It wasn't quite a Phil Davison YouTube viral moment but matters did get a tad surreal between Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero and Stark County Commissioner Tom Bernabei yesterday at the 2012 version of the annual budgeting hearings that commissioners hold.
It used to be optional for county department heads receiving general fund monies as to whether or not they actually appeared at the scheduled hearing for his/her department.
Well, the hearings are optional no more!
As part and parcel of their effort to make county government more transparent and accountable, Democrat Commissioner Tom Bernabei and Republican Janet Creighton instituted in January, 2011 twice weekly "open to the public" work sessions in which they bring in those doing or wishing to do business with the county general fund (government officials as well as private sector types) to provide information, answer questions and dialogue with commissioners over a given topic.
Attending county budget hearings is about as inviting as attending a Stark County Republican Party executive committee meeting which normally are dry, boring and orchestrated.
The Stark GOP executive committee's meeting of September 8th was anything but boring as Minerva Councilman Phil Davison spiced things up as he went "over the top" in a demonstration of partisan zeal is his quest to become Stark GOP's nominee for Stark County treasurer for an election that was held in November, 2010.
Not nearly as dramatic as Davison but the take of the SCPR is that Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero injected "attitude in spades" with commissioners at yesterday's work session budget hearing on his department's appropriation of county general funds for 2012.
To the SCPR, Ferrero's presentation/interaction with the commissioners was a virtual "How Not to Do Budget Hearings 101."
It became instantly apparent to yours truly that Ferrero had ticked off Commissioner Bernabei, for one, big time.
Because they will not be collecting a full year of the 2011 voter approved sales tax increase (collection begins April 1, 2012 but the county has to wait until July 1 to start getting revenue), the commissioners have an overall objective of appropriating an "on average" 23% reduction in county general fund appropriations as compared to 2011 levels.
However, the target of 23% will be tailored from department to department and not an "across the board" type cut.
Commissioners say that a point of the "come in and let's talk" format is designed to elicIt from the likes of Ferrero proposals, supported by solid reasoning, alternative to a flat out 23% cut.
Ferrero was having none of it.
For him yesterday, it was "put me at my 2011 level, and, moreover, look at putting me at the 2010 level" (paraphrase) - pure and simple!
If not, he tells commissioners, he:
- he will have to layoff 10 to 12 assistant prosecutors,
- including the layoffs of five courtroom lawyers necessitating that his office ask the affected courts to appoint special prosecutors on about 2,000 cases at a cost to the county of "two to three times" the laid off prosecutors' salary (plus benefits);
- including the lay off of three assistant prosecutors in the juvenile division (7,000 cases a year) again necessitating a request for judges to appoint special prosecutors;
- including the layoff of two assistant prosecutors in the appellate division ("hundreds and hundreds of cases) also entailing the appointment of special prosecutors;
- including the layoff of two assistant prosecutors which "might" mean a request to appoint outside counsel,
- gave example of the office representing the county in the Zeigler case thereby saving (by the SCPR's analysis) the county hundreds of thousands of dollars that he projected ("three times what the county paid Zeigler's attorneys"),
- also said if the 23% in cuts are maintained, his office likely would not have the resources to represent county in a Zeigler like case;
- furloughs are not a viable alternative,
- his request to fund at 2011 levels amounts to a savings to the Stark County general fund,
- that the county ought to restore his office to 2010 levels so that he can recall the laid off administrative employees (13),
- commissioners would be sending a bad message to the Stark County public if they do a 23% cut on his appropriations in the light of voters having just passed a "criminal justice levy,"
- it is unfair to fully fund the public defenders office at 2011 levels and not the prosecutor's office in the light that the prosecutor's office already had a 16% cut in 2010
- "message to the public: criminals are protected by giving them good legal representation, but I guess the heck with victims of crime."
- law enforcement agencies are going to be livid if 23% cut is imposed on prosecutor's office,
- "tough to tell them [law enforcement], don't make any felony arrests, because we can't prosecute them; I think that's a wrong message, we just can't do that,"
- "funding of the jail is going back to the 2010 level. It's nice to have the jail filled up but if you don't have the funding a prosecutor to prosecute the people in there on a timely basis, I sort of question whether that is the right thing to do or not,"
What follows is an uncut and uncensored video (even leaving in the shifting of the camera; in other words, "raw footage") of Fererro (who complains that the SCPR is unfair to him and therefore, even in his capacity as Stark County prosecutor, refuses to answer the questions of The Report; an interesting position for an elected county official) in his give and take with commissioners.
The truth of the matter is that The Report has been exceedingly fair in covering Ferrero's management of his office.
His real complaint is that telling things "as they are" has not been very flattering of him a la The SCPR's numerous blogs on:
- his handling of the Devies case,
- his unbecoming (in the opinion of the SCPR) outbursts, for being a public official, in various public venues,
- his handling of the Zeigler matter,
- indeed, his handling of office budgeting matters (e.g. budgeting with a known shortfall with a hope and a prayer that the missing revenue would materialize out of thin air),
- his deep involvement in Stark County Democratic Party politics having been a former Stark County Democratic Party chairman (e.g. witness his appointment by the Stark County Democratic Party Central Committee back in 2003 and, accordingly, to some, thought to be a Stark County Dem "good ole boy"),
He, like Canton Mayor William J. Healy, II, is unhappy unless he can spin media coverage to his liking.
Ferrero now knows that spinning does not work with the Stark County Political Report.
Elected public official John Ferrero not talking to yours truly because he knows The Report is bona fide "no spin zone" in the work of analyzing Stark County's governmental and political leaders?"
The ultimate compliment to the Stark County Political Report!