Wednesday, February 13, 2013



Chairman Tom Bernabei Statement on Perez Matter

Healy Apologies for the Debacle

Bernabei's Post-Meeting Press Conference

Healy Agrees to Offer Michele Fostor Directorship
and She Cites her Qualifications and Background

Michele Foster Discusses Offer to Become Director

Marlboro Chief of Police Ron Devies' Reaction  

It was quite a spectacle in Canton City Council chambers last evening.

Canton mayor William J. Healy, II standing before his former service director and chief-of-staff whom he fired in January, 2009 and seemingly falling on a sword for having botched the hiring of a new Canton-Stark County Crime Lab director.

But was he "really" accepting the blame?

Was he "really" contrite for having allowed his safety director Thomas Ream to orchestrate a lowering of standards of the qualifications in the director's job description (having been in place since 1993) so that Ream could hire his longtime police and, apparently, personal friend Rick Perez?

Perez just retired from being a chief deputy in the  Stark County sheriff's department last month.

His appointment as director beginning on February 4th at an salary of $70,000 plus caused a firestorm of reaction after it was reported later in the week.

Alliance and North Canton governments reacted with concerns with the manner in which Perez was selected and the concomitant lowering of professional standards needed to qualify as crime lab director.

Police Chief Ron Devies of Marlboro took the action of sending a communication to the crime lab withdrawing Marlboro's participation from the unit's testing

A source tells the SCPR that Healy knew about and was in on Ream's massaging of the job description so that he could appoint Perez.

Moreover, on Monday night (right after news broke of Rick Perez's resignation from his appointment as director), Healy justified the change in the job from classified (civil service) to unclassified so that the director was directly accountable to the mayor and therefore subject to his control.  He cited the problems of lack of control with the example of the difficulties between his predecessor Janet Creighton and her tiffs  with former chief of police Dean McKimm (2003 to 2012).

It is a deep irony indeed that Healy would reach back to anything Creighton to justify anything he does.  The SCPR's take on the the relationship between the two is that there is a deep and abiding hatred between them.

Back when Healy was first elected, he told yours truly in some detail about "the mess" that the now Stark County commissioner left city of Canton finances in (LINK to this prior SCPR blog).

And only yesterday, before a commissioners' work session began, Commissioner Creighton vented on Healy and his utter inability to tell the truth.  Healy came up as a discussion point because of the Perez hiring/resignation.

Healy emphatically denies any allegation that he was in on the Ream caper while accepting in the sense of "the buck stops here" the responsibility for Ream's action done without a word being said to the members of the Stark County Council of Government (SCOG) executive committee consisting of nine members including Ream himself.

The members are:
  • Thomas Bernabei (now Stark County commissioner), 
  • Joe Martuccio (Canton law director), 
  • Craig Chessler, Perry Township trustee,
  • Randy Gonzalez, Jackson Township fiscal officer,
  • Karen Alger, North Canton finance director,
  • Marty Chapman, Minerva, Ohio,
  • Thomas Ream, Canton safety director,
  • John Ferrero, Stark County prosecutor,
  • George Maier as Massillon safety director (now Stark Co. sheriff)
The SCPR took video of the entire proceeding and presents the back and forth between Healy and executive committee members and action by the executive committee to select current crime lab employee Michele Foster as interim director replacing Perez.


In this first video SCOG executive committee chairman Tom Bernabei:
  • introduces the topics of:
    • a discussion of the Canton-Stark County crime lab director position,
    • a discussion of SCOG involvement in the hiring of the crime lab director or any other employee,
  • recognizes Mayor Healy as being present and prepared to discuss crime lab employee issues and introduces the current staff of crime lab employees,
  • makes a general statement:
    • that the resignation of Rick Perez as crime lab director as being the starting point of yesterday's SCOG executive committee meeting,
    • that the unilateral Canton action of hiring of Perez (i.e. leaving out the other local government entities that make up SCOG) and the lowering of qualification and educational standards applicable to the director "has damaged the crime lab and SCOG,"
      • in that several Stark County participants were (in the context of Perez serving as director) considering withdrawing from using the lab, and
      • in that the accrediting agency for crime labs has serious concerns about the accreditation of the Canton crime lab,
    • that going back through the last week and even back 18 months, the Healy administration stewardship of the crime lab has:
      • "has negatively affected the public and governmental perception of [the crime lab]," and
      • "has affected its trust and credibility,
    • that the part of the previous qualifications for crime lab director requiring scientific degrees and scientific experience be re-adopoted,
    • that an interim rehire of former director Robert Budgake be considered, 
    • that a national search be a new crime director be launched,
      • that SCOG needs to have the hiring authority for the crime lab director position,
      • that SOOG's bylaws need updating to provide for SCOG's participation in the hiring/firing of any crime-lab employee in light of the facts that:
        • 1/3rd of SCOG's funding comes from Canton,
        • 1/3rd from Stark County, and
        • 1/3rd from Stark County's remaining political subdivisions (i.e. villages, cities and townships of the county), and that
        • SCOG owns 95% of the equipment of the crime lab,
    • that alternatively the crime lab may need to become a function of SCOG, independent of Canton,

The video.

In the second video, Mayor William J. Healy, II of Canton is front and center.  Healy:
  • apologizes "for the actions taking place and how this matter [the Perez hiring] came about,"
  • admits that "the matter was not handled appropriately," and consequently he obtained the resignation of Rick Perez,
  • says that he only learned of the Perez hiring upon reading the paper and was surprised along with the members of SCOG,
  • offers that he agrees with Chairman Bernabei most of the time  and that he agrees that Ream did not appropriately handle the Perez matter,
  • proffers that it is standard operating procedure to review and revise city of Canton job descriptions when an opening occurs,
  • unbelievably says changes in the 1993 crime lab director job description and the 2013 version are not significant; only the application of the description (i.e. the hiring Perez) is significant,
  • signifies that he wants to work with SCOG to make the revisions requested by SCOG,
  • suggests a possible model for SCOG involvement might be that a committee of SCOG put the job out for bid and screen the candidates to two or three to be presented to Canton to the final selection of a director,
  • indicates a willingness that he and SCOG discuss certain items [which he believes to be the retire/rehire issues Canton had with former director Robert Budgake] in executive session, and
  • adamantly takes the position of crime lab director needed/needs to be declassified from civil service so as to make the director accountable to Canton's mayor
The video.

So was Mayor Healy genuinely contrite?

Or, was this just another in a long line of manipulations that the SCPR has identified the mayor as being a political Houdini who is Stark County's most eelish politician and just when his detractors think they have him, he slips away?

Marty Chapman of Minerva (see video below) thinks that Healy's apparent contrition is authentic.

Chairman Bernabei (see video below) seems willing to take the mayor at face value but The Report believes that he implies at least some skepticism.

The SCPR is downright/outright skeptical!

In the post-SCOG meeting press conference Bernabei:
  • indicates that as chairman of the executive committee of SCOG, he wants to go national in search for a permanent crime lab director,
  • says he did talk with Robert Budgake about returning as director on an interim basis,
  • talks about the offer to Michele Foster to be interim director,
  • addresses whether or not SCOG is a viable entity to run the crime lab,
  • invokes Mayor Healy's recognition that the crime lab is mostly a county government and political subdivision servicing unit,
  • reflects on the sincerity of Healy's apology, and
  • reinforces his commitment to maintaining the highest standards for the crime lab
The video.

Bernabei had to gag when Healy said he agreed with Bernabei on most things.  Perhaps on Crime-Lab-Gate in that he is backed into a corner, but certainly not on a historical basis.  After all, Healy did fire Bernabei because he will unwilling to drink in the chairman's wisdom when he served in the mayor's administration.

Commissioner Janet Creighton has to be gagging also when she reads that Healy has invoked her into Crime-Lab-Gate as support for his position that the director's job should be an unclassified job.

In a second executive session in a "it makes your head swim move," the executive committee under the purposeful, take charge leadership of Bernabei brought in current crime lab employee Michele Foster (quality manager) to the session for an interview and gets a consensus agreement (apparently including Healy) that she should be offered the directorship.

For a man that is used to making decisions, it had to be galling to Mayor Healy being dictated to and acquiescing to the leadership of Tom Bernabei.

Here is a video of the offer, Foster's detailing of her career and qualifications and a post SCPR interview of the putative director.

And here is a video of her interview with the SCPR.

One of the executive committee's primary concerns is that Stark County's cities (other than Canton), villages and townships will migrate to the state of Ohio's crime lab (which is available to them "free of charge") in the face of the Perez hiring crisis at the Canton-Stark Crime Lab.

The Report spoke with North Canton administrator Mike Grimes (a former police chief of the city) during the progress of the executive committee meeting and he offered that he felt the tone/quality and obvious progress of the meeting in resolving crime lab issues bode well for North Canton's continued participation

The Report has to believe that Alliance representative Vince Marion went away impressed and undoubtedly will convey same to Alliance safety forces who had expressed dismay at the happenings involving the hiring of Perez.

Only one police chief was present at yesterday's meeting.  Ron Devies of Marlboro was there.  He had actually initiated action to pull Marlboro out of the Canton-Stark County Crime Lab over the Perez hiring.

But with Perez's resignation and the promise of yesterday's meeting, he is back on board with the lab.

Here is Devies with his reaction.

Though laced with heavy, heavy doses of irony, Stark Countians should be impressed with the leadership demonstrated by Stark County Commissioner Tom Bernabei in his role as chairman of the SCOG executive committee in staightening out the Healy administration generated crime lab mess..

The SCPR daresays that he is one of the few Stark County leaders that has the strength of character to stand up to Mayor Healy.

Healy made a horrible mistake in firing Bernabei not only for the sake of and future well being of Canton, but for his own future leadership viability.

If William J. Healy, II would take in the critique of folks like Tom Bernabei and change himself in fundamental ways, he has the potential to be an outstanding leader.

This humiliation could be an opportunity for him to turn a new chapter in his political and government life.

Only if he makes basic changes will the SCPR be willing to think that his apparently Crime-Lab-Gate contrition is authentic.

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