Saturday, August 27, 2011


When he burst onto the Stark County political scene, the SCPR's initial take on Canton Township's Travis Secrest was that - while he certainly had a political tint to him as a Republican - he had promise as someone who would not be a Kool-Aid drinker.

He is young, a graduate from Baldwin-Wallace College (Berea, Ohio) with a degree in political science.  Most impressively, he had not yet been jaded by the likes of Stark County GOP Chairman Jeff Matthews (the quintessential party pro) and therefore appeared to be "a person with a point of view" who realized that there are two points of view and could and would dialogue with others of different persuasions in order to get to a middling ground.

The SCPR has been watching Secrest closely and the evolution that yours truly sees into hyper-partisanism is a disappointment. 

Secrest has taken three political hits for Stark's organized Republicans.

With his appointment as a partisan (Republican) sponsored employee of the Stark County Board of Elections (BOE), it is now apparent to The Report that Secrest has donned the robe of full blown political partisanship and has seemingly made it pay off in terms of securing the BOE position.

One has to wonder who from the general (non-politically-connected) public that Secrest had to compete with to get the BOE job?  How about nobody? With Stark County unemployment at 10%, one would think that there would be quite a number of Stark Countians with much stronger employment history credentials than Secrest who would have liked the opportunity to vie for the $31,000 plus job, no?  And, after all, "competition" is a cardinal principle with Republicans, isn't it?  Apparently, in select situations only.

Over the the last year or so Secrest has been executive director of the Stark County GOP.  And who is the chairman of the Stark County Republicans?  You've got it!  Jeff Matthews (currently deputy director of the BOE)!  Moreover , with the November, 2010 Republican takeover in Columbus, sooner or later Matthews will become the "DIRECTOR" (once again) of the local BOE.  Matthews (including benefits) makes over $100,000 at the BOE.

The vote was 4 to 0 at the BOE for Secrest getting the job: Republican BOE members Cline and Braden joining with Democrats Giavasis and Ferruccio to give Republicans their turn at feeding their partisan interest at taxpayer expense.

The Rs and Ds do this sort of thing routinely not only in Stark County but across the entire state of Ohio.

The BOE structure in Ohio is kind of a political "cold war" a la the U.S. and the Soviet Union of yesteryear.  It seems that BOEs and the Ohio secretary of state office constitute turfs on which the two mainline parties war with one another over who is going to control the turf.  Ordinary citizens seem to be left in the dust of the political warfare.

Board member Sam Ferruccio Jr. (a Democrat) appears to the SCPR to have gotten his appointment as a consequence of the cold war mentality.

At least, if you believe former Stark County Democratic Party chairman Johnnie A. Maier, Jr.   He claims that the then Ohio secretary of state, Jenifer Brunner, was advising him that organized Democrats across Ohio should be putting attorneys (which Ferruccio is one of) on BOE's in order to ensure Republicans did not play any hanky-panky in the Obama/McCain election.

Brunner denies Maier's account, but the SCPR suspects that Maier has it right and that the secretary of state "threw him under the bus" when the press came asking.  But being the thoroughgoing and committed Democrat he is, Maier "took it like a man!"

In order to do the Ferruccio appointment, Maier had to throw Stark County's organized labor (Billy Sherer - a former ironworker who had been on the BOE for 13 years) "under the bus."

Hey, "what's good for the goose is good for the gander," no?

Hey!  "All is fair in love, war and politics."

So what was an organized Stark Democrat sponsored "union" seat on the BOE, is no more.

It does appear that there is an "a designated-hitter-esque" (the Dems) seat at the BOE.

What is it?

A "clerk of courts seat."

That is until the seated member has to run for re-election, then he must step aside to be replaced by a non-running clerk of courts.  Recently, Maier (running for re-election as Massillon clerk of courts( had to step aside.  Who replaced him?  Canton Clerk of Courts Phil Giavasis.  Hmm?  And there is a prior history, to wit: Randy Gonzalez and Maier's "gofer" err chief deputy at the Massillon clerk of courts Shane Jackson - son of former Stark County commissioner Gayle Jackson.

When folks like Secrest and Gonzalez say that they are doing this or that local government job as a "public service," one has to burst out into an uproarious laughter. 

Who believes that?

Stark Republican officialdom (like a Travis Secrest) have loved it when the SCPR has roundly criticized Stark's organized Democrats for seemingly providing jobs at public expense to favored and insider partisans.  At the time, Republicans held relatively few offices across Stark County.  That is changing.  The Report has always said that Republicans will get every bit as much scrutiny as Democrats, once they assume positions of political and governmental power. 

Now that "the worm is turning," it is likely that Republicans are not so amused.

What these folks do not seem to get is the apparent exponential growth they are fueling (with their inside dealing, political cronyism and the like) is public cynicism.

In the Stark County world of practical ramifications, political machinations have to be an added factor for a growing number of Stark Countians in promoting a no vote on the upcoming sales tax issue?

And what is really weird is when someone like Jeff Matthews (who has - as a public official - a huge stake in the well-being of the financial condition of Stark County) came out against the Bosley, Harmon and Vignos imposed 1/2% sales tax (Canton Tea Party, April 15, 2009).

Of course, that's the political Jeff Matthews acting as a party chairman trying to whip up sentiments against Democrat officeholders.

When the Stark commissioners had their meeting with county officials about a month ago outlining the huge cuts that will be forthcoming in 2012 and beyond if November's 1/2% sales tax proposal does not pass, The Report did not see Deputy Director Matthews stepping up to take a 40.7% cut on county appropriations.  He mostly deferred, when asked by Commissioner Ferguson to address the question, to Director Jeanette Mullane.


The Report has opinonated previously that Matthews in taking these contradictory positions:  (one as a politician opposing a levy for political advantage) and another as public official needing to keep the office afloat (and with that hat on - supporting the levy) shows what a hypocrite and political opportunist he is.

Hey!  In politics "one does what one has to do!!!"

And by the way - "the public be damned:"  Is that the message, Jeff?

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