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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

NORTH CANTON'S DISPOSITON OF ARROWHEAD COUNTRY CLUB SURFACES - ONCE AGAIN - AS A HUGE ISSUE IN THE DOGWOOD CITY. DID COUNCIL PRESIDENT JON SNYDER "UNWITTINGLY" MAKE IT THE "HOT POTATO" OF CITY POLITICS?


UPDATE:  09/01/2011 AT 1:00 PM - AMPLIFICATION OF LEASE TERMS

UPDATE:  10:45 AM - CLARIFICATION ON THE $10,000 STUDY

Since the publication of the original blog, the SCPR has spoken with Hillary Mueller.  She says that the $10,000 figure, more or less, was her estimate of what the city was planning to spend on drainage issue analysis. 

Councilman Snyder tells The Report that he has not discussed a proposed North Canton study with the Muellers and that they would have any such discussions with Mayor Held or one his administration official.  Moreover, he says that he never moved to scrap the study and that it is still on the table and should be forthcoming about the end of September.

ORIGINAL BLOG

Fourth Ward (North Canton) Councilman and, in fact, Council President Jon Snyder may have unintentionally put the city owned Arrowhead Country Club back into headlines this week.  Headlines that may not be all that good (politically, that is) for the 14-year North Canton councilman.

July 19, 2011, the day of the rainfall deluge and manifold flooding in North Canton, may have an additional consequence of being a turning point in possible political leadership changes occurring in North Canton come the November election.

THE BACKGROUND 

In a storm of controversy which involved the then Councilman Chuck Osborne (not currently a councilman, but who is running this time around for councilman-at-large), North Canton in April, 2003 purchased the 105 acre Arrowhead complex for $4.2 million.

Osborne was so opposed to the acquisition that not being content in simply voting "no" as the lone dissenter to the buy, he started a petition drive to put the question to North Canton voters via a referendum initiative.

As Osborne tells it, Councilman Snyder and the then Mayor Rice were the leading proponents of the transaction.

In researching the matter, the SCPR was surprised to see The Repository editorial board entered into the fray "hot and heavy" in coming down hard on Osborne, to wit: the following excerpts:


"Ordinarily, we would not so quickly oppose a referendum that gives people a chance to become directly involved in the decisions of governance.

Wow!

A newspaper that participates in "Sunshine Week" every spring of the year selectively chooses when citizens should have the right to weigh in on government decisions?

And brings the full weight of being the only newspaper in a "one newspaper town" and Stark County's "only countywide newspaper" down on a citizen activist?

THE PRESENT

As a consequence of being flooded out because of runoff from the North Canton owned Arrowhead Country Club, Daniel and Hillary Mueller contacted their councilman, who happens to be Jon Snyder, seeking a resolution of the runoff problem.

In the course of conversation, Councilman Snyder is said to have let it out that North Canton had been planning to spend $10,000 to do a study on ways to fix the problem.

What happened next is in dispute:

The Report is told that Snyder then indicated that funding the study would not be a wise course of action since North Canton was in negotiations to sell the property.

Here is where reports of the Mueller/Snyder exchange get dicey.

Daniel Mueller (from his email response to SCPR questions):
Jon Snyder did mention the sale of Fairways golf course and the loss the city would have [been] in excess of 1M.  He denied officially when confronted at the  meeting last night during new business session, and unofficially acknowledged the lease [North Canton leases Arrowhead out for $150,000 per year, but pays the property tax except for newly added taxes which amounts to about $53,000 per year] was ending Dec 31st [lessee does has option to renew for two three year terms] and the sale of the property could occur at that time.
Jon Snyder (in a telephone conversation) made the following points to the SCPR:
  • Arrowhead Country Club generated draining problems (existent since 1946/1947) will only get fixed if and when the complex is sold because a new owner would have to comply with city enforced subdivision regulations,
  • North Canton cannot fix the problems because the property is under lease and therefore the city cannot impose a drainage solution,
  • That the Mueller take on the property being up for sale was due, perhaps, to a misunderstanding.  He says he was talking about the city being approached to renegotiate lease terms and conditions; not about negotiations concerning an imminent sale.  "At this particular time there is nothing on the table [concerning a sale]," he said.
  • On the Mueller flooding problem he said that he thinks he has been attentive to them, the discussions have been firm and not hostile and that Hillary Mueller said to him:  "Not addressing her flooding problem is not acceptable."
On the heels of this controversy as to who said what with respect to the sale/lease of Arrowhead, word came down from the Stark County Board of Elections that Hillary Mueller has filed as a write-in candidate to oppose Snyder on November 8th.

Snyder speculates that she has filed because of what he terms "her moral claim," presumably not having the flooding problem fixed which Snyder says is beyond his power to deliver.

The SCPR is in the process of setting up an interview with Hillary Mueller and plans on doing a follow-up blog (or an update of this blog) on the reasons she gives (as opposed to Snyder's conjecture) as to why she is running for the 4th Ward seat.

While it is clearly an uphill if not a virtually impossible task to win on a write-in basis, for Snyder (who came out "unopposed" for "on the ballot" candidates which had an August 10th filing deadline) the mere possibility that Mueller could parlay his and the city's failure to solve long standing flooding problems has to be somewhat discomforting.

In any event, no matter who one believes as to whether or not Snyder spoke to the Muellers about an imminent sale, it is clear that the fate of Arrowhead Country Club has emerged (because of Snyder bringing up Arrowhead's status) as "one hot - political potato" for the North Canton City Council and the Held administration and 4th Ward Councilman Jon Snyder, in particular.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

SCPR DOES NOT WANT TO "RAIN ON THE ALLIANCE GOP CARNATIONS DAYS PARADE EXPECTATIONS," BUT DON'T COUNT ON A GOP TAKEOVER OF ALLIANCE COUNCIL


UPDATED AT NOON

Alliance City Councilman Larry Dordea (who the SCPR projects to be the Republican candidate for sheriff in 2012) tells yours truly that Alliance's organized Republicans are all pumped up about their chances of taking over Alliance City Council come this November.

The basis of the optimism?

The greater numbers of Alliance Carnation Days (which he says is the second largest parade in Stark Co.; only outdone by the Hall of Fame event) parade watchers wearing GOP/GOP candidate paraphernalia as compared to the Democrats.

Hmm?

Yours truly's mind drifted back to the 2004 Stark County auditor's race between Republican Brant Luther and Democrat Kim Perez.

Someone in the Luther campaign had a brilliant insight into the fact that at community parades politicians flood parade viewers with campaign literature.  So?

Well, the Luther campaign went out and bought seemingly thousands of plastic bags with "Luther for Auditor" plastered all over them for parade attendees to stuff the literature from other campaigns into.

The willingness of huge numbers of parade watchers to use the "Luther for Auditor" bags might have been taken as a good omen for the Luther campaign.

But as it turns out, it was not.  Luther (even as an incumbent in the sense of being "retained" [he had been appointed to replace Janet Creighton when she became mayor of Canton]) lost a competitive election.


After thinking about the Dordea projection, the SCPR begs to differ with his "parade poll results."

ANALYSIS

The key as to which party will control Alliance City Council will be in the outcome of the at-large race.  There are three seats up and only one (Dordea) of the candidates is an incumbent.


The Report believes Dordea is likely to be re-elected and probably as the highest vote getter.  With Alan Adreani (R) and Steve Okey (D) missing from the line up (they are running against one another for the mayoralty of Alliance) and with Sarah Brown (just missed getting elected in 2009) not running this time around, the SCPR believes that after Dordea,  former Democratic Councilwoman-at-Large Sue Ryan is likely to come in second; the parade factor notwithstanding.


Looking at the field of candidates after Dordea and Ryan, it appears to The Report that Julie Jakmides (daughter of well known Stark County criminal defense attorney Jeff Jakmides) might be the third candidate to win. 

More than at any other level of elective office, candidate name-ID is a critical factor as to wins and who loses.  If the name-ID factor holds in Alliance, Jakmides likely comes in third.  But, again, note that the projected results has nothing to do with the parade factor.


Looking at the ward races, it does not seem to The Report that the Republicans can make up for Democrat Ryan's (the SCPR projected winner).



In Ward 1, look for Roger Rhome to be returned to council.  In 2009, he ran unopposed which is indication that Democrats view him as being a tough candidate to defeat.

In Ward 2, election results from her 2009 campaign indicate that Phyllis Phillips is in a strong position to retain her seat.


Ward 3 is uncontested and Roy Clunk (son of former Stark Co. Probate Court Judge R.R. Denny Clunk) will be returning to council.

Even Ward 4 looks safe for the Democrats.  Larry Thompson ran strong in 2009 and The Report sees no reason why he will not be re-elected.


He only votes in case of a tie, but it is worth mentioning that Council President John Benincasa is running unopposed for re-election.

The only place on the November ballot where the "parade poll results" might be a coincidental precursor of the outcome is the Andreani and Okey race for mayor.

But again, looking at the 2009 council-at-large races, who what the largest vote getter?  Alan Andreani.

Look for the margin between him and Okey to hold with Andreani winning by 10% or more.

Monday, August 29, 2011

PROSECUTOR JOHN FERRERO: HIS RE-ELECTION HANGING IN THE BALANCE?


Is he about to cry for Stark County and the safety of Stark Countians or is he on the cusp of tears because he sees his career as Stark County prosecutor coming to an end?

On Saturday last, Laurie Huffman of The Alliance Review did an article (Stark criminal justice officials worry about reduction in prisons) and she wrote, in part:
Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero said he was brought almost to tears at a recent meeting of the executive committee of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorney Association, of which he is secretary, due to the fact all the county prosecutors at the meeting were complaining about the cost the bill [HB 86 is due to go into effect on September 30th] will bring to their counties, and he believes Stark will feel the brunt the most. (emphasis added).
Pardon the SCPR, but The Report is skeptical that Ferrero's first priority is something other than his own political hide.  Ditto that for Mike McDonald in terms of political fortunes.

As former chairman of the Stark County Democratic Party, The Report believes that Ferrero is more attuned to political considerations and specifically his own perpetuity as a Stark County officeholder.

Ferrero's political problems in getting re-elected in November, 2012 are manifold.  Ohio House Bill 86 (HB86) ramifications is but one of a number of hurdles facing Ferrero to remain Stark County prosecutor after December 31, 2012.

While the impact of HB86 and a negative public reaction to its implementation may spill over onto Ferrero and Chief Deputy (the Stark County Jail) Mike McDonald (who is running to succeed Tim Swanson as sheriff) both of whom will be in the midst of political campaigns in 2012; the SCPR finds it hard to believe that the Ohio General Assembly did not factor in "the public safety" in passing the bill.

If the passage of the bill is to have the dire consequences (released non-violent prisoners from state prisons (?) and limited ability to place the newly convicted in state prisons) that they say it has, the SCPR wants to know where Ferrero and McDonald were post-February, 2011 (when the bill was introduced) in publicizing the catastrophe about to fall on Stark County, and marshaling Stark County's leadership and citizenry to fight its passage.

Moreover, where was the Ferrero/McDonald full court press on local legislators "to kill the bill?"

The fact of the matter is that all of Stark connected legislators (Republicans and Democrats alike) voted for the bill.


Would Hagan, Oleslager, Schuring, Slesnick, Okey and Schiavoni vote for a bill that is as ominous in effect as McDonald and Ferrero suggest?

One wouldn't think so.

It appears that Ferrero and McDonald are attempting to get out in front of the implementation impact of HB86 in a "scare-tactic" sense and thereby seek to make political capital out of it.  November's 1/2% proposed sales tax increase is included "hand-in-glove fashion" in Huffman's piece.  Linkage of HB86 and the effort to pass the sales tax could not be clearer.

They may find that such a tactic might backfire on them when the public learns that they failed to make a huge "local" public fight on HB86 going back to February of this year when it was first introduced.

Moreover, - looking longer term - the belated HB86 alarm could be an attempt by Ferrero especially to divert the Stark County public's attention from other political problems he has in gaining re-election.

Exactly, what are some of those "other political problems?"

At least one of those problems is wrapped up in what local attorney and civic activist Craig T. Conley has termed "Zeiglergate" which presumably means that Zeigler failed to have in place policies, practices, procedures and structural fixes to have prevented the loss of $2.96 million of taxpayer money during Zeigler's administration of the Stark treasury.  Zeigler's chief deputy Vince Frustaci admitted to taking $2.46 and is thought to have taken the entire missing amount.

One would think that given the political relationship between Ferrero and Zeigler going back into the 1990s, an opponent might want to question whether or not Ferrero should have recused his office from any role in the investigation or in any other part of proceedings against Zeigler.

Ferrero was the Stark County Democratic Party chairman when Zeigler was appointed to replace Mark Roach who was removed as county treasurer for not keeping up his continuing education requirements.

Undoubtedly Ferrero has contributed to Zeigler's campaigns over the years and vice versa,

Ferrero ran for office in 2004 as part of a Swanson, Zeigler and Ferrero campaign until differences crept into the arrangement.

Are Stark County's voters going to think that recusal was in order and factor Ferrero's failure to recuse into their voting decision?

The SCPR believes, like Stark County Auditor Alan Harold and Stark County Commissioner Janet Creighton, that Stark Countians in general have wanted and continue to want Zeigler to be treasurer no more.

However, Prosecutor Ferrero has not been up to the task of finding a basis in law for removing Zeigler.

His office provided Zeigler removal legal advice to Stark commissioners to proceed under Ohio Revised Code Section 327.38 which the Ohio Supreme Court found to be unconstitutional "on its face" in its June 23rd decision reinstating Zeigler as county treasurer.

The Report believes that Zeigler's continuation in office in not a good thing for the re-election prospects of Ferrero from the Stark County voter perspective.

Ferrero also faces the prospects of substantial 2012 reduction in office funding if the commissioners 1/2% sales/tax initiative fails this November 8th which the SCPR thinks is likely.

Ferrero has said that the projected cuts will severely affect his office's ability to function at anywhere near the level the office currently operates at.

So are Stark County's voters going to be understanding when Ferrero has to announce cuts to professional staff that necessitate curtailment of essential prosecutorial functions?    Will projected cuts coalesce with HB86 impact to snowball on Ferrero to put him in an untenable political position?

Apparently, Ferrero realizes that he has a uphill fight to stay county prosecutor in the 2012 elections IF Stark's organized Republicans can come up with a viable candidate.  Make no mistake about it, notwithstanding Ferrero's manifold political problems, his defeat in 2012 is not an automatic.

And Ferrero, with McDonald's help (of course, helping himself), is in full fledged mode to preempt the political consequences of HB86 and a seemingly likely voter rejected sales tax increase.

Sorry to say, but as the SCPR sees it, Ferrero's dramatics ("brought almost to tears") is more about his concerns for his personal political fate than it is about the safety of Stark Countians.

While they may not be "crocodile tears," they are - in the opinion of the SCPR - a mask for his number one concern; getting re-elected!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

ISN'T IT REALLY WEIRD THAT HARMON APOLOGIZES FOR SOMETHING THAT HE SAID HE COULD NOT CONTROL & GARY ZEIGLER REFUSES TO APOLOGIZE FOR MANAGEMENT FAILURE THAT HE COULD CONTROL?


Former Stark County Commissioner Tom Harmon (also Canton's clerk of courts for years) and Stark County Treasurer Gary Zeigler (reinstated) used to be political pals.

Both have had their problems.  In this blog, the SCPR deals with how each has handled apologies or lack thereof to the Stark County public in relation to those problems.

Tom Harmon has had several incidents going back to 1997 with various elements of Stark County law enforcement appearing to involve the improvident use of alcohol (except, perhaps, the 1997 "failure to control" charge).

A lawyer knowledgeable about "failure to control citations" (FTC) tells the SCPR that sometimes an arresting officer will opt to charge in this fashion (when the officer suspects but feels he cannot substantiate alcohol use) rather than charge specific to alcohol use.  However, the SCPR's source was quick to point out that FTC's do have a basis in non-alcohol use arrests.

The Report did telephone Harmon in a question to deal specifically with his history, but he did not return the call.

Here is a CJIS (Stark County's Criminal Justice Information System) listing of Harmon law enforcement engagements over that time period.



Harmon pled "no contest" to the disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges, but prosecutors dismissed the criminal trespass complaint because the complainant did not wish to pursue the matter.

Harmon's difficulty, (he lives at a residential complex at The Quarry Golf Club) grew out of an incident on July 12, 2011 at The Granite Grille located at the club.

According to police reports, he:
  • was highly intoxicated,
  • made obscene gestures and comments, and
  • refused management and police requests that he leave.
After the court found him guilty, he was ordered to participate in an alcohol abuse evaluation and comply with recommendations of the evaluator agency.

Gary Zeigler has had one huge problem with the Stark County public because his chief deputy (Vince Frustaci) of yesteryear made off an admitted $2.46 million of Stark County taxpayer money.

In what the Stark County Political Report thinks is a "bizarre twist" on the use/non-use of an apology, both probably are finished as Stark County political and governmental officials in terms of any future ambitions they may have.

Harmon is already out of office and Zeigler - one would think - most certainly will be, come September, 2013.  

Harmon in a recent court appearance apologized even though he did nothing wrong if one believes his attorney:  Sam Ferruccio Jr.  to wit: (per Shane Hoover's Repository report of the court proceedings)
Defense attorney Sam Ferruccio Jr. said Harmon had only two drinks that night and blamed the incident on a reaction between the alcohol and prescription medication.
Given his attorney's disclaimer, one has to wonder how sincere Harmon's apology is.

He needs to step forward explain to the Stark County public how he can apologize when his attorney says he did nothing blameworthy.

Would Stark Countians want a blameless person to be amenable to a Stark County criminal justice process?  Of course not!

Zeigler, on the other hand, adamantly refuses to apologize even though many Stark Countians think they have one coming.

Stark citizens apparently are "the buck stops here folks!"

Harmon apparently, in apologizing, wants to give the impression he subscribes to the adage, also.  But is he really?

Treasurer Zeigler does not even feign subscription to the adage as far as he is concerned.

He seems to be all about excuse making:  other county officials, the state of Ohio auditor, the press - you name it - Gary Zeigler is quick to blame for getting him and his administration of the Stark treasury wrong. 

Zeigler is the person, who by virtue of being the county treasurer, could have made the changes in treasury policies, procedures, practices and office facilities that needed to be made to ensure that a Vince Frustaci could not do what he did.

Notwithstanding his ability to institute preventative measures and structures and obviously did not, Zeigler - through his attorney (an interesting parallel to the Harmon situation) paints Zeigler as being a victim and additionally as a martyr because of a concerted action by county officials against him.

So is this a trend that Stark Countians can expect to see more of from Stark County's county, city, village, township and board of education officials?

The SCPR's expectation?

Indeed!

And this is why, my friends, Stark Countians are getting less and less prone to support these folks with the finances they need to properly run their area of government!!!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

WHAT STARK COUNTIANS LIKE ABOUT THE COUNTY'S ORGANIZED REPUBLICANS & DEMOCRATS: "TAKING CARE OF THEIR OWN AT PUBLIC EXPENSE!" STARK GOP EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR TRAVIS SECREST BECOMES COUNTY EMPLOYEE. HMM?


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.

Hmm?

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?

Friday, August 26, 2011

(VIDEO) COMMISSIONER FERGUSON COSTING STARK COUNTY TAXPAYERS $40,000 ANNUALLY AS LEAD COMMISSIONER LOOKING OUT FOR LOCAL PHARMACY INTERESTS? AND, STARK COUNTY IS IN A FINANCIAL CRISIS?


 UPDATED:  08/26/2011 AT 05:00 AM

At Wednesday's meeting of the Stark County commissioners, Benefits Administrator Carol Hayn was in to see commissioners about some "housekeeping" tweaks to the county's employee benefit package.

Guess who, in particular, was all ears?

Commissioner "Pete" Ferguson, that's who!

His worry?

That the tweaking was going to cause Stark County pharmacies problems in having county employees get their prescription drugs direct from local pharmacies rather than through mail order.

Back in September, 2010 Ferguson spearheaded (CLICK HERE TO REVIEW) a move for commissioners to make mail order non-mandatory.  And, it appears that he continues to be eternally vigilant for local pharmacies.

Here is a video showing his reaffirmation this past Wednesday (August 24, 2011):



That is "all well and good" except that it costs Stark County taxpayers about $40,000 annually according to Hayn in an interview with the SCPR on Wednesday.

Hayn said that she only has two quarters to go on, but that the data from the quarters project a $40,000 loss in revenues from CVS Caremark as a consequence of the Ferguson-led effort.  She will know better, of course, once the results from all of 2011 are in post-December, 2011.

The SCPR believes it is largely fiction that Ferguson's sponsorship of the non-mandatory produces jobs for Stark County that anywhere near equals or exceeds the $40,000 loss to county taxpayers.  When he pushed for the legislation back in 2010, Ferguson did not produce any cost/benefit actuarially sound analysis showing a net benefit to Stark County.

Had he done so and made the case, then this blog would not be in order.

It appears to The Report that he took the "mere" assertion of local pharmacy advocates suggesting a net county benefit.  They tried the same tactic with the Stark County Educational Service Center (yours truly's spouse is an elected member of the SCESC), but it failed because a convincing economic/financial case was not made.  And Ferguson knew this, but decided to (along with then fellow commissioners Bosley and Meeks) yield to the political pressure of relatively few Stark Countians.

The fact of the matter is that most people (including yours truly) when they use mail order prescription would never go back to going to the local pharmacy because of its cost savings to them and because of the convenience.   That's where the mandatory came in - in the first place.  Otherwise, most people would not even give mail order a try.

The SCPR (being "freedom living") has no problem whatsoever with those employees who, for whatever reason, want to patronize their local pharmacy - to do so.  However, the freedom to do so should not be at the expense of the Stark County taxpayer.

It is sort of like those citizens who want to send their children to parochial school.  Well, they are free to do so.  However, they still pay their local school property tax.

Ferguson "can have his cake and eat it too!"  He and Commissioners Bernabei and Creighton should work out a plan to allow county employees to make their local purchase with the caveat that any cost over and beyond mail order be picked up by the employee not the Stark County taxpayers.

If shopping at the local pharmacy has the "value added," that local pharmacists say it does, then, undoubtedly, their county employee customers will willingly pick up the extra tab.

Anything less amounts to a local government subsidy to free enterprise!

Interesting in and of itself, no?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

(VIDEOS) COMMISSIONER JANET CREIGHTON IS "RIGHT-ON-THE-MONEY," STARK COUNTIANS ARE - FLAT OUT- APATHETIC?


UPDATE:  10:00 AM.

A response from Canton City Council President Alan Schulman, to wit:

Martin

I, for one, am very interested in how  the Republicans are intending to carve up our district. 

And I know many others who are similarly concerned. No one shared with me that a meeting was scheduled.

Was this intentional ?

ORIGINAL BLOG

The Ohio Apportionment Board (OAB - Board) came to Stark County yesterday: to Walsh University's Barrette's Center in North Canton.

The purpose?

To hear (i.e. via taking testimony) Stark Countians (and the citizens of surrounding counties) views on how the OAB should re-create Ohio's house and senate seats.  Ohio's Constitution requires that the process be done every ten years in the year with a "1" in it.

On October 5th, the Board will determine the shape and composition of the districts.

Stark County embarrassed itself in not having one person step forward to offer testimony on how the OAB should proceed with respect to recomposing Stark County's and, indeed, all of Ohio's legislative districts.

Stark County commissioners experienced much of the same (lack of public interest) when they launched a series of 22 community meetings February - June of this year only to be met with overwhelmingly sparse attendance.

Only Jackson and Perry townships greeted commissioners with significant crowds.  And Perry's was happenstance.  The township had recently experienced a flooding problem and the affected residents were anxious to get their hands on anyone in government who they might interest in dealing with their flooding problems.

In Canton, nobody showed up and in Alliance only two citizens showed up.

Another Stark County "incident of apathy" occurred a couple weeks ago when Chief Deputy Mike McDonald started a series of tours at the Stark County Jail to show the Stark County public how much jeopardy corrections officers and deputies were in who had to deal with a couple of hundred or so prisoners in the face of current layoffs, let alone what would be coming if the proposed 1/2% sales/use tax issue fails on November 8th.

How many Stark Coutinans showed up at the first tour on August 15th?

Zero!

Hmm?

On the redistricting matter, on the face of it, Stark County may have an interest in getting a reconfiguration that eliminates the "U" shaped district - the 50th - in the county which may or may not meet the standards of Article XI of the Constitution, to wit:
§ 07 Boundary lines of House and Representatives districts

(A) Every house of representatives district shall be compact and composed of contiguous territory, and the boundary of each district shall be a single nonintersecting continuous line.  ... .
But again not a person spoke up on that issue or any other redistricting issue at yesterday's meeting.

The SCPR questioned Republican Ohio Auditor David Yost (a member of the Board) specifically about whether or not the 50th - on the face of it - met the constitutional definition of compactness.


Here is his video response:



Another person present at the North Canton meeting was Democratic state Senator Michael Skindell of the 23rd Senate district (Lakewood) who is a 1983 graduate of the then  Walsh "College."


Skindell offered that one of the reasons for poor attendance is that the OAB scheduled its regional meeting prior to any proposed maps being made available to the general public.

He said that he and the minority (Democrats) were pushing for a supplemental round of hearings at which "actual" proposed maps would be available to be commented upon.

It appears to the SCPR that there is very little likelihood of supplemental hearings being held.  OAB officials at the meeting said that all the proposed maps would not be into the Board until September 23rd, which, of course, leave precious little time (about two weeks) to go out again across Ohio with a new round of hearings before the Board makes its decision on October 5th.

Moreover, it is unclear whether or not Republicans will agree to additional hearings even if they are doable.  While they say they are for "transparency," as with so many government officials and elected officeholders, the word is mostly used as a mere word with little if any real world action by them to demonstrate the substance of the word.

Thusly, they along with many federal, state and local government officials contribute to the growth of public skepticism, if not cynicism, which the SCPR believes is a major reason for public apathy.

 Here is the Skindell video.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

(VIDEOS) STARK CO. DOG POUND ADVISORY BOARD FORCES CHANGES AT STARK CO. DOG POUND?



A couple of days ago, the SCPR wrote a blog that criticized operations at the Stark County Dog Pound (Pound).

The Report has been following this story for well over a year.  It goes back to early 2010 when commissioners (Bosley, Ferguson and Meeks) saw fit to fire the then dog warden Evert Gibson for his failure to effectively manage the Pound.

Ever since, his successor, Reagan Tetreault (former dog warden in Holmes County) has been on sort of a honeymoon with the Stark County dog lover community epitomized by the Stark County Dog Pound Advisory Board (SCDPAB).

Along the way to this week, the SCPR has asked the commissioners and others periodically how Tetreault was doing in mastering the employee staff at the Pound.  Answer?  Pretty much a shrug of the shoulders.

Well, on August 5th "all Hell broke loose" with the filing of a complaint by SCDPAB President Nanci Miller filing a complaint with the Canton Health Department (CHD) alleging that Tetreault was not dealing effectively with a mouse infestation problem at the Pound.

To her immense credit, CHD employee Maria Hall got right to it and went out to the Pound on August 8th to do an investigation.  She found out that Miller was correct and ordered immediate (not later than August 17) remediation.  On Monday of this week, Hall emailed the SCPR indicating that satisfactory progress had been made in resolving the problem.

Last Thursday, the SCPR paid a visit to the monthly meeting of the SCDPAB.

As it turns out, the mouse infestation was just one of many problems that advisory board members articulated during their session which, by the way, is open to the public and which, by the way, the commissioners were invited to attend - but declined.

To catch up, CLICK HERE to link with the blog which provides chapter and verse of all the problems plaguing the Pound.

The SCDPAB (as of Thursday's meeting - but unconfirmed) was under the impression that the commissioners would be holding a work session on their grievances.  Monday came (the SCPR was present at the work session), but no meeting on the advisory board issues.

However, yesterday was a different story!

Tetreault came armed with a full blown plan to resolve all the outstanding issues of the Pound contingent on the commissioners passing a dog license fee and kennel operation fee increases.

Based on discussions which commissioners had yesterday, it appears to the SCPR that some sort of increase will be passed today.  Most likely, the dog license fee will go from $12 to $16 and the kennel fee from $60 to $80 in 2012.

The SCPR does not believe the action would have been forthcoming (at least, not for now with the 1/2% sales tax issue on the ballot in November), had it not been for the Stark County Dog Pound Advisory Board.

When The Report asked Tetreault after the meeting whether or not she had read a report on Pound deficiencies put together by Judith King (a member of the SCDPAB), she answered that she had merely scanned the report and that she had no comment on it.

Judge for yourself by viewing the video below, but the SCPR's take on Tetreault's attitude was one of curtness and obvious annoyance at the questions.  Hardly, what one should get from a public employee.



Last year, The Report believed that public employee Tetreault blew off yours truly in a quest to contact her by telephone to request a video of alleged dog abuse at the Pound.   Yours truly thinks it was only at the intervention of Stark County Chief Administrator Mike Hanke that she eventually returned the call.

As readers of the SCPR know, The Report has been impressed with the new regime of commissioners (Bernabei and Creighton) since they took office in November, 2010 and January, 2011; respectively.

They brought with them an "apparent" commitment to increased accessibility, accountability, transparency and a determination to go out into the Stark County community to connect with Stark Countians.

At first blush, they seemed to deliver on their promise.  But, of late, the SCPR is beginning to believe that their enthusiasm has ebbed especially on the matter of transparency.  And The Report thinks that their handling of the Pound situation, perhaps, is the best example of what yours truly is talking about.

However, there are others.

One that comes to mind is the bond situation and Stark County Treasurer Gary D. Zeigler.  Earlier in August they were supposed to have a representative from Sirack-Moore (the county's insurance agency) to explain to the Stark County public what the holdup is on the need to acquire a $500,000 bond before Zeigler can once again become a full-fledged treasurer.  But the meeting was abruptly cancelled.

The Report keeps asking commissioners and Stark County Assistant Prosecutor Ross Rhodes when Sirack-Moore will have an answer,  but still can get no answer.

From being impressed with the commissioners and their commitment to more democratic processes, the SCPR is in "a reserve judgment mode."

The Report asked Commissioner Creighton yesterday about the SCDPAB report directed to the commissioners.   She had read the report, but had no comment.  Accountability, transparency?  Here is the video of the Q&A between The Report and Creighton.



One of the things that the SCPR has heard frequently from commissioners is how little authority they have.  And it is so.  For the most part they have to deal with more or less autonomous elected office holders.  In the case of the Veterans Service Commission, commissioners cannot even curtail the amount of appropriation that the agency can demand (up to about $3.2 million)

But dealing with the Stark County Dog Pound is "a different kettle of fish."  They are in charge (witness the firing of Evert Gibson).   

It was refreshing yesterday to see Tetreault come in with a plan to rectify the problems at the Pound.

While nobody said anything, The Report believes that the commissioners (likely through Hanke) much have knuckled down on Tetreault.

Below is a video that endeavors to show Stark Countians the outline of the dog warden's plan to "finally" get the Stark County Dog Pound to operating the way it ought to.

Of course, "the proof is in the pudding."  We shall see (accountability?) over the next year how Dog Warden Tetreault and the commissioners are doing in getting the Pound in first-class operating order.

With the new money, it should not be a problem!



Sunday, August 21, 2011

(VIDEOS) STARK COUNTY DOG POUND ADVISORY BOARD PUSHES STARK COUNTY COMMISSIONERS FOR RESOLUTION OF LONG STANDING DOG POUND PROBLEMS. CANTON HEALTH DEPARTMENT INVESTIGATED COMPLAINT MADE BY SCDPAB MEMBER ON "POUND" AND - BY IMPLICATION - THE COMMISSIONERS. HMM?


UPDATE:  08/22/2011 AT 1:00 PM

Maria Hall of the Canton Health Department (CHD) emailed a copy of the results of her inspection earlier today.

What follows at the end of this introductory material is a complete publication of her findings.  It appears that SCDPAB President Nanci Miller is to be highly commended for getting the CHD involved.  Citizen activism is an important component in making local government work effectively.

The SCPR also commends Ms. Hall and the Canton Health Department for getting to work on Ms. Miller's complaint immediately and getting the quick results that are apparent in Ms. Hall's report.

Here is the report:

"08222011
Revisited the location today before the place got open to the public.  Reagan and the pound staff were there, GR workers just getting in. Morning cleaning had not been started. Note immediately that some doors now have drag strips on them. Reagan said that she has more on order, they bought all that the hardware store had in stock. They expect these in soon and will be applied to the rest of the doors. Just the few door strips in place has been a tremendous difference. The volunteer room is clean and tidy, although there is mouse feces noted and a dead mouse present, they have eliminated harborage areas as well as gotten the dog food stored away from this area.  One of the staff is getting some metal, lidded barrels from Nickel's Bakery to store food in to help cut the problem, see if this will assist with not just the rodent issue but also with molding. They are also gathering supplies to make the doors that are rusted out solid again.  Terminix is coming weekly at this time to replenish baits in the bait boxes scattered throughout the facility and to check how things are coming along. Reagan showed me where Terminix indicated a dryer vent that was allowing mice entrance, which she immediately made repairs. She notes that the Terminix employee said this has been like this "for years".  One of her employees did some checking and found that there is a pressure problem involved with the air conditioner and heating systems which was part of the humidity problem in the building. She is going to have their contractor come out and look at this to determine if they can do something to fix this. Currently they are manually over-riding the fans that were kicking on and bringing humid warm outside air inside, raising the humidity. This has helped tremendously with the humidity in the building. However, several outside doors are propped open in an attempt to further aid in the ventilation of the pens, which is something that the pound will have to address in order to prevent their open doors from being an entrance point for mice or other rodents (nearby Nimisilla Creek is a natural habitat for rats and not far away is a metal scrapyard which has in the past had significant problems with rats). It is important for them to be able to maintain the doors closed as much as possible.

Spoke to Reagan about the need to train all people who work in the facility to the IPM plan (part of my order) and to make those things in their plan part of their policies/procedures.The repairs and baits will not be enough if doors remain propped open (entrance), dog food remains accessible continuously or harborage for rodents exists.  The three primary things to limit are those three items: access, food, and harborage. Their IPM will not be complete without addressing all three. She will work on this with Kathy and get something more specific out.


Overall much improvement is noted today. mlh"


ORIGINAL BLOG

In the SCPR's experience, boards/commissions/committees appointed to serve, more often than not, genuflect nearly every time the appointing authority is around them.

But such is not the case with the Stark County Dog Pound Advisory Board (SCDPAB).

The current Stark County Board of Commissioners is not very happy with the current SCDPAB, especially President Nanci Miller.

Moreover,  The Report hears that the Commish was not pleased with board members Sally Roush and Judy Miller for agreeing to share with the SCPR (on camera) their frustrations with "nothing getting done" by the commissioners in the way of correcting long standing problems (probably in the neighborhood of 10 years) with the management and operation of the Stark County Dog Pound (Pound).

Back in the days that Bosley, Ferguson and Meeks constituted the commissioner board, the SCPR recalls the advisory board being reminded by commissioners that they were advisers and not deciders and they should not forget that.

The SCPR honors the advisory board for standing up to the commissioners (a group that says it is about restoring local government trust in the context of accountability, accessibility, transparency, responsiveness and community interaction) on their clear failure (mostly historical - i.e. former boards) to deal with the seemingly interminable problems at the Stark County Dog Pound (Pound).

While they can "bark for themselves," they need people like the good folks who constitute the SCDPAB to speak "human-ese" to the commissioners.  Seemingly, the commissioners cannot even understand common English.  And, it appears, they are into "no good deed goes unpunished" is admonishing board members not to talk to the media and not to avail themselves of other agencies of local government to correct violations of law.

Very unimpressive, commissioners!!!

While The Report has written frequently that the arrival of Commissioners Janet Creighton and Tom Bernabei "seemed?" to have makings of changing the culture at the commissioners' office and, perhaps, in Stark County government in general, yours truly is growing less and less confident that there is reality behind the commissioners rhetoric and it could be that the SCPR "jumped the gun" in surmising that Stark County local government credibility is on the upswing.

One could even understand their unhappiness with SCDPAB members airing their grievances with the media and the health department if the Pound failures were new.  But they are not.  They, The Report repeats,  are long standing.  And for the commissioners to attempt a clamp-down on the advisers looking out for animals which cannot fend for themselves betrays the commissioners' supposed commitment to "transparency."

How they handle the Pound problems will go a long way for The Report in assessing whether or not Bernabei, Creighton and Ferguson are a significant improvement over former boards. Or, are the simply more of the same?

Remember, these UNPAID advisers (the commissioners are paid rather well:  upwards of $80,000 per years for a combined total of about "a quarter of a million dollars") are well respected Stark Countians who have been appointed by the commissioners.  But appointed to what end (from the commissioners standpoint)?  To be lapdogs? (no pun intended)

As stated earlier in this blog, - to their credit -  SCDPAB members are not spineless as many board and appointee members throughout Stark county are.

They have been patient.  The Report's information is that the Pound has been in disarray for some ten years now.

And many, if not all of them, VOLUNTEER additional time at the Pound itself doing things that they say hired employees will not do.  Also, these folks are known to dip into their personal funds to buy supplies and equipment that should be coming from the "enterprise-esque" (supported by licenses and other fees)  Stark County Dog Pound.

In September, many of these folks are doing a fundraiser so that they can buy equipment to solve a ventilation problem at the county's facility.

Stark Countians, who want to make county government, Stark's villages, townships, cities and boards of education trust generating entities; need to emulate the SCDPAB in proactively interacting with all the aforementioned levels of political subdivision government.

To catch up on the background of the relationship between the commissioners and the advisers, readers should peruse the blog in question (LINK UP HERE) in order to gain a full appreciation of the commissioners dissatisfaction with these SCDPAB members.

There have been run-ins between the commissioners (the Bosley, Ferguson and Meeks board) and the advisory board, in general. 

One such notable occasion was between board member Steve Shank and Stark County Chief Administrator Mike Hanke when they locked horns on whether or not Shank (also a Canton policeman) had passed on being part of the commissioner dominated interview team which ended up selecting current Stark County Dog Warden Reagan Tetreault to succeed the fired Evert Gibson (April, 2010). 

The SCDPAB was key in stopping the commissioners (Bosley, Ferguson and Meeks) from hiring a person (believed by The Report to have been Bosley's choice) brought at the last moment into the selection process.  

Another occasion was when various SCDPAB members called Commissioner Ferguson on whether or not he "flipped-flopped" on seeing or not-seeing a video showing a Pound employee abusing a dog housed at the Pound.

It appears that there is about to be another clash between the advisers and commissioners.

Board president Nanci Miller filed a complaint with the Canton Health Department (CHD - August 5th) against (in effect) the commissioners for allowing an intolerable condition to exist unabated (an infestation of mice) for way too long.  The CHD investigated (August 8th) and issued a remediation order on commissioners for compliance not later than August 17th.


The Pound did respond on August 17th:


Miller's action is just "the tip of the iceberg" of adviser dissatisfaction with the current board of commissioners.

At Thursday nights SCDPAB meeting (August , member Judy King presented a thorough accounting of the problems at the Pound which need immediate attention which in turn is to be "shared" with Stark County commissioners, perhaps, as early as Monday's regularly scheduled 10:00 a.m. work session.  That is, if commissioners can find space for the advisers.

Included in King's list are the following items:
  • inhumane treatment of dogs by Pound employees.
    • she cites a recent incident in which she says video shows employee  "demonstrate[s] his blatant disregard of humane treatment in his handling of dogs."  See video below and judge for yourself.
  • "the [ - refusal - ] by paid staff to do what they are asked to do and supposed to do[,] continues."
    • she cites an August 16th incident in which she claims another employee "refused to clean under wire bottomed cages."
  • Warden Reagan Tetreault's failure (emphasis added) to keep "promised ... changes and improvements," to wit:
    • to convert a former pit bull room into a puppy room "to keep the more vulnerable puppies protected from disease."
    • to convert a former euthanasia room into a visiting veterinarian facility which also housed veterinarian supplies and equipment for use when participating veterinarians showed up.
    • to meet with citizen-volunteers and to construct a manual as a reference document for existing and new volunteers who serve gratis at the Pound.
    • to stay with a program of special food for undernourished dogs and for puppies.
    • to provide for mats in wire-bottomed cages.
    • to have a coherent, sensible cost efficient spay/neuter program.
    • to have "a consistent [cage] cleaning program so as to curb the spread of disease.
    • to cure "faulty office procedures" which "frequently interfere with the [Pound] goal of returned [license-tagged] dogs to their owners and adopting out [other dogs]."
    • to create a visitor/prospective volunteer friendly environment.
    • to resolve a mouse infestion, to eliminate extensive black mold at the Pound. to correct ventilation inadequacies and to keep equipment in repair.
    • to have a proactive dog adoption program as a way to curtail excessive euthanasia numbers.
The big cap off to "the report prepared for the commissioners is this statement:


The SCPR spent an hour with the SCDPAB at its Thursday's monthly public meeting.

Yours truly captured the mounting frustration of board members on camera.  A major point of discussion was a recent incident at the Pound in which a dog was darted and because of where the dart penetrated (apparently, a main artery), it bled to death.  Board members were very unhappy about how the entire matter was handled.  Here is a video of the discussion.


What follows is a kaleidoscope of members discussing their frustrations with what they deem to be a lack of quality of care rendered at the Pound.

More than what The Report has written in this blog which is compelling in and of itself, this video is a MUST SEE for those Stark Countians who want a eyewitness impressions of all that is wrong with the operation of the Stark County Dog Pound and the indignities (to put it mildly) that too many dogs who have the misfortune of being processed through the facility have to endure.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

(VIDEO) STARK COUNTY GOV'T NEEDS A MIRACLE IF 1/2% SALES/USE TAX IS TO PASS?


Wednesday last, the Stark County commissioner Janet Creighton announced that an "informal" effort was underway to advocate that Stark County voters agree to a 1/2% increase in the county sales tax.  Stark County is currently the lowest in all of Ohio (5.75%; all of which except 1/4% goes to the state of Ohio).  The 1/4% goes to the Stark County Area Transit Authority [SARTA]).

Here is Creighton's videotaped response to a SCPR question on an initiative to get a campaign up and running to persuade Stark Countians that we ought to provide more money for county operations.



So far as the SCPR is concerned, it seems clear that Stark County government needs an injection of new revenues.  The Report's reluctance is that 1/2% is "keeping one's head above water" and does not provide the resources needed to do county government (especially that promoting and planning for economic development) properly.

There are those who follow Stark government closely who vigorously disagree with the SCPR.  These folks believe that there is much more that can and should be cut in terms of county expenditures before Stark Countians should consider providing additional revenues.

Among the arguments made by the "anti-s,"  is that employment market forces are such (e.g. Stark County's and Ohio's unemployment rate increasing) that county officials are in a strong bargaining position (i.e. "an employer's market) to and ought to ask their employees to accept a 20% cut in their wages.  Moreover, the "anti-s" want a commitment from county officials to revisit pension and health care benefits (at the next opportunity, with reference to those county employees under union contract) and to scale the cost to the county downward.

If the upcoming (November 8th) election sees the defeat of the 1/2% proposed sales tax increase, then it appears that county officials will have no other alternative than to adopt the position of the "anti-s.


So in a way, the proposed 1/2% increase could be looked at as a referendum on which interest Stark Countians thinks most accurately reflects the sentiment of the county electorate.

The Report suspects that were the issue to be presented in such a "stark" contrast, voters would most likely side with county officials and vote them an additional 1/2% sales tax increase.

However, the vote is much more complicated than:  more revenue obviously needed versus the need to cut county employee wages and benefits.

Among the matters that hover over the sales tax issue include:
  • the commissioner (Bosley, Harmon and Vignos) imposed 1/2% sales tax increase of 2008,
  • Sheriff Swanson lashing out at the public a la "poop on the public,"
  • the surfacing of what appear to be "on the part of the public" perceived management issues within the Stark County treasurer's office in light of the revelation on April 1, 2009 of the theft of at least $2.46 million by former Chief Deputy Vince Frustaci,
  • the inability of Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero's office to convince the Ohio Supreme Court to keep Gary D. Zeigler out of Stark County government,
  • the frustration of some segments of the Stark County electorate with the county's lack of a sustained program and a plan (going back over boards of commissioners back to the 1980s) to deal with chronic flooding problems (attributable to Stark's unmaintained ditch artery system) in certain parts of the county,
  • the circus-like atmosphere that seems to be surrounding the commissioners effort to get Zeigler a bond so that he can once again become a "full fledged" Stark County treasurer, 
  • the inability of county and city officials across the Stark County political landscape to get their act together to consolidate, merge, collaborate on common functions (9-1-1, building departments, health departments, and information technology, and the like), 
  • for some of us, the lack of a thoughtout, well-funded, energetic and visionary economic development program to abate Stark County's chronic unemployment problem, and 
  • emerging revelations that the commissioners have not solved problems (again, going back to previous boards of commissioners) at the Stark County Dog Pound.
Given the complicated overlay of the cited factors on the sales tax increase issue, the SCPR believes that "it will take a miracle" to gain passage of the of the issue.

Hence the SCPR graphic showing a person in a prayer mode!

Friday, August 19, 2011

(VIDEO) CONCATTO MOVES 9-1-1 "REHAB" FORWARD; HEALY'S OPPOSITION NOTWITHSTANDING?


UPDATE:  08/19/2011 AT 6:20 PM.

9-1-1 Project Manager Joe Concatto responded to the Kirk video tapes as follows:

Martin,


I do not believe this is the fault of 9-1-1.  Residence at this location can request a medic unit in four different ways:

1.  Call 9-1-1 by land line and they can tell the dispatcher what apartment they are in.  In some cases the apartment number would be included in the information the dispatcher receives from their 9-1-1 automatic location information.  If the resident cannot speak and this information is not part of the 9-1-1 automatic location information then the dispatcher will only know the address of the building from which the call is coming.

2.  Call 9-1-1 with a wireless phone and they can tell the dispatcher what apartment they are in.  However, if they cannot speak the wireless call will only show the location of the cell phone within 200 to 300 hundred feet.  It will not tell the dispatcher what building they are in nor what apartment they are in.

3.  The person may have a medical alarm necklace or wrist band that when pressed will initiate an alarm at a private security/alarm company.  That company would then call 9-1-1 and would let the dispatcher know the problem and the apartment number.  The dispatcher would dispatch a unit according to this information.

4.  Each apartment has an e mergency pull chain that when pulled lights up a panel on the first floor which identifies  their apartment number. It will alsoturn on a light above their apartment.  The pull of the chain will also call a private security/alarm company who in turn will call 9-1-1 and identify the alarm.  The alarm company and the unit responding relies on the first floor  panel to know what apartment hasthe problem.   If the panel does not light up and the alarm company doesnot know the apartment number than the medic unit must go floor to floorto look for the light above the apartment door.

I think #4 is what happen in this case.

Don't hold me to these procedures but I believe I am close.


ORIGINAL POST

"These are times that try men's souls" these days among those who are directing the effort to fix what has been termed to be a badly broken Stark County 9-1-1 emergency services call receiving and dispatch operation.


While substantial progress has been made (as explained by 9-1-1 Project Manager Joe Concatto to Stark's commissioners at their regular meeting Wednesday past; work remains to be done to finalize Stark having a "state-of-the-art" 9-1-1 system,  a huge roadblock (in the opinion of the SCPR) remains.

It appears to The Report that ONLY Mayor William J. Healy, II of Canton stands in the way of completion of the project.

One has to wonder how Healy can and Canton City Council (who the SCPR faults for allowing Healy to block Canton's participation in a countywide system) can sit and listen to Canton citizen Patricia Kirk (July 11th and August 8th) describe (during Public Speaks) alarming instances of what appear to be 9-1-1 operation problems at her (where she lives) Canton-based tall, multiplex apartment building and persists in resisting efforts to complete the merger of the system into a two-center (one prime, one backup) operation.




The SCPR has forwarded copies of the videos of Ms. Kirk's presentation to Concatto for analysis and it could be that Healy's blockage has nothing to do with the Kirk described problems.  However, The Report believes that whether or not such is the case, it cannot be good for Cantonians, Stark Countians or anyone traveling through the Stark County area in need of emergency services for the fracture between Canton and Stark County on 9-1-1 complete integration to persist.

The SCPR has long maintained that Healy is a "my way or the highway" type of guy.  Not only on 9-1-1, but on virtually any governance issue where he see that there is an question on who is going to be in charge.

Though in his political campaigns he is known to use the phrase "TeamHealy." Mayor William J. Healy, II is no team player as far as Stark County's welfare overall is concerned.

But credit Stark County officials (the commissioners and the Stark County Council of Governance [SCOG] and its governance committee (headed by Jackson Fiscal Officer Randy Gonzalez) for persisting on the project.

Commissioners, on Wednesday, reaffirmed their commitment to maintain the approximate $2.75 million in sales tax money collected (from the imposed 1/2% by Bosley, Harmon and Vignos), to aid in the rehab of countywide 9-1-1.  Moreover, they passed a resolution putting out for bid a new Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) software program (which is likely to cost about $1 to $1.5 million dollars) at the request of Concatto.



Here are videos of Concatto at Wednesday's meeting updating commissioners on the progress of the repair of 9-1-1 and also amplifying his comments to commissioners in a separate interview with the SCPR:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

(VIDEOS: COM'R BERNABEI ON BOND & A FOLLOW UP VIDEO OF COM'R CREIGHTON) BERNABEI RESPONDS TO "SUGGESTION" THAT COMMISSIONERS UP ZEIGLER BOND TO $1,000,000


Last week local attorney and civic activist Craig T. Conley sent a letter to Stark County commissioners asking them to consider raising Stark County Treasurer Gary Zeigler's bond from $500,000 to $1 million.

Commissioner Creighton on video (LINK here to prior blog which contains her video) told the SCPR that she would consider Conley's request.

By yesterday, her point of view had evolved to being definitely in favor of supporting Conley's suggestion and even going beyond a $1 million bond.  Without prodding by the SCPR she went on to say:  "I don't want him [Zeigler] to ever come back.  Sounds like Stark County Auditor Alan Harold's statement of several weeks ago where he said on the SCPR VideoCam:  "I just want Zeigler to be gone!"

Here is a video clip of Creighton making her statement yesterday:



The Report then turned to Commissioner Bernabei for a response.   He declined to respond at that time as he said he had not read Conley's letter.

Yesterday, the Stark County Political Report caught up with Commissioner Bernabei after a commissioner work session concluded and he did have a response as promised to The Report on Tuesday.    Here is a video of Bernabei addressing the Conley request.



The Report interprets Bernabei's response to be indicative of the commissioners "putting first things first" and that getting a bond, any bond, to allow Zeigler to become a full fledged treasurer once again.

For those readers who need to know the history of Zeigler's troubles, CLICK HERE to view a prior SCPR blog which goes into the background of how Zeigler got to where he is now, that is to say:  less than a fully functioning county treasurer in search of a bond (via the commissioners) so that he can once again be a fulfledged Stark County treasurer.

Where is Commissioner Pete Ferguson on the issue?

Well, the SCPR tried to ask him at yesterday's regular weekly meeting, but he had to excuse himself after adjourning the meeting (he is the president of the board of commissioners) to attend to a pressing matter.

However, The Report conjectures that he is likely to be in line with Bernabei.  While it appears that he gets along well with Commissioner Creighton, the SCPR's take is that he looks to Bernabei for guidance on controversial issues that come before the commissioners.

The Report has contacted Conley and shared with him Bernabei's response.

Conley's reaction?

Bernabei makes the case all the more as to why the commissioners should go for - at a minimum - his suggested $1 million bond.

The Report asked Chief Administrator Mike Hanke when the local insurance agency (Sirack-Moore) might becoming in to see the commissioners to entertain their questions of where the agency stands in its effort to find an underwriter for the Zeigler bond.  Readers of The Report will recall that an agency representative was scheduled to be in last Tuesday (the 9th), but begged off.

Hanke's response:  Whenever Sirack-Moore has some news to share.  Even at that, he offered that the response might come through assistant Stark County Prosecutor Ross Rhodes.  In either event, yours truly will be right on top of that story when it breaks.

Stay tuned, folks!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

(VIDEO) POSSIBLE "CONFLICT OF INTEREST" SURFACES AT COMMISSIONERS WORK SESSION. WHY DIDN'T COMMISSIONER PETE FERGUSON GET A READING A YEAR AGO?


At Tuesday's commissioners' work session on a consideration of whether or not Stark County should pay a company by the name of Bid Express about $10,000 of Stark County taxpayer dollars (the first year; $5,000 annually thereafter), it came out that Stark County Board of Elections Board Member Samuel Ferruccio represents Bid Express's interests in Stark.

It is a touch amusing as to how the revelation came out.

Commissioner Pete Ferguson opened the session with principal parties Keith Bennett (Stark County Engineer), Robert Nau (executive director of Stark County Regional Planning) and an "unexpected" (at least insofar as the SCPR was concerned) guest: namely, Attorney Sam Ferruccio, Jr. who happens to be an appointee of the Stark County Democratic Party to the Stark County Board of Elections.

But it was no surprise to Commissioner Ferguson.

He told yours truly (after the meeting) that he had known about Ferruccio and his connection to Bid Express for about a year (the length of time Ferruccio says he has been associated with Bid Express).

It seems as if Commissioner Janet Creighton was, along with the SCPR, surprised with Ferruccio's presence.

She was tied up with another matter when the meeting began and so she entered the meeting about half way through.

It was through her questioning (catching up with what had already transpired) that it came out that Ferruccio was not at the meeting in his capacity as a Board of Elections official, but rather as an attorney representing Bid Express.

Hmm?

Otherwise, the meeting itself was mundane.

Matters like what kind of benefit can the county expect by contracting with Bid Express, how much money would Stark save, the scope of involvement on the part of Stark's political subdivisions in utilizing the bidding service and the like were discussed.

Given Ferruccio's important de facto if not de jure role in local Democratic politics and his official role as a Stark County Board of Elections board member,  the phrase "is this a 'conflict of interest' situation" rushed into the consciousness of yours truly.

Interestingly, none of the commissioners seemed similarly struck inasmuch as none brought the question up in questioning Ferruccio.

Immediately on adjournment, The Report posed  potential "conflict of interest" questions to Ferruccio himself.  Here is a video of the exchange:.



After the Ferruccio interview, The Report went to Commissioner Creighton for her reaction.  Here is a video of her response.



It was after the Creighton interview that The Report asked Commissioners Bernabei and Ferguson about the matter.

Bernabei's response (a paraphrase):  "As the session was going on, it occurred to me that there just might be a conflict of interest problem here."

Again, Bernabei did not utter a word about it during session.  Nor did Ferguson who has known about the Ferruccio/Bid Express relationship for about a year, he told the SCPR.

The SCPR thinks Stark Countians should be somewhat concerned that neither broached the question during the actual meeting.

Especially, Ferguson.

As indicated above, he has known about it for a year and did not reveal the Ferruccio/Bid Express connection all that time in a regular or work session commissioners' meeting.  One would think that he would have done so in the interest of full disclosure so that the commissioners (especially the Democrat commissioners) would not be suspected of hiding the relationship.

The SCPR thinks the commissioners with their "it's a new day" in terms of transparency need to thoroughly vet the potential conflict of interest which The Report suggests might be at play in the sense of:
  1. the commissioners agreeing to a contract with a company represented by a county official,
  2. Ferruccio participating in BOE bidding decisions (he says he would voluntarily recuse himself) and,
  3. if problems develop in implementation  down the line,  in possibly having to deal with that county official to resolve the matter.
Why is Creighton largely exempt from criticism on this matter by the SCPR?

It appears to The Report that she was genuinely surprised by the revelation.  Moreover, she is the lone Republican commissioner and therefore would have no motive to inject a political factor into her consideration of whether or not to vote for the proposed contract.

Commissioner Bernabei told The Report that the commissioners would be getting an opinion from Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero on whether or not a conflict of interest exists.

The SCPR asks:  Is Ferrero the appropriate person to go to?

Well, why might Ferrero not be the appropriate official to go to for an opinion?

Because Ferruccio is on the Stark County Board of Elections (BOE) under the following scenario:

Several years ago, the then Stark County Democratic Party chairman Johnnie A. Maier,, Jr. obtained the "acquiescence?" of 13-year BOE member Billy Sherer (a strong, strong unionist from the Ironworkers) into stepping down so that the Dems could appoint a lawyer (Sam Ferruccio); in accordance with - said Maier - the wishes of then Democratic secretary of state Jennifer Brunner to have a Democrat lawyer on each and every county BOE.  Brunner denied Maier's claim at the time.

The SCPR believes that Ferrero (being a key Stark County Democratic Party player)  must have been a part of the Sherer to Ferruccio shift.  At the very least from the standpoint of a former chairman (Ferrero, who immediately preceded Maier) supporting the wishes of then current chairman.

As an aside, it is interesting to note that Maier served along side of Ferruccio for a number of years on the BOE until he (Maier) had to switch out because he is running for re-election for Massillon clerk of courts.  Maier was replaced by Phil Giavasis (who is Canton clerk of courts).  Before this "switcheroo" it was Giavasis' chief deputy Randy Gonzalez who was on the BOE until he was running for re-election as Jackson's fiscal officer.

So Stark County apparently has not a union seat on the BOE, but rather a "clerk of courts" position.  Interesting, no?

Though the Bid Express deal looks like a good deal for Stark County, with the revelation of a politically connected person representing Bid Express, the SCPR is not ready to endorse the Bid Express proposal.

The proposed deal seems to sell itself and there appears to be no reason why a political factor would be injected into the decision making process.  That Bid Express has retained Ferruccio might well be happenstance and have nothing at all to do with his being a prominence in Stark County politics and government.

And the SCPR assumes no such factor is at play.

However, it is incumbent on the commissioners to reassure the Stark County public that such is the situation in reality.

Stark County Commissioner Pete Ferguson needs to explain in a commissioners meeting how it is that he has known about the Ferruccio/Bid Express relationship for an year and yet had not brought the matter out into the public domain until today so far as the SCPR knows.

Stark County's citizens and taxpayers have a right to know and the commissioners have an obligation of "due diligence" to determine and to communicate that political connections or political official status and concomitant access that such can bring have nothing at all to do with them agreeing to doing business with Bid Express.

In Stark County's annals of local government, there has never been a more important time for commissioners to conduct the business of local government on merit and merit alone.

If they decide to go with the Bid Express deal and it ends up perceived by the Stark County public as having insider aspects to it, then - if any chance of passage remains -  they can kiss their 1/2% sales tax initiative goodbye!