Friday, October 12, 2012


UPDATE:  10/12/2012 AT 03:10 PM

A response from Jeff Heimbaugh to today's blog:
... there are a few facts and additional comments that your readers should know.

1) $114,000 to run the system. Through an open records request I requested the names and salaries of the programmers etc in the clerk’s office. She provided the names of the two employees whose total salary is $100,000. With benefits Ms Reinbold stated the total cost is approx. $143,000. Add the $80,000 for the Utah employee and the cost of the system is closer to $225,000. That’s just for the clerk’s office.

2) From there patrol cars... The information that police can obtain is on a statewide basis is through the Supreme Courts “Ohio Courts Network”. A statewide information exchange system to enable courts and justice system partners to share the information necessary to make critical decisions. Stark County plugs into this system and shares its information with other agencies across the state. This system is available to all counties and agencies and is not unique to Stark

3) Ms Reinbold nor I can state that one system is superior to the other. Neither can we definitevly say there would be savings or additional costs if we switch to commercial software. I am making three points; A)  If developing your own system is the way to go than why is Stark County only one of two court systems (general division) in the entire state operating their own system. (see attached)  B) Common sense informs us the one department of County government is to small to be in the software business. C) Why we don’t look at the two systems and determine once and for all which is better for Stark County. What are they afraid of?

Finally, I find it odd that Ms Reinbold had to have Mr. Giavsis and Gonzalez with her to discuss her own operating system. Shouldn't she is able to defend her record herself. The court is currently looking at a $1,000,000 upgrade to the Clerk of Courts own system. The court rejected putting Ms Reinbold in charge. Wouldn't you think that the Clerks office who developed, maintains, and operates the system would be placed in charge? The Judges work with her every day so are they trying to tell us something? One doesn’t have to look far to see that Ms Reinbold isn’t capable of managing 

It was quite surprising to the SCPR to learn from the perspective of Republican challenger Jeff Heimbaugh to sitting Clerk of Courts Nancy Reinbold (a Democrat) in a September 19th interview that he believes that not all is well with CJIS (Criminal Justice Information System).

One of Heimbaugh's main arguments is that Reinbold is overpaying for CJIS and that Stark County (CJIS serves the Alliance, Canton, Massillon clerks of courts as well as the Stark County Courts of Common Pleas and the Stark County Sheriff) could do better with off-the-shelf software.

Moreover, Heimbaugh points to a contract entered into between Stark County (approved by the commissioners on August 3, 2011) and a former Stark County employee (Chris Yates, now residing in Utah) for $85,000 annually as an additional unjustified expenditure for Yates' hosting CJIS and maintaining it from Utah on a day-to-day basis.

The SCPR has learned that the entire 2012 budget for CJIS is about $114,000 of which the Yates contract represents some 75%.

Yates apparently left Stark County employment in July/August of 2009 as August is the first month in which Stark County auditor records show his first $7,083.33 monthly contract payment.

Accordingly, the initial contract would have had to have been approved by then Stark County commissioners Todd Bosley, Tom Harmon (a former Canton Municipal Court clerk who retired and was replaced by Phil Giavasis).

It appears Yates got a $20,000 raise by transitioning from county employment to becoming an private sector independent contractor.  Of course, with his leaving county employment, the county was relieved of future benefit payments to him.

For more depth on Heimbaugh points (LINK) and Clerk Reinbold response (LINK), before to sure to read the SCPR's first report on the Heimbaugh/Reinbold race (LINK).

Well, to say the least, Heimbaugh's point-of-view is not shared by those with key roles in the implementation and maintenance of CJIS; namely, Canton Clerk of Courts Phil Giavasis (also director of CJIS) and Randy Gonzalez (a Giavasis employee and CJIS project manager).

The SCPR sat down with Reinbold (who refuses to go on camera) political proxies Gonzalez (who doubles as Stark County Democratic Party chairman) and Giavasis (who was Reinbold's first employer and from whom Reinbold inherited the county clerk position via being the Stark County Democratic Party appointee when Giavasis replaced Tom Harmon as Canton Municipal Court clerk) to get a look at CJIS.

Indeed, CJIS is an impressive operation.

CJIS was Giavasis' brainchild some ten years ago or so.  And Gonzalez has taken hold of the project and made it into the superlative system it is today.

Readers of the SCPR know that yours truly has been a frequently critic of Giavasis and Gonzalez on various topics over the nearly five year existence of The Report.

But on this project, both deserve accolades for putting this information enhancing and Stark County citizen safety enhancing computer mechanism together.

From their patrol cars, Stark County law enforcement officers can access critical information from CJIS on subjects they are dealing with as they are involved in day-to-day policing activities.

And, at any given point-in-time, Stark's judges can access information as to whom they have incarcerated as the Stark County jail, the gravity of an alleged offense as well as their criminal justice history.

This is to mention just a few of the impressive qualities of the computerized system.

As yours truly told Gonzalez and Giavasis, the SCPR has never doubted the value and quality of the CJIS system.

However, how the system is configured in terms of its staffing configuration is fair game for scrutiny and critique.

And this is exactly what clerk of courts candidate Heimbaugh is doing.

The baseline questions as raised by Heimbaugh are:
  • whether or not the courts could have the same quality at a lower cost?
  • why is it that the host/maintainer is a person who resides in Utah?
Gonzalez and Giavasis made a number of points to The Report in response to Heimbaugh's criticism and recommended fixes:
  • CJIS is not the sole creature of the Stark County clerk of courts.  Rather, they say, it is a joint effort of the Stark County clerk (for the Courts of Common Pleas), the Alliance Municipal Court clerk of courts and the Massillon Municipal Court clerk of courts.
  • That it would be "to reinvent the wheel" (the SCPR's words not Gonzalez and Giavasis) to go to "off-the-shelf" software and that the result would not compare in quality to CJIS and, moreover, they believed at a much greater cost than Heimbaugh projects.
  • The decision to keep Yates on after he left Stark County for Utah was a joint decision of all Stark's clerk of courts on the basis that they felt Yates had acquired unique programming skills (having been schooled in criminal justice system particularities) and losing him would be felt within CJIS.
  • While CJIS can and will function effectively/efficiently without Yates (there are five CJIS programmers spread over the various clerks of court offices), Stark County has invested many hours of training in Yates and therefore has a vested interest in keeping him on.
    • Gonzalez went so far in one conversation to describe Yates as being at a genius level in his CJIS programming/maintaining skills.
    • Yates started his career with Stark County under Janet Creighton when she was Stark County auditor.  When contacted by The Report, Creighton said that while her recollection of him is somewhat vague, she does remember him as a quiet person and being very bright.
So what does the Stark County Report make of "the back and forth" between Heimbaugh over and against Reinbold, Gonazlez and Giavasis?

Here goes:
  • Heimbaugh is doing what candidates for public office ought to be doing.  He has examined the operations of the Stark County clerk of courts office and has spotted issues that he thinks need to be dealt with.
    • Next summer, the Stark County commissioners will undoubtedly be looking at a new proposal to retain Yates for another contract term.
    • As the SCPR recalls, there was no questioning on their part as to whether nor he should be awarded the $170,000 contract.
    • The Report finds this a little bit odd inasmuch as yours truly has witnessed quite of number of inquiries (particularly from Commissioner Creighton) when bids are awarded to "out-of-Stark County" contractors, so the question becomes:
      • Why not in this case?
    • In any event, the "oversight" in 2011 should be rectified in 2013 and the commissioners should use a work session to delve deeply into the justifications of the proponents of retaining Yates (as contrasted to finding a Stark County person).
    • Had Heimbaugh not raised the issue in this running against Reinbold, would 2013 be a repeat of 2011?
  • Implicitly, Heimbaugh has raised the question of whether or not Stark County ought to be dependent on one person as a "go to" for the hosting and maintenance of CJIS?
    • The SCPR thinks not and made that point repeatedly to Gonazlez and Giavasis in Wednesday's conversation.
Heimbaugh has distinguished himself as a political office candidate in asking probing questions.

In doing so, he casts a good model for others running for office.

There are all too many political contests in Stark County in which the non-incumbent candidates seemingly are just going through the motions of running for office.

To name a few names and races, for example:  Butterworth (R) versus Campbell (D) for Stark County recorder and Blaser (R) versus Murthy (D) for Stark County coroner.

The SCPR thinks the odds are heavily against Heimbaugh unseating Reinbold.

Even if he loses, he has made a valuable contribution to the Stark County political landscape.

From the SCPR's perspective there is no such thing as a "holy cow" in Stark County/local government that no one can question!

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