Monday, February 4, 2013




Could all candidates end up not being properly qualified, if someone challenges the process being used by officials?

Will Lou Darrow have the spine to challenge George Maier's qualification to be sheriff, if merited?

Can Stark Democratic chairman Randy Gonzalez get the central committee vote procedures right?  

Will Stark County sheriff Tim Swanson be staying on longer than originally planned?

Prior blogs:

This is one of those blogs that yours truly is asking:  What am I missing here?

Back on January 18th the SCPR's blog (LINK) had to do with the candidates for the appointment to succeed Mike McDonald (who as sheriff-elect [November, 2012] had to resign that status due to unspecified health reasons] and the qualification/certification process by the Stark County Board of Elections (BOE), a task assigned the BOE by the Ohio General Assembly, to wit:  (excepts from the statute)

311.01 Election and qualifications of sheriff

 (B) Except as otherwise provided in this section, no person is eligible to be a candidate for sheriff, and no person shall be elected or appointed to the office of sheriff, unless that person meets all of the following requirements:  (emphasis added).
(F)(2) Each board of elections shall certify whether or not a candidate for the office of sheriff who has filed a declaration of candidacy, a statement of candidacy, or a declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate meets the qualifications specified in divisions (B) and (C) of this section.  (emphasis added)
In the January 18th blog, The Report listed the criteria that each candidate must meet:
  1. be a U.S. citizen, *
  2. be a resident of Stark County for one year,
  3. be a qualified voter, *
  4. have a high school degree or its equivalent, *
  5. have no  conviction record of a felony or first degree misdemeanor, *
  6. be finger printed under the direction Judge Forchione who is to have the finger prints compared to local, state and federal databases and  (a process that takes about 7 to 10 days according to Forchione) who turns submits the results to the Stark BOE,
  7. submit a list * of:
    1. residences going back 6 years,
    2. places of employment going back 6 years,
  8. have evidence * of a basic peace officer certificate of training [by an approved issuing authority as specified in the statute],
  9. have been employed within the past four years as:
    1. a state highway patrolman,
    2. a full-time police officer, OR
  10. have been employed for the past three years as a full-time law enforcement officer
Here is where the rub comes in.

On Thursday, yours truly e-mailed Deputy Director Jeanette Mullane of the Stark County Board of elections thusly:


Has the Stark BOE certified Darrow, Dordea and Maier to the Stark County Democratic Central Committee?

If so, I would like an electronic copy of BOE correspondence communicating the certification.

And, an electronic copy of the paperwork that the BOE relied upon to determine qualification.

Martin Olson/SCPR
330 499 0465

Mullane's response:


The Board of Elections does not certify the sheriff candidates for appointment.  We do not have the correspondence you requested.

>>> Martin Olson <> 1/31/2013 8:31 AM >>>


Whereupon the SCPR contacted the BOE's attorney Debbie Dawson (an assistant Stark County prosecutor).


Reference:  Ohio Revised Code Section 311.01(F)(2), in part, reads:

Each board of elections shall certify whether or not a candidate for the office of sheriff who has filed a declaration of candidacy, a statement of candidacy, ... meets the qualifications specified in divisions (B) and (C) of this section.

See my exchange with Jeanette Mullane below.

Judge Forchione told me in a telecon that he is an information gatherer which when in place he sends to the BOE for action in accordance with 311.012(F)(2).
[SCPR note:  311.01(F)(2) is the correct cite]

Mullane's response is in seeming contradiction to what is to be taking place.

Could you explain from a legal standpoint what the process and timing of the BOE's action is?

Thank you,


Dawson's response:

Martin -

The statute you referenced deals w/ candidates who have filed petitionsfor candidacy.  That is not the situation with the vacancy in the sheriff's office due to Mike McDonald's recent illness which precluded him from taking office. 

The statute that applies herein is RC 305.02.
Subsection (E) therein states that the central committee certifies the
candidate.  I believe at the time you spoke to Judge Forchione, he was under the misunderstanding that the BOE certifies the candidates.  

The Sec'y of State's office subsequently said that RC305.02 applies, and the BOE in complying with that statute performs the ministerial duty of orwarding what the appropriate central committee certifies to the BOE to the Secy of State.

I anticipate that answers your question.

Debbie Dawson

Another part of ORC 311.01 is interesting in that it makes direct reference to the Dawson/Ohio secretary of state cite of ORC 305.02 as the controlling statute, to wit:

(H)(1) “Qualification date” means the last day on which a candidate for the office of sheriff can file a declaration of candidacy, a statement of candidacy, or a declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate, as applicable, in the case of a primary election for the office of sheriff; the last day on which a person may be appointed to fill a vacancy in a party nomination for the office of sheriff under Chapter 3513. of the Revised Code, in the case of a vacancy in the office of sheriff; or a date thirty days after the day on which a vacancy in the office of sheriff occurs, in the case of an appointment to such a vacancy under section 305.02 of the Revised Code.  (emphasis added)

The SCPR's reaction?

The Ohio secretary of state's office may have advised local officials wrongly.

The Report believes that both ORC Sections 311.01 and 305.02 apply and are to be interpreted in a manner to give full effect to both.  In legal parlance such is called:  in pari materia.

Can you imagine having a sheriff who turns out to be unqualified being appointed to office?

What a nightmare that would be for Stark County, no?

If one accepts the Ohio secretary of state's interpretation of the process of the law (and the Stark County prosecutor's apparently does), then it appears that nearly anybody could ask to be considered by the Stark Dems.

Forget the the qualification criteria of ORC 311.01?

And if one does, then, in effect, a political party decides who is qualified to be in the field of candidates to be appointed sheriff.


Will citizens stand for a political party determining whether or not a person is qualified (on the criteria of Ohio statutory law) to be Stark County's top cop?

One wouldn't think so, no?

If this process goes forward on Tuesday without the Stark BOE having performed the mandate of applying the qualifying factors of ORC 311.01, then one would think that the losing candidates would owe it to the Stark County public to take the matter up in the courts.

Republican Larry Dordea tells the SCPR that he will not challenge, if he is not selected (and you can be sure he will not be).

Lou Darrow may be of a different frame of mind.

There are some (e.g. Sheriff Tim Swanson) who suspect that Maier, if scrutinized carefully, may have difficulty qualifying in the de jure (as a matter of law) sense of qualification assuming, of course, that ORC 311.01 is applied at all.

He does clearly have impressive experience in policing as a matter of fact.  So there are those (even if they are troubled by the de jure factor) that believe that in a de facto sense he is well suited to be Stark County sheriff.

Darrow tells The Report that he and his supporters (chief among whom is current sheriff Tim Swanson) are playing close attention to the qualification process and may act if they do not think the proper process and/or the application of the process was not properly discharged.

Another issue that is likely to come up tomorrow at the 5:30 p.m. Dems meeting at the Mayfield Senior Center is the issue of a secret ballot.

When the Democrats met in Massillon last week to select a city treasurer and a council president (on the early [i.e. before the term expired on a date provided for in law] retirement of officeholder), the SCPR is told that it resembled "a political farce" over the secret ballot issue.

Chairman Gonzalez ended up ruling that the voters could vote by ballot but they had to sign it for it to be counted which, of course, means "in effect" that Gonzalez interprets party rules not to allow for secret ballots.

Can a repeat be expected on Tuesday?


Self-styled parliamentarian Scott Graber (thought by some to be a political gadfly who writes reams and reams to make a simple point) sent the following provision to the SCPR (including to scores of Stark Dem central committee persons) to establish that in his opinion Gonzalez did not follow party rules in his handling of the secret ballot request in Massillon. 

According to Graber:
The Bylaws of the Stark County Democratic Party specifically authorize secret ballot votes and these are unsigned ballots:
Section 8. Voting

Every vote taken by any Democratic State or County, Central or Executive Committee for the election of its officers or the endorsements or selection of persons for public office shall be by secret ballot, standing or voice as determined by a majority of those present and voting.
As the SCPR sees it, the main hope that Lou Darrow has in winning the appointment is for there to be a secret ballot.

The Report sees Gonzalez as being aligned politically with Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. Massillon forces.

And, of course, one of the candidates for the appointment is Johnnie's brother George currently the safety director in the Maier-propped-up administration of Kathy Catazaro-Perry.

Gonzalez and the Johnnie Maier forces are clearly in control of the leadership circles of the Stark County Democratic Party.

The central committee members know this.  

The Report believes that if they are compelled to vote by voice vote or via ballot with a signature, George Maier will be the appointee.

However, if they are permitted a truly secret ballot, Darrow could be in play.

Graber says that Johnnie A. Maier's sidekick Shane Jackson (Stark County Democratic Party political director and Massillon clerk of courts chief deputy clerk of courts) is citing an unspecified Ohio Attorney General's (OAG) opinion in justifying Gonzalez's ruling that participants could not vote by secret ballot at last week's Massillon conclave.

He speculates that the opinion being referred to is this one:

If this is it, one has to pick up on his question:  since when did the central committee of the Stark County Democratic Party become a public body, the equivalent of the State Board of Education?


With Sheriff Swanson being in his corner (Darrow says Swanson has been working hard for him with the central committee members), Darrow, therefore, is no ordinary candidate.  The Report believes that Swanson carries a lot of clout with party regulars.

Darrow has a sparse background in political party involvement.  Normally such is a death knell for anyone who would challenge the likes of Gonzalez and Johnnie A. Maier, Jr.  And the SCPR believes that he does not have the political sophistication and craftiness to match up against the Maiers.

However, it may be that many of the central committee members in their "heart of hearts" do not want to see a politically connected person such as George Maier become Stark's top cop.

The SCPR's sense of Darrow is that he would make an excellent Stark County sheriff precisely because all he wants to be is a top flight cop without any consideration whatsoever to the politics of becoming sheriff.

All that Darrow or any person wants to be sheriff should do in terms of politics is to be savvy enough to connect to the electorate. Otherwise, sheriffs or any law enforcement official needs to be known as being non-political.

Mike McDonald is an outstanding example in the 2012 election of how one can become sheriff without being consumed with politics.

To the SCPR, the political factor is the one that Stark Countians need to be wary of.

If the SCPR is correct in The Report's take on what law applies to the appointment process, the county could end in a real political mess if the Tuesday event goes forward.

Stark County's political movers and shakers and the Ohio secretary of state office need to be cocksure that The Report has it wrong.

For otherwise, Stark County could be returning to the turmoil that plagued the county with allegations on April 1, 2009 that the then-chief deputy treasurer Vince Frustaci had stolen from the Stark County treasury. Ultimately, he pled guilty to having stoen $2.46 million.

The moral of that story as far as the Stark County public is concerned is that public officials are the possessors of the public trust that the officials will diligently protect public assets and ensure that the law of Ohio will be strictly applied to applied to all who wish to become part of Stark County government.

So it could turnout that, perhaps, improper procedures may be in the process of being employed by public officials. And consequenty whomever wins on Tuesday might turn out to be the recipient of a:  flawed victory?

If such turns out to be the case, then sitting county officials who have had anything to do with the flaw will surely face public accountability.

But a telling question remains: will anyone with legal standing have the courage to challenge the efficacy of the process?

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