Wednesday, August 3, 2011


As the SCPR figures it, there are two primary reasons that a county sales tax of whatever monetization and duration is likely to fail in November, to wit:
  1. the continuing presence of Gary D. Zeigler as Stark County treasurer, and
  2. the imposition of a 1/2 cent sales tax by former commissioners Bosley, Harmon and Vignos in December, 2008 (since repealed).
Stark County Auditor Alan Harold apparently feels the same way about the Zeigler factor.

Immediately after the Stark County work session of July 26th, The Report interviewed Harold and the following interview is what he had to say in part:

With the Ohio Supreme Court voting (5 to 2, with a strong dissent) to reinstate Zeigler on June 25th (the day the decision was handed down), Zeigler has once again become a "bigger than life" political figure in Stark County.

Many feel - and they could be right - that Stark County will never recover from it current financial problems until Zeigler is gone from the public office holding scene.

There is a lot of irony to go around in the unfolding in this seeming political reality.

Zeigler was appointed as a favorite-son type of the Stark County Democratic Party when Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero was the party chairman.

How times have changed with Zeigler and his relationship with a party chairman.  A few weeks ago, The Report talked with Stark County Democratic Party Chairman Randy Gonzalez who said that he had run across Zeigler out in the Stark County community and how he was snubbed by Zeigler.

When Zeigler was appointed by the Stark Democrats, there were at least three candidates who appeared to have much better training and professional qualifications to be treasurer.

In 2008, Zeigler and Ferrero were re-elected as county treasurer and county prosecutor, respectively.  Moreover, they ran unopposed!  The SCPR - at the time - roundly criticized the Stark County Republican Party for allowing such to occur.

The SCPR has information to the effect that Zeigler himself became very aggressive to get now Stark County Auditor to back off on his plan to run for county treasurer in 2008.

In the days that yours truly was an active Stark County Democrat (now an Independent), the recollection of Zeigler is of a person who was seemingly preoccupied with who would be running against him at the next election (2004).

When he was appointed back in '99, Zeigler was quoted in local media at the time as going to work to make internal reforms at the Stark treasury to ensure there was no repeat of missing money at the office.  There had been a finding by auditors that $1,000 came up missing while Mark Roach was treasurer and though no one thought or claimed that he had anything personally to do with the missing money, he stepped up the plate and replaced the missing money.

Ferrero's office was involved with federal prosecutors out of Cleveland in their investigation of and the formulation of the case against Zeigler's former Chief Deputy Vince Frustaci who was charged with and convicted of stealing an admitted $2.46 million from the county treasury.

Prosecutors said at the time of filing the federal information against Frustaci that they uncovered no evidence that Zeigler was in any way involved in the theft.

And Zeigler himself went a step further and said not only was he not involved in the theft, he did nothing wrong in the management of his office in an administrative sense in instituting preventative measures to ensure that no theft could have happened in the first place by Frustaci.  This notwithstanding a state of Ohio auditor's office report which listed multiple shortcomings in policies, procedures and the quality of facilities in place on Zeigler's watch that needed corrected.

In a "straw that broke the camel's back"-esque way, in brief argument before Judge Inderlied (sitting by assignment) of the Stark County Common Pleas Court, Zeigler's attorney - obviously with Zeigler's blessing - argued that Zeigler himself was a victim and being made a martyr of by Stark County officialdom.

In the brief, Zeigler's attorney argued that a persuasive point for the court to consider in determining that if Zeigler had liability under a "the buck stops here"-esque Ohio Revised Code Section 321.37 (a no fault, only that money came up missing during a treasurer term type liability) in finding that Zeigler was entitled as a matter of law to be indemnified for any monies he was held liable under 321.37 was that the prosecutors themselves had agreed with Zeigler's self-exoneration of his management/administration of the Stark treasury.

In the SCPR's analysis of the prosecutors' conduct, it appears that they actually played it both ways.

A local attorney has told the SCPR he sees that the prosecutor's statements are irrelevant to the question of Zeigler's civil liability as 321.37 is not a fault statute.

But that is just one attorney's opinion.  It could be, that if Zeigler is successful in his argument before Inderlied, that the prosecutor's office itself might be cited in his decision as agreeing with Zeigler on the issue - if deemed relevant - of mismanagement.

Ironic?  Indeed, if it happens!

As demonstrated in this blog the whole Zeigler saga is one big mishmash of irony and contradictions.

Most importantly to the Stark County commissioners and Stark County officeholders including Zeigler himself, is the dark cloud of Zeigler's continuing presence (at least from the Stark County voters' perspective) on the Stark County governmental and political scene is having on their effort to restore the Stark County's public trust in government.  Many county offices are in line to receive a 40.7% cut in 2012 from 2011 appropriations should the planned November levy effort fails.

As part of the effort to come to a decision on how much of an sales tax increase (on top of the current 5.75% [ 1/4% for SARTA, 5.50% exclusively to the state of Ohio] the lowest in all of Ohio), the commissioners on July 7th sent this email to county officeholders, to wit:

To All Elected Officals and Department Heads (with budgets funded in part or in whole by General Fund revenues):

The Commissioners have completed two statutorily required public hearings conceding placing a .5% sales tax for submission to Stark County voters in November. The next step will be a public meeting or meetings of the Commissioners to vote on submission of the issue, which will occur not  later than August 1.

The Commissioners need to decide and submit: first, the amount of the sales tax to be voted on -- .5%; second, the duration of the tax--anything from one year to permanent; and third, the identification of the purpose of the tax--for general operations or for criminal and administrative justice services. We would appreciate your ideas on these issues.

The Commissioners are estimating General Fund revenues of $36,108,640 for 2012 (this amount includes an estimated $3,000,000 carryover as of 12/31/11) if no sales tax is passed and $47,108,640 for 2012 (again including an estimated $3,000,000 carryover) lf a .5% sales tax is passed. By comparison, the 2011 appropriation is $48,657,752 and 2010 actual expenditures were $$5,683,825.

We are submitting to all elected officials and departments as an attachment to this document a table showing by office/department 2009-2010 actual General Fund expenditures, 2011 appropriations and proposed 2012 appropriations (If no sales tax is passed.) The cuts in 2012 will need to average 25.7% across the board. If some offices that have mandate authority elect to order a smaller cut, then the cuts to other offices/departments will be greater to meet the required 25.7% reduction.  Priority to public safety issues (all, road patrol, and criminal prosecutions) may need to receive priorities in funding. We contemplate that lt may be necessary to close some offices for 2-3 days per week to operate within these budgetary numbers.

We are asking each elected official/department head to review the attached budget and advise us of two things: to those offices with ability to mandate, how much in budgetary cuts in 2012 can and will you absorb; and given the level of cuts contained in this table, describe how it will affect your operations (personnel cuts, hours of operation, level of services, etc.)
The Commissioners wish to publish this information as part of their decision associated with the sales tax vote that they will be making.

This document is for planning and public discussion purposes only and is not a formal budgetary request. We are requesting your responses within 10 days (not later than July 17.) Depending on the level of cuts in some offices, a second recalculation and re-submission to some offices may need to be made and completed by August 1.

Please respond to Commissioner Bernabei. Thank you.
Continuing the theme of irony upon irony, here is a copy of a letter from Zeigler's Chief Deputy Jaime Allbritain's response to the commissioners:

Zeigler can rip the prosecutors and his fellow county officeholders all he wants, but he could solve a large part of the commissioners', his fellow officeholders' and the county citizens' problem by resigning notwithstanding his victory in the Ohio Supreme Court.

But that would require caring about someone other than himself.

If that were to occur, irony would not be a strong enough word to describe the occasion.  A phrase is more in order.

Absolutely stunning?

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