In the SCPR's ongoing political analysis of the quality of work coming out of the Stark County prosecutor's office, The Report holds that yesterday's Fifth District Court of Appeals decision contains findings by the Court that indicate that Stark County was not well served in the matter of whether or not Stark County's taxpayers should have to pay for former treasurer Gary D. Zeigler's attorney fees in defending himself for any civil liability he might have on account of the loss of $2.96 million (according to federal judge John Adams), at the hand, via theft, of former Chief Deputy Treasurer Vince Frustaci.
As readers of the SCPR well know, going back two years plus to the Devies matter in which Ferrero obtained fourth degree felony indictments on Marlboro Police Chief Ron Devies and his son Kyle over what The Report believes was a communications problem at most, The Report has found a number of reasons why - when he comes up for re-election - Stark Countians should send Ferrero packing.
In the Devies matter, Judge Lee Sinclair of the Stark County Court of Common Pleas righted things by ordering a dismissal of charges immediately after the prosecution had presented its case. The SCPR takes Sinclair's action to be of a clear "legal slam-dunk" variety. While justice was done for the Devies family, it was at great personal travail and expense and every Stark Countian should put himself/herself in the shoes of the Devies.
Since Devies, there have been a number of instances written about throughout the pages of the SCPR in which The Report's political analysis is that Stark Countians are not well served by Ferrero's management of the prosecutor's office in terms of it budgeting operations, its spending priorities, its grasp of the law and its failure to achieve results for the Stark County taxpayer, the latter of which, is particularly evidenced by yesterday's Fifth District Court of Appeals decision.
The SCPR believes that the former Stark County Board of County Commissioners (Bosley, Meeks and Ferguson) did not serve the Stark County public well in not accepting the offer of civic activist and local attorney Craig T. Conley's to represent the county pro bono (for the public good).
It was Conley, in the first place, who forced Ferrero's hand in going after Zeigler under provisions of Ohio's statutory law for a civil recovery of losses which occur (for whatever reason) during his term in office.
Initially, Ferrero delayed saying that the matter was not ripe to pursue until Frustaci was sentenced. After Conley's action in filing a suit on behalf of Stark County taxpayers (Tom Marcelli standing-in as a representative of the taxpayer), then all of a sudden the case was ripe and Ferrero's office took over.
Conley was concerned that Zeigler would transfer personal assets out of his name (which he did, but then reversed the action as a consequence of the Conley-filed case) and that any judgment that might be obtained would be uncollectible.
In looking at yesterday's Court of Appeals (COA) decision, The Report extracts excerpts (see several paragraphs below) as an indication that the Court of Appeals' judges were not that impressed with Ferrero's presentation of the case on behalf of the Stark County commissioners (stand-ins for Stark County taxpayers).
Basically, the COA said that the prosecutor's office tried to have it both ways.
First, the prosecutor correctly says that only the prosecutor or the commissioners can identify a conflict in interest for the prosecutor to represent in litigation and accordingly ask the court to appoint counsel (at county expense).
Second, the prosecutor/commissioners failed to ask the court to appoint, even presumably having concluded that the loss occurred in the context of Zeigler being Stark County treasurer performing his official duties ("in good faith and well-intentioned"). By the time the case gets to the COA, the prosecutor's position is that Zeigler was not performing his official duties during the loss period hence there was no duty for the prosecutor to ask for an appointment of counsel (lacking a prosecutor determined presence of a "in good faith and well-intentioned").
Accordingly, the COA held, the prosecutor held contradictory positions.
Result: Court of Common Pleas was right to correct the impossible position Zeigler was placed in by the prosecutor's office and as a matter of case law and common sense order the appointment of counsel.
Did Ferrero really think his contradictory positions were going to fly with the Court?
For the benefit of SCPR readers, The Report presents the following excerpts from the COA decision which highlights in the Court's on words the points made by The Report above.
Another interesting side of the COA decision is the allusion in the ruling that the prosecutor's argument was grounded in political considerations (i.e. playing to the public), to wit:
Stark County taxpayers/voters (on the question of whether or not should be returned to office in 2012) need deal with the question of whether or not it was an effective administration of taxpayer dollars to spend prosecutor office time (one frequently hears that prosecutors cannot attend to other county legal matters because of time spent on the Zeigler case) on what appears to have been an unwinnable case (i.e. Zeigler's right to legal counsel to defend himself from legal liability for occurrences during the time he was treasurer).
It will be interesting to see whether or not the prosecutor/commissioners carry on the appellate fight. For if they do, it certainly will cost the county more money in legal fees in terms of prosecutorial time denied other county matters and, if the prosecutor/commissioners ultimately lose (which the SCPR believes they will) more in fees (from county tax dollars) to private legal counsel representing Zeigler.
The Court of Appeals suggestion that the Prosecutor Ferrero's office was playing politics with the Stark County public in making its "diminution of recovery" and "don't heighten the county's financial crisis" argument should be most interesting to the Stark County voting public.
It seems to the SCPR that the case to replace Ferrero as Stark County prosecutor is building.
Yesterday, the SCPR spoke with Attorney Jeff Jakmides (a Republican) who ran against Ferrero seven years ago (Ferrero had no opponent in 2008).
While he did not close the door on running again, he says he has been working to convince Craig Conley to run.
The Report has had conversations with Conley and he is unwilling to commit at this time.
Whether or not Jakmides or Conley runs, the Stark County Republican Party has an obligation to Stark Countians to provide a viable candidate to run against Ferrero.
Republican executive committee members/central committee members and well as rank-and-file Republican voters should be putting pressure on Chairman Jeff Matthews to be working now to provide Stark Countians with a realistic choice come November, 2012.
As for Stark's Democrats, they too should be looking for alternatives to Ferrero come the 2012 primary. Democrats may still be looking at losing their predominance in holding countywide elective office in 2012.
Republicans won 3 out 4 countywide offices in 2010. The Report believes it would have been 4 out of 4 had Jackson Township trustee James N. Walters not had a part of his vote taken away by a "to the political right" independent candidate.
2012 will be a test for Stark Democrats.
Are they going to ride supporting party entrenched incumbents into political oblivion or are they going to take a look at a new emerging political reality and infuse some fresh - public interest over the party interest - candidates into the 2012 political fray?
In any event, it is clear to the SCPR that John Ferrero (and, if he should not run, any of his staffers who step in) should not be returned to office in November, 2012!