Monday, July 18, 2011

REVISITING KELLI YOUNG'S (THE REPOSITORY) "Vince Frustaci: Profile of a thief" Setting the record straight on Gary Zeigler's failure in leadership (hiring, policy and procedure) as treasurer of Stark County

Vince Frustaci, the former chief deputy treasurer of the Stark County treasury, sits in a federal prison serving out 10 years for his admitted theft of $2.46 million in Stark County taxpayer money.

While the treasurer (Gary D. Zeigler) was cleared (based on the information they were able to develop) by county and federal prosecutors of any involvement in the theft. many Stark Countians believe (in hindsight) that the treasurer did not exercise sagacious judgment in making Frustaci "the boy wonder" of the office and thereby putting him in a position to enable Frustaci to do what he did.

And that is not all.

While Zeigler is trying to pass the buck to others (witness his letter to Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero asking him to sue the State of Ohio Auditor [SOA]), he himself in the opinion of the SCPR bears "the buck stops here" responsibility for not having:
  • first, the quality of leadership people (Frustaci and "Public Official #l  re:  the federal information filed against Frustaci on June 25, 2010) in place who were trustworthy in the context of public employment, and
  • second, in implementing failsafe policies and procedures to make what Frustaci did impossible.
On July 5, 2010, Kelly Young of The Repository did a piece (future reference:  "Young') that opened the Stark County public eye on some of the inner workings of the Stark County treasury under the leadership of Zeigler that shows how utterly unprepared for leadership that Zeigler himself was when the Stark County Democratic Party politicians and party loyalists coalesced to put him in office on June 5, 1999.

When the Frustaci theft and concomitant firing news broke (April 1, 2009), yours truly was at the Stark County office building and made a point to go to the Stark treasury for a word from Zeigler.

The question:  How is it that you came to hire Frustaci in the first place, was it because of some political connection?

Zeigler's nswer:  "All I knew was that he was some guy out on the golf course."

Really!  You hire and put a guy on an expedited course to leadership and that is all you knew of him. 

Moreover,"[H]e didn't need a resume, job application or prior finance experience.  As long as he didn't mess up in the interview, Vincent Frustaci had the job at the Stark County Treasurer's office before he walked through the door.  He already had a personal reference:  Treasurer Gary Zeigler." (Young)

Zeigler to his chief administrator Glenn Owens:  "There's a guy [not even named to Owens] coming in this afternoon, and I want you to talk to him.  If you don't see anything wrong, then hire him." (Young)

A mere five days after taking office himself, Zeigler through Owens makes the hire.  Vincent Frustaci in less than a 30 minute interview convinces Owens that nothing is wrong with him and that having held various odd jobs (non-accounting related) in working his way through Walsh University for a degree in accounting and finance (Young).

So began the Stark County treasury career of Vincent Frustaci.  Undoubtedly, Zeigler rues the day that he zeroed in on Frustaci to the exclusion of other possiblities as THE person to hire and not only hire but to put on a fast track to one of three top leadership positions within the Stark Treasurer's office.

Fast track?

Get this.  From the getgo (June 10, 1999 or thereabouts) "Zeigler instructed Owens to train Frustaci on the chief administrator's duties [Owens' job], so that the new employee could take over when Owens retired [which occurred in May, 2008]." 

"Zeigler gave Frustaci his own office in the fall of 2008"

"... Frustaci got the title that went with his back office.  Zeigler named him chief deputy treasurer in September 2001, a position, that in title, gave him the same rank as Owens ... "

"Frustaci also continued to gain more and more of Zeigler's trust or so it seemed to other employees."

"He also often joined Zeigler for golf ... and he frequently stood at Zeigler's side at various charity golf outings and fundraisers.  He sometimes took Zeigler's place when his boss couldn't attend."

All of the bold type being quotes from Kelli Young's July 5, 2010 story.

Young goes on to write about how Frustaci:
  • had enough clout with Zeigler to get a friend a job in the treasury,
  • got his own set of keys to the vault in 2003,
  • seemed to be spending fewer and fewer hours on the job at the Stark treasury, and
  • was able to avoid being taken to task by Zeigler, though Zeigler most certainly knew of his being the  "office worst" frequently "AWOL" (the SCPR's term) employee.
Was it apparent that Zeigler knew or should have known that Frustaci had a gambling problem?

The SCPR believes so.

Again to Young:

"A few co-workers, especially now that Frustaci has admitted his gambling habit, has speculated that he was leaving work to pull up a chair at one the local card games.  Frustaci had a reputation ... for loving high stakes poker games (Texas hold 'em), frequenting Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort in West Virginia and betting on sports.

Other employees (Paone and Owens) knew of Frustaci's gambling.

"Did Zeigler know?  Owens says yes.  He recalls one of the first times Frustaci attended a County Treasurers Association of Ohio convention with [Owens] and Zeigler.  ... "then left to play poker at a nearby riverboat casino ... [they] did attend all the classes at the conference."

"Owens recalls another occasion, back in September 2003 [about the time that Zeigler gave Frustaci the keys to the vault], while sitting in Zeigler's office with Frustaci.  The three joked about a newspaper article about a poker game in Plain Township that had been robbed ... 'You know, you get caught in one of those games your done here,' Owens remembers Zeigler saying to Frustaci.

Another side of the Zeigler administration of the Stark County treasury is his stewardship of the facilities, the policies and the procedures in place from the time he took office.

The reason why Zeigler got the opportunity to be Stark County treasurer is that his predecessor Mark Roach failed to keep up with his continuing education requirements imposed by Ohio law.

An ancillary matter to the "failure to keep up" was a finding by the SOA that $1,000 was missing from the county treasury.  While not blaming Roach personally for having anything to do with the missing money, county officials recovered the missing money from Roach who paid up voluntarily.

Here is what Gary Zeigler had to say at the time:

Zeigler a reformer?

Not if you ask the State of Ohio Auditor's office and successor treasurers Allbritain, Koher and Zumbar.

The SOA cited the Stark County treasury for a number of deficiencies in policy, procedure and facility security.  Moreover, Allbritain, Koher and Zumber put a significant number of fixes in places during their respective times in office.

Why the citations, why the fixes when Zeigler says he did nothing wrong in managing the office and setting policy and procedures and securing facilities?

Numerous Stark Countians have remonstrated that had Zeigler admitted what was/is obvious to most, he could have salvaged a little bit of confidence from the Stark County public.

But he didn't and hasn't and it appears that Zeigler with his bulldog attitude has been a large part of the utter lack of trust in county government on the part of the "informed" part of the Stark County public.

Zeigler is not all to blame.  The commissioners (former commissioners Bosley, Harmon and Vignos) are part of the problem in that they imposed a 1/2 cent increase in the sales tax in December, 2008 and in the process focused on the "we're fixing 9-1-1) while virtually ignoring that half the tax was to go to the county general fund.  Also, Sheriff Swanson with his "poop on the public" attitude in support the tax imposition bears responsibility.

However, there is no getting around it.  What local attorney and civic activist Craig T. Conley calls "Zeiglergate" is at present the front and center reason why Stark Countians turn their collective noses up at county commissioner pleas (in their series of public meetings around Stark County) that Stark Countians once again trust county government.

Conley is pushing Canton Law Director Joe Martuccio to prosecute Zeigler under state of Ohio dereliction of duties statutes (a misdemeanor). 

And, of course, there is the civil suit in Stark County Common Pleas (Judge Inderlied as visiting judge) to recover of Frustaci and Zeigler some $1.5 million of the missing $2.96 millions from the Stark treasury.  Zeigler is trying to get Stark Prosecutor John Ferrero to go after the SOA for the money.

The SCPR is told that there are ongoing discussions between Zeigler and the county that could lead to Zeigler's resignation.  The hangups appear to be Zeigler's insistence that he be paid through his September, 2013 end of term date and that he be cleared of any obligation to repay the still missing $1.5 million.

If the reports are accurate, then do not look for any resolution of the matter until there is a court decision on whether nor not Zeigler is liable as a matter of law.

Even then, The Report cannot imaging any Stark County politician-office holder agreeing to pay Zeigler "one red cent" in future compensation with him having resigned as part of any deal.

It simply is not going to happen unless and until Gary D. Zeigler gets real.

As far as the SCPR is concerned, Zeigler has shown no signs whatsoever that he will own up to any part of what the Stark County public thinks - in a negative way - about his stewardship of the Stark treasury.

In the meantime Stark County government continues to suffer an utter lack of public confidence and trust which makes effective and productive county governance near impossible.

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