Thursday, February 2, 2012
(VIDEO) THE KEY: CAN THE COMMISSIONERS KEEP THE ISSUE 29 TEAM INTACT?
UPDATE AT 9:40 AM
County officials were amazed when they passed Issue 29 on November 8, 2011 by the margin they did.
They were hoping for even a slim victory. That is according to Commissioner Janet Creighton.
Now the worry is that some of the strong team effort that clearly (56% to 44%) convinced Stark Countians of the authenticity of county financial needs may be in danger of being lost.
The commissioners appear determined to keep the team effort in place. But doing so will not be easy.
The SCPR has already published a blog on Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero's entreaty to Commissioners Bernabei, Creighton and Ferguson not cut his budget from 2011 levels and to consider restoring him to 2011 levels.
The troublesome part of Ferrero's request is that it appears to The Report to be an effort by him to separate from his county department head brothers and sisters by enveloping himself into the "for criminal justice and administration" tag to the campaign for the levy and by threatening to cost the county more money by asking Stark County judges in courts handing prosecutor office cases to appoint "special counsel" which, of course, have to be paid out of the general fund at hourly rates set by the judges.
In doing so, Ferrero seemingly endeavors to punish county taxpayers (i.e. higher taxpayer cost for "assigned special counsel") for doing the responsible and good deed that a clear majority did as voters last November.
Isn't that a strange twist on things?
Well, the SCPR point of view is that his fellows ought to be exercising peer influence on him for him to get creative and find ways to work within the general fund parameters set by the commissioners and show he can be a team player.
What's more, it has never been more clear to the SCPR (The Report has had major differences with Ferrero handling of the prosecutor's office going back nearly four years now as evidenced in yours truly's "political analysis" of the functioning of Stark's various departments of government) that Stark County voters need to take a serious look at Republican candidate for Stark County prosecutor Michael Grady to determine whether or not he has qualities that would make him a chief administrator superior to Ferrero.
It has been a long time since Stark County has had a prosecutor who actually tries cases except for cameo effect when a high profile case is underway. And John Ferrero seems to fit that model. The Report is told by an highly active attorney in Stark County criminal prosecution/criminal defense circles that Ferrero has not sat as prosecutorial trial counsel since the Bobby Cutts murder trial of February, 2008. Yours truly does recall seeing him in and about the civil trial court during the Zeigler series of civil case. However, Ross Rhodes was clearly lead trial counsel.
So to The Report the essential question boils down to administrative abilities and ability to attract a highly polished, skilled and sophisticated prosecutorial staff; not a question of having an elected prosecutor who necessarily has trial lawyer skills.
Besides the Ferrero thing, there is word that the Veterans Service Commission and the Stark County Probate Court may be contemplating giving pay raises to staff members.
While not a topic in the meeting that the commissioners had with county department heads and officials but open to the general public, later on the commissioners indicated to the media including the SCPR that they have no thought of asking for additional sales tax revenues for eight years, the term of Issue 29.
Rather, as brought out by Repository reporter Kelli Young and confirmed by commissioners; they will do everything they can think of to generate additional revenues through alternative sources.
One example is one brought up at yesterday's meeting by Stark County Court of Common Pleas Domestic Relations Judge Jim James to apply for funding from the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD). James who is Stark County's member of the governing body of the MWCD (the Conservancy Court) responded to the commissioners concerns about the lack of money to budget to fix Stark's ditch infrastructure suggested that the county ought to aggressively pursue a grant from the MWCD.
Every Stark County property owner is assessed a property tax by the MWCD.
As a sidenote Commissioner Bernabei noted that Judge James Family Court found a way to save the Stark County General Fund some $800,000 in its operations for 2012.
A major part of yesterday's meeting was to elicit contributions like James or, alternatively, criticisms of how the commissioners are likely to employ in allocating the negative county revenue condition among departments of Stark County government.
Stark County Common Pleas Court Judge Charles Brown suggested that commissioners consider taking a loan against the more than $2 million set aside for the rebuild of Stark County's 9-1-1 emergency call receiving and dispatch system.
One would think that the Stark County Council of Governments (SCOG) would be just a bit nervous about just a procedure. As Stark County Auditor Alan Harold told yours truly after the meeting, such measures have a history of being undertaken with the best of intentions to repay when needed by the original funded activity only not to be available because of the intervention of exigencies.
As far as the SCPR is concerned Commissioner Creighton was "spot-on" in being concerned about preserving the county department teamwork that came into being in pursuing the levy effort as a model for working through tough financial times. And, departments heads should support the commissioners in discouraging the likes of Prosecutor Ferrero, the Veterans Service Commission, or the Stark Probate Court to takes actions which would have the effect of disrupting the unity of purpose and mission currently embraced by most county department heads.
The Report has compiled a video of yesterday's meeting to give a sense of the highlights of the meeting including Commissioner Creighton's plea that county department heads not grant raises to any county employee.