UPDATE: 01/05/2013 AT 5:15 PM
The Stark County commissioners were thankful Friday that they had someone to turn to on learning that Sheriff-elect Mike McDonald is unable - for health reasons (Swanson: "it's a completely new battle that he [McDonald] is into now") - to assume office at 12.01 AM on January 7th.
Not just anyone could have been selected by the commissioners inasmuch as official duties cannot be assumed by an elected county official until and unless a bond is issued.
SCPR readers will recall the stand-off between former Stark County treasurer Gary D. Zeigler and Stark County auditor Alan Harold in 2011 (immediately after the Ohio Supreme Court restored Zeigler to office) whereby Harold refused to pay Zeigler and refused to authorize Zeigler to use the county's computer system unless and until he obtained a bond.
No such problem with Swanson.
Inasmuch as he is currently bonded as the sitting county sheriff, it was a mere formality for Tim Swanson to qualify for a newly issued bond to cover the up to 45 days from January 4th on that he will continue to serve as sheriff.
The first order of business for the commissioners was to reluctantly accept the letter of Mike McDonald stating that he was unable to take office.
Immediately prior to being sworn-in, Sheriff Swanson had these comments:
Commissioners accepted McDonald's declination of accepting office and Swanson was immediately sworn in by his legal counsel Vivianne Whalen-Duffrin:
After the swearing-in, the SCPR and other area media conducted a press conference with Swanson:
The SCPR captured reactions to the McDonald situation from Alliance area resident Derrick Loy (former president of the Alliance Area Democratic Club) and Commissioner Richard Regula.
Minutes after the press conference, the SCPR moved outside the commissioners' meeting room with him. Off-camera, he shared some interesting additional tidbits, including revelations:
- that he does have a preference who the Stark County Democratic Party Central Committee names as his successor and that he will make that name known in due course and try to convince the committee to adopt his choice,
- making it pretty clear that the choice would not be Mike McDonald's November Republican opponent Larry Dordea (who has told The Report he is likely to apply) inasmuch as he (Swanson) deemed Dordea's campaign against him in 2008 to have been an unexpectedly nasty one and that he felt Dordea had stabbed him in the back and had lied to him in telling him that he (Dordea) would not be running against him,
- Swanson recalled how he helped Dordea during his tenure as Alliance Chief of Police (LINK) clean up policing in The Carnation City and had facilitated Dordea's success in the city by hooking him up with leading Alliance area Democrats,
- Note: This turn in Swanson's take on Dordea is surprising to the SCPR. During the 2008 campaign Swanson only had neutral to positive assessments of Dordea. The Report's question of Swanson about the contradiction was ignored.
- indicating that his long time chief deputy Rick Perez would not be the choice in saying that Perez would be proceeding with his retirement from the sheriff's department a midnight on the 6th,and
- that he could be supportive of Massillon safety-service director George T. Maier for sheriff, but he is not certain that Maier has kept his policing qualifications current. However, Swanson did say that he had had difficulties with Maier's brother (Johnnie) in the ebb and flow of Stark County Democratic Party politics over the years.
Swanson shared with the press that he has been hanging around the sheriff's department since 1971 as a reserve deputy and stayed on through Papadopulos, Berens (a Republican), Stern and Umpleby and that he plans on returning to reserve status once his extra stint as sheriff is concluded.
The sheriff seemed to be shaken by the necessity of stepping in to help out in the unfortunate circumstances of Chief Deputy McDonald's career ending illness.
He reviewed with the media of how he experienced a similar trauma in transition in office when his predecessor Bruch Umpleby died suddenly and unexpectedly in July, 1999. Only a week before his death, Swanson told the press, Umpley pulled him into his office to tell Tim that he would not be running for reelection and that Swanson was his choice to succeed him.
He went on to describe how former fellow deputy sheriff Steve Zerby (who had run against Bruce Umpleby in 1996 and who went on to co-found the Jackson Police Department in the late 1990s) challenged him in the 2000 Democratic Party primary (Swanson having been appointed to succeed Umpleby by the John Ferrreo-led party) and that he (Swanson) had survived because of the support that he had from Umpleby and Umpleby predecessor Babe Stern.
The SCPR has put together a video of Commissioners Bernabei, Creighton and Regula as to what they had to say about the devastating circumstances of McDonald not being able to take office and the need of having Sheriff Swanson stay on for a bit longer.
Within the next week or so it will become clearer who will be the next sheriff of Stark County.
A name that could be one to pay attention to could be that of Canton safety director Tom Ream. His big liability though is his close association with Mayor Healy. In the discussion with Swanson on Friday, he made it clear that he is not a big fan of Hizzhoner.
When, in November of 2011, McDonald put his pursuit of being sheriff in doubt, the SCPR asked Ream whether or not he was interested in stepping in. He indicated that while he was honored that he had been asked to consider pursuing the Democratic nomination that he had determined that he was not interested at that time.
And what about David Zink, the under suspension police chief of Jackson?
Swanson expressed his amazement at the January 2nd gathering of the Jackson FOP (police union) regarding the future of Chief Zink at which the members were considering a "no-confidence" vote. While the vote was never taken, it appeared to Swanson that the contemplation of such in and of itself was a sign that Zink is not a viable candidate to become McDonald's successor.
It could be that the Jackson trustees have not adequately disposed of the Zink matter to the satisfaction of some township residents. Swanson suggested that the January 8th meeting of the trustees may produce an onslaught of irate Jacksonians who want more action taken against Zink.
The bottom line on the McDonald succession question appears to the SCPR to be that the recipient of the Stark County Democratic Party Central Committee selection could well be determined on the say-so of Swanson.
But for Umpleby and Stern, Tim Swanson may never have been the Stark County sheriff.
Is history about to repeat itself?
Will McDonald's successor be saying: "But for Tim Swanson's endorsement,
I may never have been Stark County sheriff."
Stay tuned, the next 45 days could be full of political excitement and intrigue!