On May 29th of this year, right on the heels of the Ohio Supreme Court (May 16th) decision upholding Stark County Court of Common Pleas Judge John Haas' decision that flawed ballot language on Lake Township's Issue #6 was fatal to the issue and that an "apparent" election ballot victory for those in Lake who wanted the Uniontown Police Department (9 square miles in northwest Lake Township) to expand township wide was therefore invalidated, Stark County Chief Deputy Sheriff Mike McDonald (Jail Division) appeared before the Lake Township trustees at their regular meeting touting a plan for the Stark County sheriff to step in and provide the coverage for all of Lake Township except for Hartville.
It is the SCPR's perception that McDonald got a "cool," but respectful hearing from Trustees John Arnold, Ellis Erb and Galen Stoll.
Here is a video of McDonald's presentation.
The Report's take is that McDonald (who is the Democratic candidate for Stark County sheriff) couldn't have made a bigger political blunder in Lake insofar as township officials are concerned than to have appeared so soon after the Supreme Court decision at a time that trustees were obviously smarting from the loss and were grappling for ways to react.
Moreover, The Report has been told (confirmed to McDonald) that Uniontown Police Chief Harold Britt had a testy exchange with McDonald at the rear of the meeting hall regarding the appropriateness of McDonald's appearance with a contract proposal.
Yours truly was out of the country (in England) at the last Lake trustees meeting of June 25th. But a Repository report of the meeting has several interesting points:
- "He (Trustee John Arnold) noted the possibility of accepting a proposal from the Stark County Sheriff's Office for township wide policing is clouded by the uncertainty of who will be elected sheriff in November," and
- "The proposal also previously has been termed incomplete by trustees compared to the ballot issue that expanded the Uniontown Police Department which was overturned by the courts."
Really? What does that have to do with anything?
"The proposal also previously has been termed incomplete by trustees compared to the ballot issue that expanded the Uniontown Police Department."
Okay. Don't the trustees owe it to Lake Township taxpayers to go to the sheriff and say: "give us an apples to apples proposal?"
Don't they have an obligation to Lake taxpayers, if Lake is to have township wide police services, to get "the best bang for the buck?"
And to all the foregoing add the following:
This past Monday night (at a regular meeting of the Lake trustees), yours truly was a party to a conversation post meeting among township fire and police officials in which the topic as to the amenability of the officials to having either McDonald or his Republican opponent Larry Dordea as sheriff of Stark County.
Somewhat alarming to The Report in yours truly's take was the willingness of a police official to express his enthusiasm for working as a Lake-based police official with Dordea as sheriff but apparently unwilling to accord the same ardor with McDonald as sheriff.
And yours truly said so in the context of that assembly.
It is not a matter of whether or not a police official has a personal preference. As a matter of police professionalism and as a matter of public safety and the expectation is that police officials work together cooperatively and collaboratively for the public safety.
It could be that the police official simply misspoke?
Hopefully, Chief Britt will and as will Trustee Erb (who was present during the conversation), in the light of the foregoing, reassure the Lake Township public that the vigor of collaborative law enforcement (whether it is the Uniontown Police Department or the Lake Township Police Department) in Lake Township has nothing whatsoever to do with who is elected sheriff in November.
The sheriff's office interacting with Lake officials on the matter of the sheriff providing Lake with police services via McDonald's presentation was not a first time event.
The sheriff has a contract with Plain Township and Trustee Louis Giavasis tells the SCPR that Plain residents are well satisfied with those services.
Several years ago Lake trustees were seriously considering a proposal to Lake voters that they support a ballot initiative to have the sheriff provide similar township wide coverage.
For reasons that remain a mystery (i.e. no one from the township side will say what they were and Sheriff Swanson tells The Report he does not know why), the matter got dropped as quickly as they had appeared. The Report's recollection is that Trustee Ellis Erb was the trustee most actively involved in considering the sheriff option.
Next thing township residents know (yours truly is a Lake Township and Uniontown Police District (UPD) resident who has always supported expansion either by the UPD or the sheriff and, for the record, is in favor of another effort), up pops the notion of going township wide using the Uniontown Police District as the springboard to expansion.
Of course, the rest is history.
Township officials including the township's law director Charles Hall, III, the Stark County Board of Elections and the Stark County prosecutor's office all had a hand in not figuring out that the ballot language was errant.
Only the Ohio secretary of state's office figured out the error on a timely basis and communicated same to the Stark County Board of Elections (BOE) on July 13, 2011.
The BOE claimed that one of its employees telephoned information about the error to officials at Lake Township Hall. However, Lake officials deny that such was the case.
So that is how Lake got to the place the township is now in that it is in the process of determining whether or not expansion of police services are still on the table and if so, will it be by expanding the Uniontown Police Department or will the township pursue working out a contract with the sheriff's department.
And this is where Larry Dordea (Hartville Police Chief, former Alliance Police Chief and presently an Alliance city councilman-at-large) in the judgment of the SCPR made a politically swift move.
Dordea made an appearance on Monday night last to clarify what he said was perhaps a misunderstanding as to what his attitude would be as sheriff towards the Lake policing situation.
In essence, he says whatever direction Lake residents decide to do, he will fully supportive and work in a fully collaborative manner with Lake officials.
There was even a hint in his presentation (see below), at least in the SCPR's take, that should trustees forego an expansion at this time, a Dordea run sheriff's department would to better in providing patrol services of the outside of Hartville and Uniontown police district areas of the township.
To yours truly, Dordea's interface was a much more wise "politician-running-for-office" course of action in substance, timing and manner than was demonstrated by Mike McDonald back on May 29th.
Here is the video of Dordea's presentation.
As far as the SCPR is concerned (as indicated above), Lake ought to have township wide services, however, if the trustees put an initiative (whether UPD expansion or contracting with the sheriff) on the ballot and Lake voters decide against it, so be it.
Such is our democratic process.
It appears to the SCPR that McDonald and Dordea are equally qualified to be Stark County sheriff.
However, The Report will be examining the public positions taken by both over the next four months to determine whether or not either surfaces as an obvious choice.
Stark Countians need to be very careful that Stark County's top cop be the very best.
As far as Lake offcials are concerned, the SCPR likes to believe that:
- the trustees will in discharging their duty of trust in protecting Lake taxpayer interests; should they decide to propose policing township wide again, obtain an apples to apples proposal from Sheriff Swanson before deciding what specific proposal, if any, should be on the ballot,
- that whichever route they decide to go, or if they decide to leave the policing as it currently is, that it will be made clear that Chief Britt and the department is committed to working in a fully cooperative and collaborative manner with whomever is elected sheriff, and
- that the decision will not be made without a full and complete public meeting giving Lake citizens a thoroughgoing opportunity to weigh in on the decision.