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Sunday, July 31, 2011

(VIDEOS) - THE STARK COUNTY FRACKING FIGHT IN TERMS OF "WATER QUALITY" VERSUS "JOBS?" (ATTY WM. G. WILLIAMS V. TRUSTEE LOUIS GIAVASIS)



On December 28, 2010 the SCPR did a blog (CLICK HERE) on oil and gas industry/land owner attorney William G. Williams' effort to block the passage of resolutions by Plain Township worded to impede the horizontal hydraulic fracturing (aka "fracking") of Plain's subsurface for natural gas deposits that are trapped in rock thousands of feet below the surface.

Environmentalists are concerned with potential pollution of groundwater (well sources) by the use of chemicals in the fracking process.  They also worry about the disposal of the water once it has been used in fracking.

Williams got agitated by Plain Trustee Louis Giavasis' (first in Stark County) attempt to stop fracking from occurring in one of Stark's largest townships (Plain).  Be sure to review the communications sent out by Williams at the time by clicking on the above link.



Williams has a very powerful political ally on fracking in Republican Governor John Kasich.  Williams himself is a potent local Republican with strong ties (the Stark GOP executive committee) within the highest reaches of the Stark County Republican Party.

The Kasich/Williams adversaries in Stark County (at least at the leadership level of the anti-fracking forces) are for the most part Democrats.

The chief anti-fracking Stark County government official is Giavasis.  Louis and his brother Phil (Canton Municipal Court clerk of courts; formerly Stark County clerk of courts) are part and parcel of the Stark County Democratic Party establishment.

Louis Giavasis is Nancy Reinbold's (brother Phil's successor) chief deputy at the Stark County clerk of courts office.

Here is a video SCPR interview of Giavasis made on July 19th of this year in which he summarizes where Plain is on its anti-fracking efforts.  Note his reference to Scott Haws the sole Republican member of the Plain Board of Trustees and their differences on fracking.  Though both deny that it is a Republican/Democrat division between them, the SCPR is not buying.



Haws is close to former state Rep. Todd Snitchler (Republican - Lake) who was recently appointed chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) by Republican Governor John Kasich and one of his Kasich assigned duties has been to marshal support for Kasich's commitment to facilitating fracking in Ohio.

The Giavasis/Haws denial of a partisan divide in Stark rang hollow at a July 26th meeting of the Plain trustees.   Haws accused Giavasis of  "political grandstanding."  Here is video of Giavasis' response and then a follow up with Trustee Haws by the SCPR immediately after the meeting.



Teamed up with Giavasis in what the SCPR identifies a being a sort of political confederation are Alliance Councilman-at-Large Steve Okey (Democrat who is running for mayor of Alliance and whose brother has been an ardent opponent of fracking in the Ohio legislature; especially in the state parks) and Mary Cirelli who is councilwoman-at-large in Canton.

While the pro-fracking/anti-fracking lines are not strictly along a Republican/Democratic divide at the leadership levels, it is pretty close to be such in Stark if not generally across Ohio.  In Stark County, North Canton Republican Councilman Jeff Davies has shown interest in promoting that North Canton Council  adopt "frustrate fracking operations" ordinances being considered by Alliance, Canton, Hartville (mayor is a Democrat) and Massillon (all but one elected city official in Massillon are Democrats).

Canton City Council President Allen Schulman started out as an ally of Giavasis/Cirelli, but the SCPR is getting the sense that he is wavering on his support because of the jobs that could be coming to Canton if the oil and gas industry can blunt the efforts of Giavasis, Cirelli, Okey et al to make drilling too burdensome in Stark to make it profitable for the industry.

On July 28th Attorney William G. Williams sent out this email:


And The Repository dutifully published a piece on the 29th which had to be to the liking of Williams, to wit:  Chesapeake hopes to drive Ohio's economy.

Moreover, the day before The Rep did: Kasich hails Chesapeake shale discovery as ‘shot in arm’ for Ohio with the following opening paragraph:
Chesapeake Energy said Thursday that it has discovered a “major new liquids-rich play” in the Utica shale formation that lies under eastern Ohio, including Stark County.
It appears to The Report that Giavasis et al may be about to get "the bum's rush" in the face of the favorable (according to Kasich, Williams and the like) economic development and job production aspects of the Utica find.  You can bet that the Kasich/Williams political guns will be aimed directly  at Stark Countians who appear to stand in their way.



Giavasis may have the most to lose politically on the latest GOP initiative under the guise of economic development.

At last Tuesday's Plain Township trustee meeting (July 26, 2011), Giavasis complained about state Representative Kirk Schuring's (Republican - Jackson - the 51st) failure to follow through on a promise made to him in January of this year that he (Schuring) would work on getting the liability insurance carried by fracking operators in Ohio increased upwards over its current $3,000,000 (three million) coverage.

So?

The Stark County Political Report is beginning to think Giavasis (who lives in the 51st)  is gearing to take on Schuring in next year's general election.  When the SCPR asks Giavasis as to whether or not he is interested in running for state office, he says that he would never say never.



In other words, he will test the political winds.  Are they favorable or not?

If local (aided by state) Republicans can paint Giavasis as being anti-jobs for Canton/Stark County, then he likely gives up any notion of running against Schuring or, if he does run, he has a major problem in convincing job-starved 51st district constituents that he is the man to send to Columbus to look after their financial/economic development interests.

Here is Giavasis' ally and citizen activist Chris Borello's reply to the Williams' e-mail:


You can bet that Williams and his Stark County Republican Party allies will use emails such as Borello's in some way or fashion against Giavasis and any future political aspirations he might have.

What is the SCPR's position in all of this?

The Report thinks that Giavasis is on to something when he complains about the ill-preparedness of the oil and gas industry in terms of not having enough liability insurance should a catastrophic accident occur in the marcellus/utica natural gas exploration and drilling.  He recounts frequently the drilling (and not even the horizontal fracturing) accident that occurred in Steiner Heights about 10 years ago or so that cost Plain Township taxpayers about $1 million to fix.

Notwithstanding the oil and gas industry's insistence that fracking is safe (which certainly is open to argument), accidents do and will happen even if the general public eventually concludes the operations are generally safe.

The questions then become (a la Deep Water Horizon [BP in the Gulf of Mexico]):  where are the resources (including money) to clean up the problems which are attributable to an accident and where are the guarantees that individuals/families suffering drinking/household water pollution from an accident are provided with alternative water sources.

Giavasis is correct:  $3 million in liability insurance coverage (for the entire state of Ohio) will not cut it.

Giavasis politically must and pragmatically should distance himself from the "no-risk is an acceptable risk" crowd symbolized by Chris Borello and her followers.

It does not appear to The Report that Borello (Concerned Citizens of Stark County) and the Plain Land Alliance for Nature (PLAN) anti-fracking groups that flooded into Plain Township Hall on the 26th to push for a total ban will be satisfied with anything but an outright ban on fracking in all of Plain; not just township owned land, roadways and parks.

The SCPR does not fault PLAN for its activism.  The Report applauds PLAN and Borello for pressing their view of the issue and thinks the activists have played a constructive role in bring the issue to public attention.

However, there is a division of opinion on the matter in Stark County, Ohio and in America and a viable ban on horizontal hydraulic fracking is not doable in the world of realpolitik.

Here is a video sampling of the anti-fracking group member opinion (and some trustee response) from the meeting of July 26th:



There is no such thing as a "risk-free" life that PLAN and Borello seem to want to be the result of the fracking debate.

The best that we humans can do is to have resources at the ready to deal with calamities as they occur.

What should happen is for Giavasis, Williams, the governor's people, Schuring, Hagan (R-50th), Slesnick (D-52nd) and state Sen. Oleslager (R-29th) to get together and come up with a plan for raising the amount of insurance a fracker must carry to a level that would cover a worst case scenario disaster.

There may be a hue and cry from the oil and gas industry that such would be a prohibitive cost imposition.  But such an argument is a phony baloney.

For we all know that in developing a formula for making a profit, companies factor in things like the cost of insurance" into arriving at price to sell at to natural gas retailers.  In the end, the customer pays.  And there should be no competitive advantage to particular drillers in Ohio because all of them will have to have the insurance as a condition for drilling in Ohio.

It appears that the near term reality is that natural gas is about to become the most economic viable alternative to gasoline. 

The environmentalists are correct in pointing out the risks.

However, the rest of us should not allow them to hamstring recovery from the nation's financial/economic development woes and the ability to have resources to fuel future economic development by layering government with regulations/prohibitions designed to create an impossible "no-risk" drilling model.

Schuring needs to keep his promise to Giavasis to work on getting the drilling company's liability capability up to realistic levels.

Republicans generally hate for government to come in (a la Katrina and the $20 billion burden placed on BP) and command the establishment of a clean up and recovery fund.

To avoid government intervention, companies themselves need to anticipate that accidents will happen and "put oil in their lamps."  (no pun intended)

The best way to handle the likelihood of  additional fracking accidents is to ensure that the companies/operators themselves have acquired adequate liability insurance protection for the communities in which they set up their drilling operations so that the communities can be made whole as near as possible should a calamity occur.

If they will not protect communities voluntarily, then citizens should demand that government require them to do so!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

(VIDEOS) SMALL TOWN STARK COUNTY: "DEMOCRACY IN ACTION" - SUGARCREEK TWP CITIZENS DEFEAT BEACH CITY GOV'T TAKEOVER ATTEMPT


The SCPR loves it when individual citizens and or groups of citizens band together to fight, within the processes of democracy, for their rights.

Last Wednesday, a group of Sugarcreek Township residents led by Jim Baltzly of the township successfully fought off an attempt by the village of Beach City (number a few hundred residents) to annex their properties into the village.  Stark County commissioner voted unanimously against the annexation. 


 

The village - which got its start in the 1890s - in recent times has run into a problem with having enough "inside-the -village" users of its electricity to justify its existence.



Solution?

Annexation!

Of course Stark Countians are very familiar with the "A" word as it has been used extensively by Canton's Director of Annexation Sam "Darth Vader to the Townships" Sliman and Francis H. Cicchinelli, Jr the now lame duck mayor of Massillon (by virtue of having been defeated by Kathy Catazaro-Perry in the March, 2011 Democratic primary election).

Opposers to Beach City (Village) found they had the sympathetic ear of Stark County commissioners when on the 27th of this month the found that the Village was attempting to do an annexation of an unreasonably large tract of land (about 157 acres) and very little benefit to the target of the annexation.  Of the 157.7 acreage tract, a mere 1.6 acres belonged to those consenting to the annexation try.

Had the Village been successful, it appears that the Sugarcreek Township targets would have incurred an unproductive expense for electric service inasmuch as they had contracted either with Ohio Edison or American Electric Power for service (the township residents paying for the capital expenditure - one such expenditure having been $12,400).

Other negatives on the annexation would have been:
  • being subject to Beach City's 1% (perhaps, so to be 1.5%) income tax
  • not being able to use firearms at will on their farms, and a
  • a curtailment of the right to burn refuse
Beach City officials say that the benefits would have been
  • Village provided electricity
  • Village provided fire and police protections, and
  • Village provided water
One of the consequences to the Sugarcreek Township targets is that Beach City has sent out notices to them (among others) that their water is to be cut off on August 1st according to Baltzly.

The SCPR commends the Sugarcreek Township residents for availing themselves of their democratic rights to preserve the way of life!

Here is a video of Baltzly speaking about the commissioners' decision and the consequences that township residents close to Beach City face in light of the decision and in the face of apparent internal financial and infrastructure challenges that the Village is working upon.

Friday, July 29, 2011

OHIOANS FOR CONCEALED CARRY "ONLY HALF RIGHT:" DANIEL HARLESS SHOULD RESIGN BUT NOT ALAN SCHULAMN


Ths SCPR thinks it is absolutely wild that an organization that bills itself as being:  "[f]ounded in 1999 ...  [and] one of the largest civil rights organizations in Ohio" calls for the resignation of a man who was doing what?

Exercising his civil rights!

His First Amendment civil rights!!

Listen carefully to what Schulman actually said (source WHLO News via YouTube):



Agree with or disagree with him (The Report happens to agree with him), Schulman was merely exercising his right of free speech that all Americans are endowed with.

Had Ohioans for Concealed Carry (OFCC) disagreed with Schulman's comments, fine.  End of story.  Because that is the American story.

But no, the OFCC folks apparently do not respect the First Amendment.  For disagreement to them seems to mean that you cannot hold public office.

So what the OFCC needs to do is to change its self description to the following:

"[f]ounded in 1999 ...  [and] one of the largest FOR SELECTIVE civil rights organizations in Ohio."

In the view of the SCPR, it is not accurate for the OFCC to bill itself as a broad-based civil rights organization.

And, oh by the way, Ohioans for Concealed Carry:  "Mother may I" invoke my First Amendment right to disagree with the OFCC?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

(VIDEOS: FERGUSON, FERRERO AND COMMISSIONER PRESS CONFERENCE) - A LEGISLATIVE "RAIN DELAY" AT WEDNESDAYS STARK COUNTY COMMISSIONERS' MEETING ON SALES TAX INCREASE PROPOSAL?


Yesterday, the Stark County media (i.e. the SCPR, The Repository [Kelli Young], the Akron Beacon Journal [Nancy Molnar], and the Alliance Review [Laurie Huffman] all gathered at the commissioners' meeting room on the 2nd floor of the Stark County Office Building to hear the monumental decision.

The monumental decision?

Indeed!

The decision was to be made by commissioners on the percent county piggyback tax would be added to the 5.75% (5.50 of it going to the state of Ohio) Stark County sales tax.

But hold on a minute, Nellie!!!

It seems that the commissioners were so overwhelmed with the "rain" of  presentations by elected county officials at Tuesday's work session with information, with recommendations that the decision scheduled for Wednesday had to be put on "rain delay" as in the game of baseball when the skies open up and pour down sending everybody running for cover.

Maybe it was the presentation by Sheriff Tim Swanson who argued for a 1% sales tax increase on a permanent basis and joined by Prosecutor John Ferrero that turned their heads.

Immediately after the meeting, the SCPR caught up with Commissioner Pete Ferguson and asked him whether or not he had heard the Swanson/Ferrero wish for a 1% increase.  Here is his video response.


And obviously the decision proved too difficult to make this far in advance of the cut-off date (August 10th).

The commissioners until Tuesday seemed to be set on a 1/2 cent sales tax proposal to Stark 's voters.  They had been out in the community to twenty-two Stark County communities beginning on February 9th at Plain Township Hall and ending on June 30th at Marlboro Township Hall.

Though they have valued community input, they were disappointed at the poor turnout.  In Canton, nobody showed up.  In Alliance, two people showed up.

Jackson and Perry Townships provided the best turnouts.  However, in the case of Perry, their visit fell on the heels of a torrential rain that caused extensive flooding in the township and affected residents turned out in force to talk not so much about the levy, but about what the county might do to solve their flooding problem.

Some residents wanted guarantees that if they supported a sales tax increase that some of the money would be used to work on Stark County's severely overtaxed (no pun intended) ditching arteries which have gone largely unattended to since the 1980s.

Commissioner Bernabei, speaking to the request, emphatically said that no guarantees could be made because the 1/2 cent increase being considered would put Stark County in a "treading water' mode (again, no pun intended).

The SCPR believes the Perry visit could have been a "watershed" moment (for the third time, no pun intended) where the commissioners had to start thinking:  "you know what, 1/2 cent is simply not going to cut it; we have to entertain the notion of going higher."  

Add to the other community visits (excluding Canton, which apparently has no problems which Stark County government might help with in that nobody including Canton government officials showed up at)  and the many other problems that citizens across Stark County brought to their doorstep and having no money to promise fixes, one would think that commissioners had to be thinking in the back of their minds:  "Are we kidding ourselves in going to the voters with a 1/2 cent proposed increase?"

If there has been "a straw which broke the camel's back," it had to - perhaps been Tuesday's work session presentation and probably the dire ones by Sheriff Tim Swanson and John Ferrero. 

Yesterday, The Report blogged on the Swanson presentation.  CLICK HERE to see the video.

Today, The Report presents Ferrero's case for a 1% sales tax increase.


Coming full circle and in hindsight, yours truly should not have been surprised by the "legislative rain delay" announced yesterday.

The SCPR believes that the delay in and of itself signals that a modification of the original plan to ask voters to approve a 1/2 cent increase is in the works.  
What might the change be?

A full percent increase?  A three-fourths of a percent increase?  A permanent increase?  The tagging of the proposed increase with designations of how the money will be used:  a part to criminal justice operations and administration; a part to fixing Stark's ditches over a planned span of years and a part to economic development efforts designed to bring down the 10% (increased in June) unemployment rate in the county?

Afterwards, the media converged on Commissioners Bernabei, Creighton and Ferguson.  Here is the video of the exchange.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

VIDEO: "THE REST OF THE STORY;" SHERIFF SWANSON & CHIEF DEPUTY McDONALD. THE REP GIVES YOU 2 MIN. 53 SECS OF VIDEO, THE SCPR ABOUT 15 MINUTES.



The county commissioners work session of yesterday was spellbinding.

And today's regular meeting is one Stark Countians should not miss (1:30 PM at the Stark County Office Building, 2nd floor commissioner meeting room).  Commissioners will be deciding how much of a sales tax increase they will be putting on the ballot and for how long.

One of the most dramatic parts of the work session was a vivid description given by Stark County Sheriff Chief Deputy Mike McDonald (a candidate to succeed his boss Tim Swanson) on the dangers that lurk in the Stark County Jail for "reduced staff" deputies and corrections officers who have to deal with unwieldy numbers of in mates.

Here is a video of McDonald and his horrifying description of current jail conditions (ask yourself, he he employing scare tactics?):



The Repository also had video of the McDonald statement with its coverage and a little bit of what Sheriff Swanson had to say for a total of 2 minutes and 53 seconds.

Later on in this blog, the SCPR provides Stark Countians with the entirety of what Swanson and McDonald had to say for a total video presentation of 15 minutes.  For in depth and more extensive coverage of the financial crisis, the place to come is, of course, the Stark County Political Report.

Let's back up a minute and provide some background for the meeting.

For several weeks now, the Stark County commissioners have been in intense email negotiations with the departments of Stark County government about their ability to comply with commissioner requests that they sustain 40% in budget cuts in 2012 (from the 2011 appropriation) in the event that a planned sales tax levy (probably a 1/2 cent) fails.

Some departments for various reasons cannot abide any cuts whatsoever and those departments are the ones listed "in black" on the document set forth below.  In the case of the Stark County Veterans Service Commission, it outright refuses to make any cuts as a matter of entitlement.

Those listed "in red" are departments who said they could make limited cuts (see the blue numbers), but who will sustain 40.07% cuts if the November levy fails except for Family Court at 18.24% and Telecommunications at 25.79%)


Getting to Sheriff Swanson's operation, here is a his line item on the projected cuts document:


As readers of the SCPR can see, if the November levy fails then the Sheriff will go from $13,884, 409 to $8,320.960 which equals a reduction of over $5.5 million and is 47.5% of his 2007 budget amount.

What will Sheriff Swanson do in terms of cuts to live within the $8,320,960 budget?

Here is his list of actions he will have to take:





When the commissioners were conducting their community meeting series (22 of them in total), they encountered a lot of skepticism about the dire financial condition of Stark County.  Frequently, they heard citizen response of "scare tactic" when they warned about severe cuts in criminal justice were in the offing if a sales tax was not passed in 2011.

The SCPR's take is that citizens have to make a decision.  Are they willing to risk that the commissioners are spoofing them?  For if they are not, then denying them the additional revenue they say they need will be putting Stark County in a deeper hole than it already is.

Bad news surfaced today on the employment front.  Stark County increased from 9.3% (May) to 10.0% in June.  And besides that Stark County does not compare favorably to its neighbors.


But one statistic Stark does best its neighbors is its sales tax.


Hmm?

Here are the videos of Swanson and McDonald and their input with commissioners yesterday:


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

(VIDEO OF COM'R CREIGHTON) DOING THE CHEERLEADING OF HER POLITICAL LIFE?


At tomorrow's meeting (1:30 PM in the commissioner meeting room on the 2nd floor of the Stark County Office Building), commissioners will be making a decision as to how much of a sales tax levy to put on and for how long on November's ballot.

Stark County Commissioner Janet Creighton was at her "cheerleading" best earlier today at a county commissioner work session on the question that was open to the public but which had very few, if any, citizens present.

The cheerleading was for county office holders and their employees.  As seen in the video at the end of this blog, Creighton was in fine form in exhorting county employees to take up the challenge of working to get the tax passed.

Creighton was not very flattering of Stark Countians.  She called Stark Countians apathetic based on her experience along with fellow commissioners Pete Ferguson and Tom Bernabei of going around Stark County in a series of 22 community meetings.  The meetings were poorly attended and, in fact, no citizens attended the Canton meeting.

Stark County Sheriff Tim Swanson advocated for a 1% sales tax as did Prosecutor John Ferrero.  Swanson said he would like to see the levy be a permanent levy.

Do not look for Swanson and Ferrero to get their wish.  It appears to the SCPR that the commissioners will be going with a 1/2 cent sales tax for a period of anywhere from 5 to 8 years.

One of the county employees talked about the dearth of county revenues (with the expiration this year of the 1/4 cent sales tax) as being a county commissioner problem.

Creighton shot back: "It's not our problem, it's a county problem."

As far as the SCPR is concerned she is right on the mark.  The commissioners and other county elected officials will do what they can to with revenues provided by Stark Countians.

The dramatic fall-off in county services (if a November measure fails) will impact everyday Stark Coutians in ways they do not fully understand now.

The SCPR will be running a series of video between now and November detailing specific consequences to Stark Countians of a failure to pass a new sales tax.

CHALLENGING REINSTATED STARK COUNTY TREASURER GARY D. ZEIGLER THAT HE IS A VICTIM OF FRUSTACI'S THEFT.


Gary Zeigler a victim of Vince Frustaci who stole (by some accounts) $2.96 million in Stark County taxpayer money?

Well, his attorney (Matthew Nakon) is pushing that line.  And such is what one expects an attorney to do for his client.  In his motion in opposition (July 14, 2011) to deposed treasurer Zumbar's motion for the Ohio Supreme Court to reconsider its reinstatement of Zeigler as Stark County treasurer, Nakon makes this argument:


It is likely that darned few Stark County taxpayers think Zeigler is a victim.  Probably they are thinking "the gall of the guy, what chutzpah!"  

Accordingly, the SCPR thanks Attorney Matthew Nakon for giving The Report the idea of creating a Zeigler Chutzpah award to be handed out periodically by the The Report to those Stark County public officials who - from time-to-time - amply demonstrate arrogance in the face of what should be an opportunity to show humility.

And as for Nakon's assertion that predecessor Zumbar and Stark County (presumably talking about Stark County public officials) have been focused on making a "martyr of an innocent man;" really?

No! No! No! - Attorney Nakon.

It has been the Stark County taxpayers who have been victimized.  

Stark officials (including the prosecutor's office, interim treasurers Allbritain, Koher and Zumbar, and the county commissioners have been trying to make Stark Countians structurally and  financially whole again.

It was your client who appears to have ill advisedly hired Frustaci and put him on a fast track to becoming the #2 guy at treasury and not keeping a constant head over his shoulder in a "trust but verify" type relationship to ensure what did happen could never, ever happen.

No, Attorney Nakon.  Your client chose to completely trust a person (apparently, numbers of persons) to have control over millions of dollars of taxpayer money without having "independent" - in terms of job function - persons check in a "trust, but verify" fashion the work with taxpayer money being done in the Stark treasury.

Zeigler and his counsel Nakon et al need to read and re-read the State of Ohio Special Audit Report certified by the then Ohio Auditor Mary Taylor (June 25, 2010).

As Taylor said in a letter to Zeigler:
  • "We [the Ohio auditor's office] made nine management [the chief manager is whom? Treasurer Zeigler?] recommendations addressing internal control weaknesses noted in:
    • the reconciliation process,
    • vault cash collection process,
    • cash drawer overages/shortages,
    • tracking/recording unclaimed wires,
    • recording interest income earned and fees incurred, and 
    • segregating the cash collection and reconciliation processes."
In another but related strange turn of events, Zeigler (undoubtedly on the advice of counsel) sent Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero and county commissioners a letter (July 13th - just one day before Nakon filed his "Zeigler is a victim included paragraph brief) asking that these county officials spend additional Stark County taxpayer money to pursue Taylor's former office (she is now lieutenant governor) for recovery of money ($2.96 million) lost on Zeigler's watch.



In the end, it is not Nakon and his fellows representing Zeigler.  They are doing what they were hired to do.  Make Gary D. Zeigler appear to be purer than the white driven snow.

For the SCPR and daresay for the overwhelming majority of Stark Countians - no matter what the courts may determine about the legalities of the situation - "the buck does stop with Gary D. Zeigler."

He likely will forever be remembered in the public perception in the annals of Stark County political and governance history as being the pre-eminent public official who would not own up to the responsibilities of holding office.

A man who in the face of extensive findings in the SAR that there were management deficiencies galore, had the effrontery to say he did nothing wrong and through his attorneys that, in fact, he was the victim.

For his bullheadedness, Stark County Treasurer Gary D. Zeigler is richly deserving of a SCPR Chutzpah Award and since he is the initial awardee to have the award named after himself.

Congratulations!

Gary D. Zeigler - the first recipient ever of the SCPR's "Zeigler Chutzpah Award."

Monday, July 25, 2011

(VIDEOS: ASS'T PROSECUTOR MIKE BICKIS) ON EFFECT OF SB5 "THE COLLECTIVE BARGAINING BILL" ALL FOR NAUGHT?


 UPDATED & REPUBLISHED:  07/25/2011

Thursday last, the Ohio secretary of state office certified that "We Are Ohio" had collected 915,456 "valid" signatures of the approximately 1.3 million collected. Of those, Stark County petition circulators submitted 29,235 of 38,365 collected or 76% of the petition signers.


Those numbers are consistent across Ohio and bode failure for Republican Governor John Kasich in his fight to get the upper hand on unions that represent public employees.

In preparation for the possible implementation of SB 5, Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero's office in the person of Assistant Prosecutor Mike Bickis has spent hours poring over SB 5 and HB 153 (the recently passed and signed into law two year budget bill) trying to figure out what ramifications the two bills will have on Stark's political subdivisions (villages, cities, townships and boards of education).

On July 19th, the Stark County commissioners had Bickis in to their public meeting place office in a public work session to explain to them and the Stark County public exactly what the effect on county operations SB 5 and HB 153 might have. In today's blog, the SCPR focuses on Bickis' explanation of SB 5.

The Report will do a follow-up blog on HB 153 (the budget bill) soon.

While the SCPR does not expect SB 5 to become law because it seems pretty clear that voters are set to reject it. But nothing is for sure. The campaigns "We are Ohio" (for rejecting the bill) and "Build a Better Ohio" (for approving the bill) are in the process of putting their campaigns together. So it is prudent for Ferrero's office to have spent the time, which is a precious commodity to the office given the time he has had to allocate to the Stark County Treasurer Gary Zeigler proceedings with about a dozen less personnel due to county financial problems, to put together the analysis Bickis has come up with.

The Report commends Bickis for his work.

Even if Ohioans reject SB 5, The Report believes that Governor Kasich is so intent on getting the changes on Ohio's collective bargaining law housed in SB 5, he will reload and most if not all of SB 5's provisions will show up in other executive and legislative actions in new and repeated attempts to get his way on the issue.

Kasich is showing in a little more than six months in his administration that he has a lot more grit and determination to get his program in place than did the man he defeated last November.

Strickland said in his 2007 inauguration speech that he would be a failed governor if he failed to fix the Ohio Supreme Court articulated (in a series of four DeRolfe decisions) unconstitutional funding of public education.  In the summer of 2008 at a North Canton Bitzer Park event at which John Boccieri announced he was running for Congress, Strickland in response to a Stark Countian who questioned as to when he was going to get moving on fixing the funding of public education said:  "I am keeping my powder dry."

Hmm?

Hey, former Governor Strickland, big mistake, huh?

It is clear that Kasich - if he fails - will not do so sitting on his political duff!

In Stark County, Christina Hagan (R-Marlboro, the 50th) and Kirk Schuring (R-Jackson, the 51st) are legislative allies of Kasich.  Both voted for SB 5.  However, state Senator Scott Oelslager (R-Plain) did not.

Any Stark Countian who wants to get a handle on "the devil is in the details" aspect of the Kasich administration's work (along with its allies in the Ohio General Assembly can do so in watching the following collection of seven (7) videos of Bickis making his presentation to county commissioners.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

(VIDEO: TRUSTEE LOUIS GIAVASIS ON HYDRAULIC FRACKING IN PLAIN TWP). OPPONENTS OF FRACKING "MARCHING ON TWP HALL," TUESDAY, JULY 26TH?


At their July 12th meeting Plain Township Trustees Louis Giavasis and Al Leno (both Democrats) outvoted Trustee Scott Halls (a Republican) to ban horizontal hydraulic fracking on Plain Township property.  This action comes on the heels of a resolution passed on February 8, 2011 that requested state of Ohio officials to impose a statewide moratorium on hydraulic fracking in the Marcellus Shale deposits thought to underlie northeast Ohio.

Apparently, the move was not enough for a northeast Ohio group known as the Plain Land Alliance for Nature (PLAN).  The group has sent out e-mails with a flyer attached (see below) urging citizens to attend the regular fourth week of the month (i.e. July 26, 2011 at 6:00 PM)  trustee meeting to press trustees to go further and ban horizontal hydraulic fracking across the entire township to encompass all lands, not just township owned property.


It was in December, 2010 that Giavasis got the "anti-horizontal-fracturing" ball rolling.  For background information on "the Giavasis Initiative" CLICK HERE to visit a blog produced by the SCPR writing about a controversy of sort between WHBC Points to Ponder host Ron Ponder and the Plain trustee on a planned township meeting on the pros and cons of hydraulic fracking.

While matters got smoothed over and Ponder did put together two separate meetings (one general topic meeting and another featuring government regulators and oil and gas industry representatives; January 20th & 27th, respectively) at GlenOak High School (located in Plain Township) in January of this year, those meetings has not quieted down the continuing controversy in parts of Stark County (e.g. Alliance, Canton, Massillon, Hartville, North Canton and, of course, the birthplace - Plain Township).

One has to wonder as to whether or not Giavasis has opened the proverbial "Pandora's Box" with his introduction of the hydraulic fracking issue into local government deliberations back in December of 09.

Tuesday night it will be PLAN marching on township hall.  But is this the beginning of a continual parade of anti-fracking groups beseiging Plain in coming months?



Despite the escalation of tension on Plain's trustees, don't look for the trustees to expand the ban to meet the PLAN.  In the Stark County Political Report video interview of Trustee Giavasis (07/19/2011), he cautions that the Plain Township trustees are not out to start World War III in Ohio on the issue of horizontal hydraulic fracturing:




Friday, July 22, 2011

CAN DEAN MCKIM SURVIVE AS CANTON POLICE CHIEF IN LIGHT OF OFFICER DANIEL HARLESS JUNE 11TH VIDEOTAPED INCIDENT? HOW ABOUT SAFETY DIRECTOR THOMAS REAM?


Pictured above is Canton Chief of Police as he appeared before the media on June 23, 2007 (the day that Canton Police Officer Bobby Cutts, Jr. was arrested for two counts of murder) to reassure the Canton/Stark County public that the Canton Police Department (CPD)  would deal with one of its own in the light of the facts that evolved in the investigation of the allegation against Cutts.

In the Cutts case, McKimm, of course, responded immediately.  The Cutts case was easy for the chief to deal with.  Cutts was in jail and he was convicted on February 15, 2008 and sentenced to life in prison without eligibility for parole for 57 years. but with an officer who was incarcerated.

But should Cutts have been a Canton policeman in the first place?

According to a report by Edd Pritchard of The Repository dated June 19, 2007, Sheriff, FBI agents search Cutts' home:
In 1998, before he joined the Canton Police Department, Cutts was found guilty of aggravated criminal trespass for breaking into [Nikki] Giavasis' [the mother of his child] apartment in Jackson Township. He pleaded no contest, was found guilty and placed on three years probation. He was hired to the Canton force in 2000.

...

In February 2003, Cutts was fired from the police department after an investigation into how his cousin ended up with Cutts' service weapon. Cutts claimed the weapon was stolen. Police administrators believed Cutts gave the weapon to his cousin. But an arbitrator determined the incident wasn't a good enough reason to dismiss Cutts and he was reinstated.
On June 8, 2011 another case of "dealing with one of our own" for McKimm to deal with, in terms of allegations of a Canton policeman wrong doing, was birthed.

For readers who have not seen the video, CLICK HERE for the link.

This time McKimm has a much more difficult task on his hand.

And the question is not so much how Harless will be dealt with, but how long McKimm and his boss Safety Director Thomas Ream have known about the incident before placing the officer on administrative leave sometime in June.

A paramount question that McKimm and Ream have to answer is why they did not get out in front on this matter?

They needed to bring it to the public's attention before it hit the media and present a convincing case to the public that the attitude demonstrated in the video is atypical because the Canton Police Department has mechanisms in place to filter out officers who have attitude issues before incidents like what occurred on June 8th transpire.

If a plausible explanation is not forthcoming, then it is incumbent on Mayor Healy to step in and ensure to the public's satisfaction that remedial policies and procedures are put in place and perhaps including disciplinary action against McKimm and Ream.

The SCPR has talked with a prominent Stark County police official who shared the following observations/comments:
  • questions whether or not McKimm historically has effectively handled allegations of Canton police misconduct.
  • questions the quality of training of police officers in Canton.  
    • the SCPR's source was incredulous that the other officer on the scene did not intervene to settle Harless down.
    • could not believe that the car was being searched without taking everybody out of it first.
    • the officer's refusal to listen to the subject about having a permit to carrying the gun.
  • Canton needs to significantly improve the quality of background investigations, internal affairs investigations and disciplinary processes.
  • worried that the culture of the CPD is such that it encourages police wrongdoing,
    • a key to watch, the source says, is the union's reaction.  Does it circle the wagons or does it stand up and distance the working officers of the department from what the video shows.
  • believes that McKimm in the sense that he appears to have failed to have systematic and escalating processes in place to prevent what happened on June 8th should be accountable in terms of "the buck stops here."  The source would be surprised to learn that there were no other incidents involving Harless.  It all goes back - The Report's source says - to McKimm and what he believes to have been ineffective police corp control and that McKimm bears responsibility for the development of what appears to be a culture of tolerance if not encouragement of cop on the beat arrogance.
 In light of the police source's criticism of the Canton police administration, it may be a good idea for Cantonians to attend the Canton Police Academy.  While there, they may want to inquire into background check procedures, the operation of internal affairs and the CPD disciplinary processes.

Another source in a position to know tells the SCPR that McKimm rules the department in a military fashion, but does not have the respect of the Canton police force.  McKimm, the source says, is a technocrat who does not get out and around his troops connecting with them on a day-to-day basis and therefore not in a position to have the pulse of the department within his grasp.

If the source is correct in assessing McKimm, it appears that one side of McKimm does take with some of the CPD officers is a dictatorial manner that seems to be more appropriate in a military context than in a city police department where the clientele is citizen based and not focused on dealing with enemies.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

(VIDEO: STARK EMERGENCY MGT DIRECTOR TIM WARSTLER EXPLAINS RAMPED UP STARK CO 9-1-1) . BUT NIMISHILLEN TWP AND CITY OF CANTON ARE STILL PROBLEM SPOTS!


Yesterday, Stark County Emergency Services Director Tim Warstler made an auspicious announcement at the Stark County commissioners weekly regular meeting to the effect that Stark County made a huge step in improved 9-1-1 emergency services in implementing a "state of the art" (on the call receiving side) technically advanced system.

However, the dispatch side is unchanged.

Stark County has come a long way from this 2008 analysis of the Stark County system commissioned to GeoComm, to wit:
This [Stark County's] current [February, 2008] lack of radio interoperability can be, and has been, the cause of injuries and death to public safety professionals and citizens and therefore needs to be resolved.

But day-to-day coordination means more than radios that talk to each other.  The lack of coordination inherent in having dispatching done from ten different places on ten different radio systems under ten different procedures and five different computer systems with ten different sets of employees is a disaster waiting to happen, if it has not happened too many times already (and in Stark County it has).
Despite the advance, problems still remain.

While Warstler, being the diplomat he is, would not say it this way (the SCPR will), the city of Canton under the direction of Mayor William J. Healy, II and his Safety Director Tom Ream stand in the way of completing the "disaster waiting to happen" rebuild of Stark's emergency 9-1-1 system.

Moreover, Warstler is very kind to the Nimishillen Township trustees.  Again, the SCPR will not be so kind.  It appears to The Report that a board of former but also the current trustees have let Fire Chief Rich Peterson hamstring them into not fully participating in the revamped countywide emergency services system.

While Warstler says Nimishillen's CenCom does now have communication integration with the county's new system, it does not receive call direct from emergency callers as does the rest of Stark County.  Also, because of equipment disparity (Nimishillen refused the countywide 9-1-1 offer of new equipment made last year) future enhancements to the countywide system (texting and video) could be, Warstler says,  problematical.

The Report believes a former board of  Nimishillen trustees got talked into (an unwise decision) building a new fire station principally to house CenCom and because of an outstanding large mortgage the current trustees cannot see a financially clear path (needing the revenue generated by CenCom) to merging CenCom into the countywide system.

Here is a video of Warstler and 9-1-1 Project Manager Joe Concatto talking about the CenCom (Nimishillen) problem (the SCPR's words, not Warstler's and Concatto's).



Insofar as Canton is concerned, the SCPR is especially disappointed in Councilman Bill Smuckler.  In his losing campaign to replace Canton Democrat Mayor William J. Healy, II as the Democratic Party nominee, he pushed Healy (during the campaign) to get on board "fully" with countywide 9-1-1 and thereby save Canton about $480,000 a year.

Smuckler even had a public meeting schedule to compel the Healy administration to give an specific accounting as to why he and Safety Director Ream were dragging their feet.  But then came the announcement that Sheriff Swanson was "off the 9-1-1 - fully participating - reservation" (he is now back on board) and Smuckler seems to have vanished on this issue.

The Report expects more of Smuckler than being Healy-esque (what is in this for me politically).  He has long been one of if the the leading proponent for local Stark County governments working together.

Smuckler still has five months left as councilman.  If he allows Healy and Ream continue to get in the way of the finalization 9-1-1 rebuild, then yours truly has to wonder how much different is he from Healy after all.

While a monumental positive advance has been made on the 9-1-1 call receiving side, much work remains on the dispatch (CAD) side.  Healy and Ream talk like they intend to come to a resolution on the impasse between Canton and the county, but - in fact - "the devil is in the details" of getting to where Canton needs to be in order to finalize a fully rehabilitated countywide 9-1-1.

The SCPR will be keeping the heat on Healy and Ream to step forward and say specifically why they are dragging their feat.  Moreover, Canton City Council needs to get involved and fight to release the choke hold the Healy/Ream tag team seem to have on Canton's full participation in both sides of the 9-1-1 fix.

Here is a video of Warstler reporting to the Stark County commissioners on the implementation of the the 9-1-1 call side rehab:


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

(VIDEO: GIAVASIS ON COLLABORATION BACKGROUND) STARK CO. LOCAL GOV'T HISTORY IN THE MAKING: PLAIN TWP TRUSTEES & PLAIN BD OF EDUCATION MEET IN WORK SESSION TO COLLABORATE ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT SERVICES. CANTON SETS A NEGATIVE EXAMPLE UNDER HEALY.


UPDATED AT 10:30 AM

One of a number of negatives on Stark County is the amount of rampant turfism that plagues the county.

Mayor William J. Healy, II of the Canton is the personification of turf wars going on in our county.  The SCPR ascribes to him and his Safety Director Tom Ream the notoriety of being responsible for bringing the development of an effective and efficient countywide 9-1-1 to a de facto halt or at the very least to a "snail's pace" by their insistence that Canton be the "political" dominatrix of Stark County in an attempt to hold the rest of us in Canton's control and dominance.

And Canton under Healy has larger ambitions to make Canton synonymous with the geographical confines of Stark County.  Building departments, health departments and information technology departments - you name them - if there is to be any countywide convergence of these operations into a citizen serving lean and mean operation and Canton is to be included, Mayor Healy will not allow it unless Canton comes out on top.

However, lame duck Councilman Bill Smuckler does deserve to be excluded from inclusion in the Healy-esque led drive to dominance.  For years, he has been a leading Stark County light for promotion cooperation and collaboration between the city and the rest of Stark County.  Unfortunately, he is one of the few Canton government types who sees the light.

While Canton is the worst of Stark County local governments in terms of working for the betterment of the whole of Stark County, Plain Township has to be the very best.


Last evening the Plain Township Board of Trustees and Plain Township Board of Education broke new ground in Stark County in agreeing to a series of meetings to work on common ground matters in the name of serving all of Plain Township better, to wit:
  • developing the GlenOak High School campus into a community center,
  • shoring up pedestrian and traffic safety in the vicinity of the campus,
  • working on ways and means to provide sustained funding of a police  resource officer dedicated to rendering policing services to students in the context of their life in school,
  • enhancement of the Plain Township park system by developing a collaboration between the talent rich school population and managers of the parks to put on community events using Plain Township home grown entertainers, and
  • collaborating to develop communication media (e.g. Time Warner's Channel 11 and AT&T's community channels) as a joint effort of the schools and the trustees to bring school and township government into the homes of Plain Township residents.
Perhaps the most important decision of the night was the surfacing of a commitment (on the part of both boards) to develop a schedule of quarterly meetings as a follow-up to the discussions initiated last night and the joint work session.  The SCPR has seen many collaborative efforts fall through in Stark County because the ball got drop for lack of a formal structure (i.e. set meetings) to keep the matter(s) on track.

The Stark County Political Report sees the collaboration between Plain's trustees and school board members as having countywide perhaps even statewide significance in terms of creating an actual working model of how local governments can structure and formalize their local government efficiency and effectiveness efforts.

The Report spoke with Plain Township Trustee Louis Giavasis on the significance of last night's meeting.  Here is the video of the interview.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS. AFTER ALL STARK CO. HAS BEEN THROUGH WITH STARK PROSECUTOR JOHN FERRERO, THE STARK GOP IS ABOUT TO GIVE HIM ANOTHER FREE RIDE?



To the SCPR there is nothing more disgusting than this:


Readers of the Stark County Political Report know how utterly unimpressed yours truly is with Stark GOP Chairman Jeff Matthews.

For him to allow Ferrero and Zeigler to go unchallenged in the election of 2008, should tell you all you need to know about the grit and determination of this politico.  Oh yes, the Stark GOP has had some success because of what local attorney and civic activist Craig Conley has coined "Zeiglergate."  But that is the only reason for the Stark County Republican turnaround.  Not at all from the political skills of one Jeff Matthews and his cushy job at the Stark County Board of Elections.

It is looking more and more like 2008 in the case of Ferrero.  The Report learned recently that Conley is not going to run against Ferrero and in a chat today with 2004 Ferrero foe:  Attorney Jeff Jakmides - The Report came away thinking that he is not going to run either.  Only a few weeks ago, the SCPR was told that Jakmides definitely would be Ferrero's opponent.

Of course, readers of the SCPR know how utterly unimpressed yours truly is with Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero. 

Because of what the SCPR believes to have been examples of  Ferrero's sorry prosecuting in the Devies (criminal) case and the Zeigler (civil) cases, the voters of Stark County should be ready to replace Ferrero as prosecutor in November of 2012.

In the Devies case he allowed Marlboro Police Chief Ron Devies and his son to be charged with fourth degree felonies (along with misdemeanors) in what it appears to yours truly to have been a communications problem between the Devies family members and former Marlboro Township trustees Wise and Wolfe.

That he exercised poor judgment in carrying the case to prosecution was validated in the opinion of the SCPR when Judge Lee Sinclair sustained defense counsel's (Jakmides and Reinbold) motion to dismiss.  This folks is about a close as one can get to a legal slam dunk

Ferrero should never have handled this case.  He should have farmed it out to a special independent counsel or to a prosecutor from a neighboring county.  The Report is confident that either would have handled the matter short of prosecution.

Actually, any time a Stark County based public official (including Zeigler) is being looked at, the look should not be by a former political ally or even an acquaintance (Ferrero on Zeigler).  It should be like in the Mark Roach case (Zeigler's predecessor who ran into legal difficulties).  A special independent counsel was appointed to do the assessment.

To The Report, every Stark Countian should be nervous about the possible import of Ferrero's handling of the Devies case:  something like - "there but for the grace of God go I." 

Had he owned up to his miscalculation on Devies and publicly apologized to the family and had he publicly apologized for his outrageous act of filing a grievance with Ohio's Disciplinary Counsel against yours truly (dismissed out of hand) in response to The Report's political analysis and editorializing on his handling of the Devies case, then perhaps Stark Countians can look beyond these matters in assessing whether or not he has the political maturity to continue as county prosecutor. 

The Stark County Political Report is not now nor has it ever been about yours truly blogging as an attorney.

To carry on, there is Conley's Zeiglergate.

It was Conley who got the ball rolling to ensure Stark Countians had an opportunity to recover monies from Zeigler by operation of Ohio Revised Code Section 321.37 on the basic fact that $2.96 million of taxpayer was missing from the county treasury in the wake of Zeigler's (cleared of any involvement in the theft by Ferrero and federal prosecutors) former chief deputy having stolen at least $2.46 (admitted) of the missing money.  There are people that think he stole the entire $2.96 million.

How did Ferrero respond to the Conley initiative?

He got mad and lashed out at Conley in the press.

Go figure!

So if Jeff Matthews is anything other than a political grandstander, now is the time for him to get moving to find a viable candidate to oppose Fererro next year.

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.