Wednesday, March 9, 2011



Recently, yours truly was among a group of high ranking Stark County elected and appointed officials.  In light of press reports that former Stark County Treasurer's appeal to be reinstated has been selected by the Ohio Supreme Court for its docket to come up for hearing on March 23, 2011, the Report posed this question:  (question and responses are paraphrased)

"What if Gary Zeigler comes back as treasurer?"

One response:  "It is what it is, we'll just have to deal with it if it comes about."

Another:  "If the Supreme Court orders it, we have no choice; we'll adapt."

When Ziegler was under fire by many local government and political figures for what they claimed to be inadequate procedural safeguards in the treasurer's offices to have prevented his chief deputy Vince Frustaci from stealing several millions of taxpayer dollars, they were virtually of one accord in calling for his resignation.

Whatever else one thinks of Gary Zeigler, you have to admire his spunk and perseverance.

He never did directly admit that treasury office procedural inadequacies played any role in providing the opportunity for Frustaci to make off with county money.  However, he did adopt the recommendations made by the State of Ohio Auditor's post-theft forensic audit.

Federal and Stark County prosecutors cleared Zeigler of any involvement in the theft.

He insisted that there was no basis at all for Stark County commissioners (then Bosley, Ferguson and Meeks) to remove him under chapter 321 of the Ohio Revised Code.

Nonetheless, the commissioners removed him under the statute (ORC 321.38) and Zeigler's main argument seems to be that the statute that the commissions cite is unconstitutional.

Obviously, prosecutors disagree on the constitutionality question and moreover make the argument which essentially boils down to "what is done is done, to undo it would create a mess in Stark County government"

Yours truly doubts that the Ohio Supreme Court will be impressed with an argument the "what is done is done" argument.  County officials and "others with an interest" in seeing Zeigler not coming back as Stark County treasurer better hope that the constitutionality of ORC 321.38 sticks.

When talk first began of commissioners' removing Zeigler from office, most lawyers yours truly talked with, doubted that the law providing for his removal was constitutional.  After all, Democrat Zeigler (appointed by Stark County Democrats in 1999 to replace his predecessor who was forced from office) was elected in 2000, 2004 and 2008 as Stark County treasurer and how is it that "peers" (in the elected sense) get to remove him from office.

Accordingly, the SCPR would not be surprised in the least to see Zeigler ordered reinstated by the Supreme Court.

This is the juncture at which the "what if" scenarios come into play.

Now you have Republican (Alex Zumbar) who gave up his position as North Canton finance director to run for and ultimately be elected as Stark County treasurer.  Before him, two other treasurers had very brief stints in office.   All three treasurers have made extensive changes to the structure and procedures of the treasury which, of course, a "returned to office" Gary Zeigler would inherit.

One of Zeigler's most antagonistic critics was and likely remains newly elected Stark County auditor Alan Harold.  Can you imagine what a Harold/Zeigler relationship will be in the light of the Harold campaign venom spewed on Zeigler?

See this video Harold at the Navarre Tea Party event held on Sunday, June 27, 2010.

As The Report sees it, Harold was elected on a combination of factors:
  • the problems in the Stark treasury and the public perception that Zeigler and Perez (the incumbent Democrat auditor that Harold defeated) were close personally and politically,
  • it appears that Stark County voters may be perceiving a high degree of political cronyism having taken up resident among a number of the elected Democrats who still hold countywide office,
  • the fact that Democrats were the majority vote (Bosley and Harmon) when commissioners, (including Republican Jane Vignos) imposed a 0.50 percent sales tax in December, 2008, and which was soundly rejected in November, 2009)
  • the general Republican sweep across the nation including Ohio and Stark County in 2010.
Ditto for Alex Zumbar and his election.

Stark County Democratic elected officials have to be feeling highly insecure for next year's election; especially if Gary Zeigler takes up again as Stark County treasurer.

Among the offices that are up in 2010 include Stark County sheriff, prosecutor, recorder and clerk of courts.  Only the Stark County coroner and engineer seem to be safe havens for elected Democrats in Stark these days.

Of course, the SCPR has been in the lead in criticizing elected officials (Democrat and Republican) for making appointments to office that seem to justify a public perception that political cronyism has been in full bloom in Stark County for a long time.

Neither political party is enamored with The Report, but the Democrats have been markedly reactive to The Report's blogs, of late.

Yesterday, Chairman Randy Gonzalez (Stark County Democratic Party) fired off a vitriolic e-mail to yours truly complaining about how "unfair" The Report has been in covering the Stark Dems.  What's more, he suggested that The Report's critiques of government are not an authentic concern on the part of The Report for quality Stark County political subdivision government but a venting of personal frustration of not being a Stark County political insider.

It was somewhat surprising to yours truly to receive the Gonzalez e-mail as he seemed to be one of the more politically mature of Stark's leading organized Democrats.   Has the SCPR misgauged Gonzalez?

Perhaps and perhaps not.

The Report chooses to see - for now - the e-mail being a manifestation of anxiety on the part of the likes of Swanson (sheriff), Campbell (recorder), Ferrero (prosecutor) Reinbold (clerk of courts), Ferguson (commissioner) that they or their political successor (in the case of Swanson), that the tide has swung in Stark County and it is becoming increasingly likely that the Stark Republican Party will come to dominate county offices as an outcome of the upcoming 2012 elections.

Should the Ohio Supreme Court reinstate Zeigler, if memory serves correctly, he - should he decide to run for reelection - would be on the 2012 ballot (although his term would not actually end until the first Monday in September, 2013 [ORC 321.01]).  Wouldn't the Democrats have to have someone run against him in the 2012 Democratic primary?

Should Zeigler be returned to local government and concomitantly reintroduced into the Stark County political equation, the consequences to the Stark County organized Democratic Party could be devastating at the polls.

Undoubtedly, the Dems are wringing their hands over this possibility, no?

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