Thursday, March 14, 2013



Sheriff Maier "Unhappy?"About Suggestion that Sometimes Police Pass on Arresting 

Full Footage on Commissioners/Maier/Citizens Interaction on the "Unfilled Jail Beds" Problem

Nobody knew at the time (except for the Repository reporter sitting in the back of the room), but Bruce Nordman and his friends from the Vassar Park Neighborhood Association walked away from Wednesday's regular meeting of the Stark County commissioners with a seeming stunning victory.

Sheriff George T. Maier had made a determination earlier in the day that he is going to immediately expand the Stark County jail by 50 beds from its current 400 or thereabout to 450.  So it seems.

But neither the Nordman followers nor the commissioners (except maybe for Bernabei, and only "sort of") had information at the meeting itself of "the earlier in the day made decision."


A week ago, Nordman et al surprised the commissioners in showing up at the meeting of March 6 (LINK to the SCPR blog on that meeting) and demanding that they do what they could to keep their November, 2011 sales tax passage promise.  

What promise?  

To see to it that the criminal justice system would get restored in full including the full utilization of the county jail at 501 beds.

Commissioner Thomas Bernabei says he did have an inkling that Maier was to the point of going public with a full blown plan.

Over lunch (which occurred over the 1:00 to 1:30 time frame) with Maier on Wednesday, Bernabei tells the SCPR that Maier made a vague reference to working out a plan whereby in tinkering with the numbers he could perhaps come up with additional beds in the more immediate future.

In Wednesday's meeting itself,  Maier claimed that he did not have the personnel to properly oversee additional bed occupancy - as of yesterday.

Mind you, not a word during the meeting of what he had already passed on to The Rep.

Interesting, no?

Moreover, at yesterday's meeting he would not be pinned down by Cantonian Pete DeGiacomo's direct question as to when he projected that all 501 Stark County jail beds would be filled.

Apparently, the massaging of the numbers that came up in the Bernbei/Maier luncheon conversation had to do with making the additional beds available to "trustie" prisoners.

When the SCPR informed Commissioners Bernabei and Creighton last night in a telephone conversation that Maier has provided The Repository with a scoop not only over the Akron Beacon Journal and the Alliance Review but also over the commissioners themselves, it was obvious that both were surprised.

And, of course, the citizens from Vassar Park had to be surprised too when they read the news late yesterday afternoon or last night (of course, well after yesterday's meeting had ended) in an online " staff report" which was posted at 1:59 p.m. on Wednesday, some 29 minutes into the commissioners meeting.

The posting has to mean that the Rep correspondent had to have done so immediately prior to the beginning of the meeting.

What the SCPR thinks Maier may have achieved by this apparent bypassing of the commissioners was:
  1. hurt his own credibility in being forthright with the citizens who engaged him at the commissioners meeting, and
  2. damage (as in collateral damage) the splendid reputation that the commissioners have built up since they (Bernabei and Creighton) took office in November, 2010 and January of 2011, respectively,
  3. endeared himself to the bigs at The Rep so as to get favorable press going forward
The Report is convinced, based on a telephone conversation with her last night, that Commissioner Creighton knew nothing of the plan Maier had unfolded before yesterday's meeting to the newspaper.  And, it is likely that Commissioner Regula was also unaware.

The SCPR has enormous respect for Commissioner Bernabei. However it is hard to understand how he could sit through the meeting without breathing a word of his luncheon conversation with Maier to the Vassar Park folks and, indeed, all assembled at the meeting.

His justification to The Report was that he thought that the plan was merely in the thinking stage.

Here is how the essential language read in The Repository:
Sheriff George T. Maier said he and jail administrator Maj. Brian Arnold made the decision Tuesday to open a 50-bed cell block to house the jail’s trusties, which are inmates with privileges who help clean and maintain the jail.

Maier said he intends to notify the courts of the additional jail space today. Since July, the jail, which has a capacity to hold 501 inmates, has remained at 400 beds.
In the thinking stage?

Hmm?  Where is that swamp land located?

For someone who says that he is committed to transparency, withholding even what he thought was "in the planning stages material" is incomprehensible.

Even something being in the works is matter that the Vassar Park people and likely the many Stark County taxpayers would have wanted to hear during the meeting.

Rightly or wrongly, many Vassar Parks residents equate the unused beds at the county jail as contributing to not getting the criminals off of neighborhood streets.

For George T. Maier to have seemingly worked the commissioners over on this one was very unwise.

The man Maier is currently on a honeymoon of sorts with Stark County officials.

Bernabei, a man who does pass out accolades lightly, is clearly enamored with the new sheriff.

Commissioner Creighton has told The Report that she has been impressed with his plans for improving sheriff department operations if he remains as Stark County sheriff.

Like Commissioner Bernabei, yours truly has very high standards as to who gets high marks and who gets low marks in terms of public office holding but The Report thinks that there are too many unanswered questions about Maier.

In terms of formal credentials (except, of course, those thought by some to be lacking as seemingly required by Ohio law), Maier's are about as impressive as they get for a county sheriff.

But as yours truly told Bernabei last night, being an effective and credible public official is more than achieving certifications, degrees, training, experience and the like.

The Report thinks that temperament for the job is critically important for anyone who wears a law enforcement uniform and carries gun.

For anyone who will look at some of the things that have been said in the past about Maier, to wit:
the so called "honeymoon period" should be just that and let's just wait and see if:
  1. he remains Stark County sheriff (he is under challenge in the Ohio Supreme Court for lacking strict statutory requirements - LINK), and 
  2. whether or not he can keep his composure under job pressure
Bernabei says he thinks that Maier has done admirably well given the pressure of learning a new job, the court challenge to his qualifications and struggling to hire enough deputies to be able to utilize all 501 beds available at the county jail.

To The Report, the apparent embarrassment he has subjected the commissioners to (assuming that the local reporter got her story accurately from Maier) with his statement published in the local newspaper is not a good sign.

As said earlier, such was not exactly an Einstein moment.

Perhaps another sign that he has difficulty handling seemingly outrageous statements by citizens an underlying anger (understandable, though it may be) appears to be present in the following video (note the finger pointing) in which he engages Nordman on a statement made during the meeting that police sometimes give a pass on making arrests when they know that there isn't enough jail bed space to house them, to wit:

Another troublesome sign occurred when he and his sidekick Major Brian Arnold protested that the sheriff's department has "never" since 1986 (and a federal lawsuit) turned away an arrested person because of lack of bed space.


Maybe just a little bit of an overstatement?

Moreover, The Report has had a few rough outings with him likely due to the fact that he hasn't much liked the blogs that yours truly has written about him and his brother and former Stark County Democratic Party chairman Johnnie A. Maier, Jr among others of his Massillon based political friends.

In fact, after he first appeared before the commissioners on Feburary 11th of this year, he collared yours truly and wanted to have a little confrontation about those blogs.

As he soon found out during the encounter, the SCPR does not think a person who wears a uniform, even a sheriff's uniform, is God Almighty.

And The Report can do without the "high privilege" of having press access to him. 

Unless a public official is willing to take the tough questions, they are not worth questioning/interviewing except perhaps for mere information.  Certainly not for investigative/accountability reporting.

However, all too many in the media are too often willing to play "patty cakes" with these supersensitive officials so that they can get copy material for articles.

The SCPR is not one of them.

Isn't just wonderful for Maier to willingly take taxpayer dollars and think he can pick and choose who he will bless with an audience on the implicit condition that they not ire him with embarrassing questions?

In the end, the victor seems to be Stark Countians.

But for the action of Citizen Bruce Nordman and his fellows out of Vassar Park, the SCPR is convinced that Sheriff George Maier would not have found the ability to come up with 50 more occupied beds at the Stark County jail.

For the sake of Stark County which has been through some very tough times with its public officials of late, if Maier remains Stark County sheriff, the SCPR trusts that he proves to be an effective and credible Stark County public official.

The full video of the Stark County commissioners meeting as it pertains to the staffing issue at the Stark County Jail.

See for yourself that nobody utters a word about the 50 beds for "trustie" inmates.

Talk about an elephant being in the room? 

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