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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

STARK REPUBLICANS SET TO MIMIC STARK DEMS ON POLITICAL PATRONAGE?


Just a few months ago Stark's organized Republicans were on the outside looking in.  The Stark GOP held "no" countywide offices.

And, being the advocates of "merit" they are, local politically active Republicans bristled at the number of Democrats who appear to have gotten their jobs through political connections and influence.  The blogs of the Stark County Political Report (going back nearly three years) are filled with accounts of suspected political-connected hirings.

Some of the SCPR's staunchest followers have been these Republicans.

Yours truly has always made it clear that because they held all nonjudicial countywide offices, the Dems, obviously, were going to bear the brunt of SCPR criticism of political cronyism.  But now that is all changed.  In November, Republicans captured one seat on the Board of County Commissioners as well as the Stark auditor's office and the Stark treasury.

The Report knew it wouldn't be long after electoral success that local Republicans would be lining up at the trough of political benefices.

First, there is Plain Township trustee Scott Haws.  Unfortunately, for Trustee Haws, the word is - that he has lost his private employment (Diebold) about three to four months ago.  Like many unemployed Stark Countians he has had to scramble to obtain alternative employment.

Where is one of the first places he looked?

Answer:  the Stark County treasury.

The politically attuned know that 2010 was a very good year to be a Republican and running for public office.  And it was especially good in Stark County.  Because of what local civic activist and attorney Craig T. Conley coined as being "Zeiglergate," in dubious honor or former Stark Treasurer Gary D. Zeigler,  Stark Republicans had - in the 2010 general election - an extra measure of political blessing with county voters. (for those not familiar with the specifics what Conley might mean by "Zeiglergate," can search the SCPR or Google under the term "Zeigler" for possible enlightenment)

Creighton (commissioner), Harold (auditor) and Zumbar (treasury) were swept into office.

One would think that after all the travail that swirled around the Stark treasury from April 2009 through November, 2010, the last thing that Republican Alex Zumbar would want is to invite public scrutiny on his contemplated hires as being politically motivated.

But as readers of the SCPR know, politicians tend to be slow learners.

While The Report wrote that in The Report's estimate both Zumbar and Ken Koher (the Stark Dems' candidate) were eminently qualified to be treasurer, Zumbar has much more of a political bent than does Koher.

Zumbar is closely connected to Stark County Common Pleas Court Judge Charles E. Brown in terms of the days in which Brown served as a very effective chairman of the Stark County Republican Party.  In the opinion of the SCPR, the Stark GOP hasn't been the same since Brown left the party post to assume the judgeship.

Still, why - in terms of the public scrutiny and concomitant cynicism likely to be generated - would Zumbar seriously entertain hiring someone with a high level Stark County political profile (Republican)?

The Report hears that Zumbar has gone so far as to check with Stark County prosecutor John Ferrero as to whether or not there would be a problem (conflict-in-interest-wise) with Haws being both a Plain trustee and a treasury employee.

It could be that Zumbar has compelling reasons to consider hiring Haws and others like him; notwithstanding being politically credentialed.  If so, what are they?

One should not, and the SCPR does not, take the position that a politically connected person is per se, not to be considered for a public position.  But these are public jobs and the public needs to be convinced that the fact that a hire is also politically connected, is co-incidental.  Otherwise, officeholders who do such hires have no one but themselves to blame when the public grows cynical in the face of the hiring of the politically connected.

When Kim Perez defeated Republican auditor appointee Brant Luther (who succeeded Janet Creighton when she became mayor in 2004), he was highly criticized for bringing some of "his people" on board.  

And that was before "Zeiglergate!"

What is Zumbar thinking?

There is even more to the Haws "I want a public job" scenario.

The SCPR understands that Haws has applied for a sales job with the Ohio Lottery Commission. Apparently, the same job that former Democratic Stark Commissioner Gayle Jackson got at the hand of Governor Ted Strickland when he took office in 2007.

The Report has contacted Haws by e-mail for comment, but he has not responded.

Added to the Haws effort is the Todd Snitchler (R-Lake-Ohio's 50th House District) effort to become a member of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO).

If Snitchler gets the job, he undoubtedly will have gotten it because he has more political influence, contacts and muscle than his Republican competitors (32 for two positions).

Now that all the "political cookies" are Republican in the Columbus cookie jar, look for Republican political patronage to rival if not exceed what the Democrats did while Strickland was governor.

At the Stark County level, ditto with the only qualifier being the Stark GOP still has some offices to win to be in a dominant position as Stark Democrats have been for nearly a decade before the November, 2010 elections.

County Republican officeholders like to hold themselves out as being of a different cut than the Democrats.

But are they?

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