which each of the participants gets a seat - just a different seat between the 29th Senate and 51st House districts] have been mostly about political self-preservation than about getting substantive things done for Stark County that improve the quality of life for Stark Countians.

Despite being in a majority if not a supermajority for a good part of their careers in the Legislature, Oelslager and Schuring have not gotten anywhere near what needs to be done to fix the problems (mostly funding) of public education.  Moreover, what have they brought to Stark County in terms of new infrastructure and infrastructure improvements that have made Stark a prime spot for businesses from outside the county on the move to take a serious look at locating in Stark?  Again, very little.

Democrat Stephen Slesnick is even more worthless.  He doesn't communicate effectively and he apparently has no ideas from the State perspective to help his political pal and predecessor William J. Healy, II (mayor of Canton) get Canton out of the financial and economic doldrums.  Now that he is in the minority in the Ohio House, Stark Countians and 52nd District residents are likely to forget that he is even there (i.e. the Ohio General Assembly).

50th District (Ohio House) state Representative Todd Snitchler may be "a horse of a different color" from Oelslager, Schuring and Slesnick.

The SCPR has been impressed with how hard he worked to get legislation moving that could have some impact on Stark County.  However, he was stymied by being a minority member in his first term.  Now that Ohioans has spoken loudly that the trust the Republicans to get Ohio headed in a productive direction, he should have a lead role within the Republican caucus in the substance and form of that direction.

The scary thing about Snitchler is what The Report believes is a naive faith in everything private enterprise.  He doesn't seem to understand that entrepreneurs are human beings and therefore less than perfect.  Accordingly, he seems to blindly follow a Libertarian view of the role of government in which the restraints of accountability are lifted for those who invoke the magic words of entrepreneurship.

What he needs to adapt is his performance audit mentality (applied to government) to the private sector.  He should jettison his apparent unbridled faith in everything private and replace it with a "trust, but verify" mentality.  He can start with the charter school movement.  Charter schools when done right can be a highly effective way to overcome the failures and shortcomings of public education.  However, right now; charter schools in Ohio are nowhere near being accountable in terms of effectiveness with their use of public dollars.  This is the area that the SCPR will be monitoring Snitchler to determine whether or not he is willing to hold the private sector's "feet to the fire" for being highly efficient and effective with taxpayer dollars.

Last evening, yours truly was at a Stark County Township Association meeting held at Plain Township Diamond Street NE Sports Comples.  President Chris Nichols (Canton Township trustee) - in the video that follows - introduces Snitchler who was at the meeting to speak about his effort to tweak Ohio annexation law to rein in the likes of Massillon Mayor Francis H. Cicchinelli, Jr. who seems to be out on a rampage to annex everything in sight, even where annexation is not wanted.

Recently, Massillon annexed the R.G. Drage school in Perry Township and tried to do the same thing with the Tuslaw schools in Tuscarwas Township.  Both cases, in the opinion of the SCPR, was nothing more than a "income tax money" grab by Cicchinelli.  Massillon, like many Ohio cities, is desperate to increase its revenue stream.  Cicchinelli and other Ohio mayors are using Type II annexation proceedings to pick off public entities (i.e. school districts - who by Ohio law have not vote in the annexation attempt) with their teacher, administrator and classified workforces taxable income to enlarge the cities' revenue coffers without much, if any, expense in terms of services to the annexed districts.  Snitchler says this is a violation of the spirit of the revised annexation law (Senate Bill 5 - 2001), but not the letter of the law.

The noteworthy factor with Snitchler effort to change Ohio's Type II annexation law is that he is being responsive to a citizen outcry.  Presumably. Snitchler's attentiveness is an indicator that he hears his constituents and tries to effect a remedy for them.  Time will tell, if this is the case.

It could be that the annexation thing is an aberration and that Snitchler is in reality a doctrinaire politician who will ignore his constituents on matters of his philosophical underpinning and push an agenda that advances the philosophical over the needs and desires of everyday people.

"The Secret of Being Effective" lies in the realization that he and his fellows in the Ohio General Assembly are there for "the good of the people" in general (the general welfare) and not for special interests who mask themselves and their parochial interests under doctrinaire political jargon.

Time will tell if Snitchler can lock onto this secret.  The SCPR will be watching closely.

Here is the video of Snitchler last night.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

OVERCHARGE/UNDUE DELAY/UNDERCHARGE? WHAT IS IT WITH PROSECUTOR FERRERO'S OFFICE?




As a journalistic enterprise, it has been interesting to the SCPR to do an analysis of the way the Prosecutor John Ferrero manages the Stark County prosecutor's office.

Last week yours truly was in conversation with one of Stark County's leading defense attorneys who asked in a rhetorical sort of way "what does John Ferrero do with his day?"

A good question, no?

Why a good question?

Well, starting with the Marlboro Chief Police Ron Devies case in January, 2008, The Report began to get an inkling that maybe, just maybe John Ferrero is not managing his office very effectively for the good of the Stark County public.

The Devies case was one in which it obvious to anyone familiar with the case (and one did not have to be a lawyer to make this analysis) that Ferrero's office and one of  Sheriff Swanson's chief deputies (Rick Perez) badly bungled the investigation of and prosecution of what was merely a communication problem into Devies and his son Kyle being charged with fourth degree felonies.

Folks, that is scary stuff!  But for the "grace of God, go you or I."  It behooves Stark Countians to sit up and take notice and ask the sobering question:  Should John Ferrero be re-elected when he comes up for renewal in November, 2010; less than two years away?

If the Devies case was the only one that Ferrero's office blew, one might say that the office had a bad case.  Its no consolation to the Devies family, but, unfortunately, people are only human - including Ferrero - and mistakes will be made.

But the SCPR believes that there are other cases and situations that deserve more scrutiny and which The Repository has taken a pass on in terms of some level of journalistic investigation of Ferrero's office.

It was the Devies case that caused the  SCPR's attention to Ferrero perk up and become determined to watch Ferrero more closely from a journalistic perspective as he handles his office.  The Report has taken this project on as a public service to Stark Countians.   For whatever reason, The Repository "powers to be" have refused to do so.

Because of the SCPR's work, Ferrero has sought to punish yours truly by filing a complaint with the Ohio Supreme Court Disciplinary Counsel saying that yours truly was acting as an attorney and not as a journalist and thereby bringing the integrity of the  Stark County civil/criminal justice system into question in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Nothing could be further from the fact of the matter.

The SCPR is a journalistic effort, pure and simple.  And the reason Ferrero's complaint got nowhere is because Supreme Court officials recognized the same.

But, again, that Ferrero would go on a vendetta against a journalistic effort doing what Bill O'Reilly, Anderson Cooper, and Keith Olbermann do ("keeping them honest"), should be a further wake-up call to the Stark County public on Ferrero.  Again, "but for the grace of God, go you or I."

For Prosecutor Ferrero's information, one of Stark County's Common Pleas judges has applauded yours truly's journalism with the admonition to the effect:  "att-a-boy Martin, keep up the good work of keeping us (meaning:  public officialdom) on our toes."

The Report has information to the effect that Ferrero has derisively referred to the SCPR as being "our favorite blogger."

No surprise here.  Ferrero is known in various Stark County venue to get irate and, at least once in one instance, walk out when things are not going his way.

So what other matters (in addition to Devies) does the SCPR think stick out in terms of how Ferrero discharging his public trust as an elected Stark County official?

Three come to mind.

First, there is his office's handing of the civil recovery from former treasurer Gary D. Zeigler.

Second, there is his inability to effectively manage Stark County commissioner-budgeted funds for the operation of his office, and

Third, the handling of the James Irvin case.

THE ZEIGLER MATTER

When Vince Frustaci was charged (a federal bill of information -June 25, 2010) with the theft of $2.46 million of county funds (Judge Adams has since said he believes Frustaci made off with the entire $2.96 million in missing money), the question was raised by the SCPR as to when county officials would be going after Treasurer Zeigler for civil recovery under the authority of Ohio Revised Code sections 321.17 and 321.18 and an abundance of case law authority.

Ferrero's answer:  (paraphrase)  "It would be premature for civil actions to be filed as full liability will not attach until Frustaci is sentenced.

What?  You have to be kidding, Mr. Prosecutor!

Well, due to the thorough and tireless effort (motivated by a "public service" motive much like the SCPR), local attorney and civic activist Craig T. Conley, the "premature" label got laid aside and Prosecutor Ferrero, after castigating Conley in the media, thought better of it and finally with the help of Conley, got the people's law office (the prosecutor's office) properly directed and focused on collecting - hopefully - a million or so from bonding and insurance companies providing coverage as well as from Frustaci and Zeigler.

While former treasurer Zeigler has been completely exonerated from any involvement whatsoever in the theft, there is statutory law (321.17, 321.18 and, perhaps, other statutes) and case law that seem to put Zeigler's personal assets in jeopardy to cover the loses in treasury during his elected leadership.  On August 23rd, the Stark County commissioners removed Zeigler from office pursuant to the provisions in Chapter 321 of the Ohio Revised Code.  Zeigler has appealed the removal from office and is denying liability under the law cited.

The SCPR firmly believes BUT FOR Craig T. Conley, the Stark County prosecutor's office would have been in a much less secure position to recover monies for the Stark County taxpayers. 

Of course, "hats off to Conley," but the Stark County public should be astonished that Ferrero's office had to rely on the pro bono work of Conley to get its head on straight.


THE STARK COUNTY BUDGET MATTER RE:  THE PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE

Prosecutor John Ferrero had sent commissioners a "bombshell" of a  letter dated August 23, 2010 (the day commissioners had removed Gary D. Zeigler as Stark County treasurer) in which he details the need of the prosecutor's office to have $288,652.50 to make it through the rest of 2010 without laying off or furloughing some of his administrative and professional (i.e. from among the assistant prosecutors) personnel.

Of the requested amount, the SCPR understands that the commissioners would get back $181,245.08 when the prosecutor's office gets reimbursed by the grantor of a grant which Ferrero's office has obtained for Stark County taxpayers.  (It's the kind of grant where the prosecutor spends the money first and then gets reimbursed by the entity that awarded the grant)

It appears to The Report that Ferrero is asking for $181.245.08 because of a cash-flow problem which will be resolved in March, 2011 when the grant money comes in which will then be turned over to the county general fund.

However,  The Report's take is that the other $107,000 + ($288,652.50 minus $181,245.08) would further diminish the county's general fund.

The stunning thing about Ferrero's request?  He has known since early 2010 that there was going to be a shortfall in office funding and was "hoping and praying" that something would happen to make the projected deficit disappear.

Do Stark County voters and taxpayers what a prosecutor who operates on "hopes and prayers?"  Probably not,   How about some solid fiscal action?  Think maybe?

THE IRVIN MATTER

There is a citizen living in Stark County that is absolutely furious with Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero.

She (Michelle Swonger) believes that the prosecutor's office undercharged the now former Canton City Schools official James Irvin for illegal activities in his relationship with her son Nick.  Moreover, she believes - because of the undercharge - that the prosecutor's office is responsible for Irvin serving only 61 days of an 18 month sentence and only required to register as a sex offender for 15 years rather than for a lifetime which would have been attained if Irvin had been charged with and convicted of  sexual  battery and/or attempted sexual battery in addition to gross sexual imposition, sexual imposition and providing alcohol to an underage person that Irvin was actually charged with.

Swonger's son, Nick, came into contact with Irvin, who was pupil services director for the Canton City Schools at $101,972 annually, when Nick was 15.

CLICK HERE for a look at a FoxNews (Channel 8 - Cleveland) I-Team investigation video of Swonger's allegation and a history of the Irvin/Swonger relationship.

The question the SCPR has about the handling of the Irvin case (note that Curd talks about her "supervisers" in the Channel 8 video which one has to believe included Ferrero) is this:  Prosecutor Ferrero obviously has as a priority going after sexual predators and it is widely known that prosecutors are prone to overcharge not undercharge (as Swonger alleges); so why the precision and prejudging in the Swonger case, but not with the Devies case? (see graphic above which is taken from a webpage on which Ferrero publicizes cases that reflect well on his office, but apparently omits the less favorable)

John Ferrero needs to explain his standard for charging/indicting to the Stark County public!

The SCPR believes it was Ferrero who made the Devies decision and the Irvin decision however inconsistent they are.  But whether or not he was the actual "decider-in-chief," he owns the work product of his office.

The buck does stop with John Ferrero.

A prosecutor at any level is a very powerful person.  Key ingredients in evaluating them include:
  • whether or not the prosecutor has the proper temperament to be prosecutor
  • whether or not the prosecutor has the wisdom in evaluating cases to make consistent assessments
  • whether or not the prosecutor can interact with the community-at-large maturely  in the face of criticism

On these criteria the question is increasingly becoming:  Do Stark Countians want to stick with John Ferrero as Stark County prosecutor come 2012?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"HE'S BACK?" HEALY RUNNING THE CANTON CITY SCHOOLS THROUGH McIlWAIN, RESNICK & ALLEN?



On September 8, 2010 the SCPR did a blog on political intrigue that is apparently in the process of happening with the Canton City Schools Board of Education (BOE).

Apparently, the Wizard of Oz (Canton Mayor William J. Healy, II) has restarted his political magic show with the re-appointment of Wilbur Allen, III as the replacement of James Carman, Jr., on the BOE on November 1st.  Allen had been appointed on June 14th but it turns out that the appointment had to be re-done because interviews were done at an illegal meeting on the 10th in that the media had not been notified as required by Ohio's Open Meetings law.

 Of course, if the Healy magic vis-a-vis the Canton schools is anything like the spell he has cast over Canton city government, then the schools, already in a trouble both academically and financially (over the longer term), are in for harder times than ever.

Whereas King Midas (of Greek mythology) turned everything he touched into gold, King William of Canton tarnishes nearly everything he touches.  As if he hasn't negated Canton enough, he turns his attention to the schools through the personages of Allen (a Healy administration employee with historical connections to McIlwain through a community activist organization - Coming Together), Nadine McIlwain and Eric Resnick.

On November 1st, board member Jennifer Keaton voted no, saying:  " ... I do not feel confident with the process.”

Really?

Certainly, the BOE got all of its noticing done correctly the second time around with Allen.

What could she be talking about?

Could it be that Keaton suspects that same thing that the SCPR senses?  A de facto takeover of the Canton City Schools by Hizzoner William J. Healy, II?

If such is the case, then all The Report can say is that Pastor Wilbur Allen, III should be offering up prayers Sunday after Sunday after Sunday:  "Lord have mercy on the Canton City Schools!!!"