It was a little over a year ago (October 31, 2011) that Stark County Democratic Party chairman Randy Gonzalez did what had to be the most odious political duty that he has ever had to do in his entire political life: appoint Republican Alex Zumbar as Stark County treasurer.
The public was demanding it!
Very rarely does the public get that intensely involved in who the politicos appoint to office.
But finding a successor to the resigned/retired Stark County treasurer Gary D. Zeigler (as a consequence of controversy in the management of operations of the treasury during much of Zeigler's years in office [that is, in hindsight]) had turned into a political "hot potato."
Gonzalez was determined not to be a chairman who ushered in the demise of countywide elected Democrats by doing the politically correct thing (from the Democratic perspective) and appointing a Democrat.
And there were those who argued that he do exactly that. One being Canton mayor William J. Healy, II and another Canton City Council president Allen Schulman.
It is widely believed that Gonzalez was targeted by some within the party for ouster.
Well, that did not happen.
It is somewhat ironic that the staunchest supporter of Gonzalez holding his political nose and appointing Republican Alex Zumbar was none other than Sheriff-elect Mike McDonald.
See the following video to refresh yourself at the vehemence of McDonald's support of Gonzalez.
Now it is McDonald's replacement that is in question.
As put by the North Canton Patch's Morgan Day:
Michael A. McDonald, 54, announced today that he is not medically fit to take office as he continues to battle esophageal cancer ... .Swanson likely will remain as interim sheriff, pending the selection within 45 days of the interim selection a successor to McDonald. Stark County commissioners will meet at 1:00 PM today to consider the appointment of an interim.
McDonald came forth in November, 2011 and revealed to the media that he had a case of esophageal cancer.
On numerous occasions since McDonald revealed that he had cancer, the SCPR inquired of him as to whether or not he was up to the rigors of running for office and, if elected, serving.
In an August 16th blog, The Report listed the following McDonald response to questions about his health:
- "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.
So why was The Report so fastidious on the McDonald health issue?
From the August 16th blog:
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.McDonald never waivered with The Report on his health condition.
It got to the point that on one occasion when yours truly asked questions of McDonald, he anticipated that they were on his health (which they were not) and interjected that his health was just fine.
So now on January 3, 2013 we get news that his health is such that his doctor says he should not take office as sheriff.
What Stark Countians now have to believe is that the turn in McDonald's health to the point of being unable to serve took place in the space of November 1, 2012 through January 3, 2013.
The SCPR understands that McDonald and others close to him (i.e. politically close, who McDonald undoubtedly confided to) needed to be in denial for personal pyschological reasons.
Area media is reporting that Stark County Democratic Party chairman Randy Gonzalez is saying that that yesterday's announcement is a big surprise to him.
Such could actually be the case. But who will believe it?
The question of what he knew and when he knew it is likely one Gonzalez cannot win from the public perspective.
If it turns out that he has known for some time of even a likelihood (not necessarily a certainty) that McDonald was in no condition to serve and did not insist that such be shared with the Stark County voting public, then it will likely look to Stark voters that he was protecting the Stark Democratic Party's interest.
To repeat, as pointed out above; it could be that he did not know. But in this cynical age of politics very few, if any, are likely to believe him.
So what to do?
Throughout the campaign, the SCPR took the position that both McDonald and Dordea were eminently qualified to be sheriff. Stark Countians would be in for some good sheriffing, no matter which of the two won.
Dordea ran a relatively close race against McDonald receiving some 82,000 votes after having lost in a respectable showing to Sheriff Swanson in 2008.
He served effectively as the chief of the Alliance Police Department in the early 2000s and is doing a sterling job a chief in Hartville presently.
But he is a Republican.
For most Stark Countians, party i.d. is irrelevant.
However, it would take a superhuman act for Gonzalez to lead the Dems central committee down that road a second time.
One way for that to happen is for McDonald to weigh-in.
If he were to ask the Dems to appoint Dordea; how could they refuse?
The SCPR does not expect that there is any way that Dordea will be selected either because it comes out that the Dems knew that it was likely McDonald would not be able to serve or that McDonald will ask them to do so.
The Dems are still smarting from losing the county treasurer and auditor offices (they believe, through no fault of their own) in 2010 and are in no mood to lose the sheriff's office, to boot.
At the county level, once a political party loses an office; it is likely that it will remain lost to that party for quite a number of years.
Who thinks that the Republicans, now that they are in charge, are going to lose control of the auditor and treasurer's office any time soon?
So there is little doubt that were Dordea to be selected, he and perhaps successor sheriffs likely would ensure continuing Republican control of the office for years to come.
If he wants the job, a politically initiated person would have to think that the job is his for the taking. His brother is Johnnie A. Maier, Jr who formerly has served as chairman of the Stark County Democratic Party and is currently Massillon clerk of courts.
Maier became the second in command in the Ohio Highway Patrol when Democrat Ted Strickland became governor.
Can anyone imagine that Johnnie will not be driven to make brother George Stark County's top cop?
The Maier family has been prominent in Massillon city policing going all the back to when Johnnie's/George's father served as a Massillon policemen. Brother Chuck (now a security official with Massillon city schools) has been a policeman and George has two sons Johnnie (Ohio Highway Patrol) and Michael (Massillon police) who, according to The Report's information are currently in policing.
George is now the political appointee of Massillon mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry as safety-service director in Tigerland.
Notwithstanding Maier's policling background and obvious Stark County-based political clout, in the opinion of the SCPR, he would be a poor choice for all of Stark County.
Not because he lacks solid policing credentials (LINK), but because of temperament issues. One only have ask Lawrence Township trustee Michael Stevens, (formerly in the inner circle of the JAM/Massillon political machine), a former Cicchinelli administration service department supervisor.
The Report wrote a blog in March, 2012 (LINK) which gives particulars as to why Stark Countians should be wary of having Maier as the county's top cop.
The best case scenario for non-political Stark Countinans would be for Dordea to get the job.
But do not hold your breath.
Politics will, in this instance, most surely will prevail.
Stark's Republicans blew it big time when they would not recommend (one of three) the obviously qualified Democrat Chryssa Hartnett (a prosecutor in John Ferrero's office) for consideration by Governor John Kasich in replacing Stark County Court Common Please judge Charles Brown on his retirement.
Notwithstanding that the Democrats selected Zumbar reluctantly, they did do the right thing for Stark County political and governmental stability.
But do not expect a repeat.
Gonzalez and the Stark Democratic Central Committee would be the laughing stock of politicos throughout Ohio if they were to for a second time in a little over a year to do the best thing for for the Stark County community on a call for non-partisanship.
Political realities with both Stark County political parties and indeed all political party organizations is to feather their own nests and not to look out for the well-being of the citizenry.
Look for a Democrat to become the next Stark County sheriff.
And do not be surprised if it turns out to be George T. Maier.
There are better Democratic choices if Dordea is not to be the selection.
One would be Turkowski of Louisville. As the well-respected leader of the Stark County Police Chiefs Association, Turkowski was a leading voice in aiding the Stark County commissioners to avoid a county financial disaster in passing a 0.5% sales tax increase in November, 2011.
But it appears that Zink has torpedoed himself.
Recently, according to an area media report, Jackson trustees initiated an investigation of Zink (hiring private legal counsel) on allegations, to wit:
... that Zink violated the township’s harassment policy by trying to have a physical or dating relationship during the last five years with a female police department employee whom he supervises. The attempts included a kiss, repeated offers to travel out of town together for training, uninvited visits to her home and an uninvited visit to her hotel while she was away at training two hours away from Stark County.
According to [the private legal counsel Hill's] report, Zink denied all of the allegations when interviewed by Hill. But Hill noted that he was able to corroborate most of the allegations by a third party or through documents and that Zink had not been persuasive in denying the allegations. He said the chief hesitated when asked about an incident in 2007, then read from a prepared written statement to describe his version of the events. At another point in the interview, Hill said Zink had become “flustered and ambiguous” in addressing the allegations.As a consequence of the investigation, Zink was suspended without pay for a month.
So it would seem that Jackson officials (which includes Gonzalez who is a former Jackson trustee currently the elected fiscal officer), will be preoccupied with dealing with the spill out from their actions vis-a-vis the allegations.
Moreover, it is not likely that Gonzalez and the Dems would want to have to defend a Party choice of Zink to replace McDonald.
However, that is not to say that politics rather than getting Stark County's very best "on the overall merits" law enforcement official in place as McDonald's replacement will be the prime factor in the selection process.
Remember that political parties are not about doing what is best for everyday citizens unless circumstances (e.g. Zeigler/Zumbar) give them no other choice.
It appears to the SCPR that Stark's organized Democrats are in the catbird's seat in terms of being free (in terms of Stark Republicans not considering Democrats for selection) to make a politics-based choice and therefore Stark County is unlikely to get the county's very best policemen as Stark County's top cop.