On reading the article headlined in the above graphic, yours truly recalled a conversation with former North Canton Council President Daryl Revoldt about North Canton's effort to balance the city's budget.
At the time North Canton was projecting a $1 million deficit. By Ohio law, the state itself and its political subdivisions cannot carry a deficit. The only options are to go to the voters for a tax increase, to pull a Cicchinelli and gain additional revenues through annexations or cut costs.
Revoldt shared with the SCPR the newly negotiated police contract whereby the exclusively lieutenant staffed North Canton Police Department (NCPD) would - over time - be restructured to be staffed by lower paid sergeants (9% according to The Rep piece).
The tone and tenor of Revoldt's voice seemed to be seeking congratulations.
Really? Congratulations for what?
If it is okay to staff the NCPD will nearly all sergeants in 2011, why wasn't it being so staffed in pre-2011 years at a significant savings to taxpayers.
North Canton negotiated prior NCPD contracts (current North Canton Chief Administrator Michael Grimes was chief) when Hoover was still up and running and North Canton officials were not about to upset the applecart when there was no imperative fiscal need to do so. In other words, no one was watching so why would elected officials exercise due diligence in getting the best bang for a taxpayer buck?
There is a good reason for North Canton officials to have ended the lieutenant staffing of the NCPD much earlier than the summer of 2011.
Can anyone guess what that reason might be?
Obviously, the answer is that John & Mary Q. Public need to be able to trust public officials (both elected and unelected) when no one is watching.
Stark County commissioners are working their tails off to restore some sense of public trust in the wake of public officials being asleep at the switch while Vincent Frustaci made off with (by some estimates) $2.96 million in taxpayer dollars from the Stark County treasury.
However, the Frustaci caper is not - by a long shot - the only reason taxpayers countywide and in Stark's political subdivision are growing less and less trustful of public officials guarding the public treasury as if it were their own money. Some, certainly not all, of those other reasons include:
- all too many politically connected persons end up on the public payroll irrespective of their qualifications for the job thereby cutting out ordinary citizens from consideration.
- audits are ordered and paid for by taxpayer dollars but many of the recommendations are never implemented. Audits have about a 15% implementation rate.
- In the case of North Canton, the city ordered and paid for a state of Ohio auditor paying thousands of dollars for the audit and then on top of the state audit hired a Stark County accounting firm the do a follow up audit to provide guidance on how to implement the state audit recommendations. Again, at the cost of thousands of taxpayer dollars. It appears that the audit recommendations were self-evident and should have been uncovered and reforms implemented by North Canton officials without the need to pay thousands of taxpayer dollars for unnecessary audits.
- If one can take Kathy Catzaro-Perry (Massillon's presumptive mayor-elect) at her campaign word, Massillon will be hiring out for a audit once she takes office. Why can't public officials figure out places/practices to save money on their own? North Canton and Massillon are not exactly huge administrative bureaucracies, right?
- William Healy's administration (and who know what other Stark County political subdivisions have the same problem) couldn't even keep a simple "tickler file" to keep from losing federal funds (some $400,000 in Canton's case). The Report believes that missed deadlines are a common error that costs Stark's taxpayers untold amounts of money.
- Public officials (Mayors Healy and Cicchinelli and Prosecutor Ferrero) who can't seem to put together a balanced budget. It's as if they expect the missing funds to appear out of thin air. What is really happening is that funds are transferred from multiple city/county accounts to make up for what was not originally budgeted and thereby making it difficult to hold these same officials accountable for how they operate their budgets. It is government by obfuscation!
- Elected officials seem all to eager in some jurisdictions (e.g. Healy in Canton on legal consulting contract) to keep contract amounts under "council approval needed amounts." Why? Again, to avoid accountability by council and citizens at large.
- Turfism! Especially in play on 9-1-1 (Nimishillen Township and Canton) and on consolidation/merger of county and city (Canton, Alliance, Massillon and North Canton, where they exist) building, health and informational technologies.
The Report believes that such stories point to a government who has not exercised due diligence on behalf of taxpayers and should be pilloried; not praised.
Read correctly, stories like these make the Stark County commissioners' quest to restore enough trust to get a .025 sales tax passed by voters in November (an action predicted by the SCPR) increasingly difficult.
Job number one for public officials is conducting themselves - watched or unwatched - in such a fashion that the demonstrated more often than not that they deserve the public trust.
North Canton officials appear to have a long way to go in this regard!