Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Local attorney and civic activist Craig T. Conley tells the SCPR that, while neither distinguished himself, he and fellow local attorney Richard Reinbold sort of - at least, verbally -  "squared off" at Bender's Tavern in downtown Canton (across from Canton City Hall) last Friday evening.

As Conley tells it, Reinbold (husband of Stark County Clerk of Courts Nancy Reinbold and formerly a judge [Canton Municipal Court 1991-1996 and Stark County Common Pleas 1997-2008]) engaged him in small talk.

All went well until Reinbold began to question Conley about his opposition to the Stark County commissioners proposed county sales tax of 0.5% coming up for a vote next Tuesday.


Why did Reinbold single Conley out?


Likely from recent media reports (including the pages of the SCPR) and on the basis of Conley having led an effort (November, 2009) to repeal a commissioner (Bosley, Harmon and Vignos) "imposed" 1/2% sales tax one-half for a countywide 9-1-1 fix and one-half for the county general fund (December, 2008).

County officials were so impressed with Conley's clout with voters that they (in 2010) established a Citizen Review Committee (CRC) and got Conley to agree to serve on the committee.

At the time, the SCPR blogged that Conley's (as well as sidekick Charlie Snyder of Bethlehem Township) inclusion was an attempt to "co-opt" the "Vote No Increased Taxes Committee" (the name Conley et al took on) into supporting a new effort either to renew (at 1/4%) or replace the defeated Issue 5.

And The Report still believes that was the reason for Conley's inclusion.  However, Conley had very little actual involvement and pretty much faded out on the CRC's activities.

Fast forward to August, 2011.

Faced with an impending filing deadline, after holding a statutorily required two meetings, the commissioners decided to put what is now Issue 29 on the ballot for a 0.5% sales tax increase for a period of eight years.

At first Conley was vague about whether or not he would oppose the new issue.

But as time wore on, his viewpoint crystalized into outright opposition largely on the basis that the county had not done enough in cutting Sheriff Swanson's expenses in terms of the cost of benefits for sheriff's deputies.

Conley's basic premise on public employee benefits is that they are far too generous when compared to what private sector employees get and that it is not sustainable for public sector employees to receive remuneration (wages, salary and benefits) that outstrips that generally received by the taxpaying private sector.

As the SCPR understands Conley's explanation, county departments of government (with the sheriff's department being the most egregious) has not done enough to rein in their employee costs and that therefore Stark Countians should force the issue by refusing to pay any new taxes.


Undoubtedly, all of the public discussion about Conley this and Conley that got to Reinbold and hence the outburst.

The small talk, on Friday last, migrated to a sudden change to:  "Why are you opposed to the sales tax issue?"

Conley says that he tried to explain his position to Reinbold, but Reinbold immediately turned to invective and personal attack.

According to Conley, Reinbold subjected him to a barrage of the like of:
  • "You don't your f****** know what you are talking about."
  • "You can't really f****** believe what you are saying."
  • "You don't f****** want to do the Deputies' dirty job at the jail."
  • "You are a f****** coward!"
Conley admits to having engaged a "tit-for-tat" and regrets having done so.


It shows The Report that tensions are running high with county officials and those close to them about the prospects of Issue 29 passing.


The Report's sense of the situation is that Issue 29 will pass, but one cannot be sure.

The reason for the unsureness is that there is a large body of Stark County voters who are busy getting from day-to-day and, perhaps, are not seeing the demonstrated need for additional revenues and connection to (in terms of dramatically reduced county criminal justice services) the consequences to turning down the levy.

Also a part of the uncertainty is that there is a political history (and, maybe even, pride) going back as far as 30 years of Stark Countians rejecting local sales tax additions piggybacked onto the state sales tax which now stands at 5.5%.


Agree or disagree with Craig T. Conley, there is no doubt his public opposition has stoked the fires of anxiety among those who favor passage of Issue 29.

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