A few days ago, the SCPR received an email that included the following statement: "Many of us think you are the only one with the courage to look into this."
"Courage to look into this?"
Of course. After all, this is the Stark County Political Report!
The writer was making some rather serious allegations about the candidacy of Democrat and current Stark County Chief Deputy (Jail Division) Mike McDonald.
The SCPR does probe where nobody else will. However, the probing is a two-edged sword and it appears to The Report that the allegations are baseless and that the writer comes up way short on the credibility side.
Yours truly looked into the matters by contacting both McDonald and his Republican opponent Larry Dordea and with third parties (on a jail utilization question) with respect to certain allegations/questions posed.
The most dramatic of the allegations had to do with Mike McDonald's health. The writer asserted that McDonald's health had seriously deteriorated since he shared his diagnosis of having esophageal cancer with The Canton Repository last November.
So yours truly picked up the phone and called McDonald.
At the other end of the telephone was a robust sounding Mike McDonald. If strength of voice is indicative of a person's throat condition, the chief deputy (jail division) did not sound like he was in any way, shape, or form as fragile as the writer claimed.
It was not long ago (June) when yours truly actually saw McDonald at a Lake Township trustees meeting and he appeared to be anything other than in condition to carry out the functions of sheriff.
The clincher for the SCPR with regard to the state of McDonald's current health was a conversation yours truly had with McDonald's opponent Larry Dordea pretty close on the heels of talking to McDonald himself.
Here are some the things Dordea had to say to The Report on Tuesday of this week:
- That he saw Mike McDonald at the Alliance Rib-Burnoff (August 9 - 11) and from his observations "The news of his demise is much exaggerated,"
- That he thinks the issue of McDonald's health may surface in the campaign between now and November, but that Larry Dordea would not be the person bringing it up,
- Understands that McDonald might suspect that Larry Dordea is behind inaccurate statements about his health, but such is not the case.
Here is that video.
For his part, when The Report spoke earlier this week with Mike McDonald about the allegation regarding his health earlier this week, he had this to say:
- "I'm feeling good, I'm coming to work and I'm out campaigning,"
- It's no secret that he has esophageal cancer and that he shared that information with the Rep so that he could take advantage of the opportunity to educate the public about what the potential consequences could be if acid reflux goes untreated,
- But that he does not have serious problems with the cancer presently,
- In no way, shape or form does the cancer interfere with his doing his job or campaigning nor will it have any affect on his ability to serve as sheriff, if elected,
- That he suspected that the negative talk was coming from the Dordea campaign and he believes that there will be rumors circulating between now and the election which he thinks is very unfair.
The SCPR's point of view is that he needs to keep the public appraised of his medical condition right up through the election. For, God forbid, if his health was to take a turn for the worse and it turns out that it is knowable prior to the election that he likely will be unable to serve; the Stark County voting public is entitled to know so that voters can choose between the possibility they will be voting for a situation that the Stark County Democratic Central Committee will be picking the next Stark County sheriff or the alternative Republican Larry Dordea.
The SCPR is well aware that life is uncertain for all of us.
It could turn out that Dordea has a health problem that nobody including Dordea himself knows about presently. And, again - God forbid - that he becomes unable to serve then guess who would pick his successor? You've got it. The Stark County Republican Party Central Committee.
The Report would expect Dordea, if something surfaced affecting his ability to serve between now and November 6th, to promptly inform the Stark County public.
And yours truly believes that both McDonald and Dordea are of such a quality that they would put the public's interest and right to know ahead of their respective political party's interest.
However, a vital function of the media is to track such matters and ensure that the public is fully informed about factors that might impact on how voters vote.
Another issue raised by the writer was that of getting the county jail up to full utilization (some 500 prisoners) in light of the 0.5% sales tax for eight years duration that Stark County voters passed in November, 2011.
Dordea has also raised the issue with The Report (about a month ago) after a lady released from the jail was killed by a hit and run driver as she walked along Route 62.
As The Report understands Dordea's point is that the sheriff's office (perhaps, as evidenced by the lady's release) may be engaged in a turnstile operation which might delay the jail reaching the goal of full utilization as promised in the levy effort.
McDonald denies that such is the case. He does say that that whom the sheriff releases and whom he holds is controlled by Stark County courts.
On Wednesday, Stark County Chief Administrator Mike Hanke shared with the commissioners data which shows the progress that Sheriff Swanson is making towards the ultimate goal of Stark County's jail being up to its capacity of 500 prisoners by December 31, 2012.
Here is a copy of that report.
Beyond the report, the SCPR asked Commissioner Tom Bernabei (president of the Board of the Stark County Commissioners) whether or not he is as satisfied with the progress the sheriff is making towards the ultimate goal.
Here is his video response.
In talking with candidates Mike McDonald and Larry Dordea, the SCPR believes that both candidates are committed to running "a high road" campaign a la the one run by Alex Zumbar (R - Alliance) and Ken Koher (D - Navarre) in November, 2010.
Both have excellent credentials in policing and their qualification to be sheriff is unquestioned.
The have always spoken well of each other to The Report. And The Report believes Dordea when he says he is not going to make McDonald's health a campaign issue.
The SCPR's analysis of the McDonald/Dordea race is that, if elected, Mike McDonald is likely to run the sheriff's office pretty much as it has been under Sheriff Tim Swanson. Undoubtedly, he will make some changes because no two individuals, no matter how close, see things exactly the same. However, for him to make wholesale changes would be a betrayal of everything Tim Swanson stood for.
On the other hand, The Report sees Larry Dordea coming in with a fresh perspective and is likely to institute significant changes.
While it has been four years since Dordea ran unsuccessfully against Tim Swanson, here is a LINK to a blog that the SCPR published during that campaign that provides some insight into the thinking of the former Alliance police chief who is now chief of police in Hartville.
In the end, the Stark County Political Report believes that no matter which of the two comes out on top in November, Stark County will have a first-rate police commander.