Thursday, October 31, 2013


UPDATED:  11:30 AM



One of Canton Mayor William J. Healy, II's goals for his entire nearly six years in office has been and continues be to restructure Canton's parks and recreation over a three-year period so as to make it more efficient and responsive to the needs of Cantonians and, I might add, to many outside-of-Canton Stark Countians who use Canton's parks.

There appears to be no organized opposition to the 4 mill levy to be voted upon by Canton voters next Tuesday.  It is designed to raise about $2.9 million per year and, if passed, would free up about $1.2 million for other general fund applications.

Currently, the Canton park system is run by an independent (of the mayor and city administration) by a Board of Commissioners, to wit:

On the Canton Parks "levy committee" website there is a thorough discussion of what park officials plan to do with the $2.9 million if it becomes available.

And, undoubtedly, there are a number of interests both in and out of Canton government who will be pressuring the Healy administration and Canton City Council to use "the new found money," if it materializes for pet projects.

One interest that has already surfaced is one named Group 175 formed by Vassar Park (located in Ward 9 - Councilman Frank Morris, III) residents Bruce Nordman and Bruce Brewer (president of the Vassar Park Neighborhood Association).

Earlier this year, this collection of Cantonians prevailed on Councilman Morris to sponsor an "informal resolution" wherein council goes on record as putting the Healy administration on notice that should the park levy pass, the resulting new infusion of $1.2 into the general fund is to go towards beefing up Canton's safety forces (police and fire) numbers.

The measure passed unanimously.

The goal of Group 175 is to get the police force up to 175 strong (now about 150) and the fire department to 175 strong (now about 140).

Because the mayor is proceeding cautiously (acceding only to step increases of 12 new hires for the police and fire departments; likely over the next year)  and not committing to Group 175's goals within the foreseeable future, Group 175 is taking a "hands off" approach in terms of supporting the levy.

Parks director Derek Gordon has tried to get Group 175's endorsement but has failed to corral it due to Healy's refusal to commit to the 175 with a timetable certain satisfactory to Norman, Brewer, et al.

For a full presentation on the history and the current status of Group 175's ongoing fight with Mayor Healy, the SCPR presents the following videotaped October 30, 2013 interview with Nordman that provides all the details:

To the SCPR, should the park issue fail, in terms of cobbling the available financing together to fund Group 175's goals; it seems that the loss of the $1.2 million would severely damage the prospect that the Healy administration would have the financial wherewithal to get to the 175 policemen and firemen level.

However, The Report suspects that in the mind of the Group 175 folks, there is this plan to seize the day should the parks levy fail and generate a citizen initiative for an income tax increase specifically designated as being for police and fire operations only.

Such a levy (if for a reasonable amount) probably will be relatively easy to pass.

County officials were surprised when in November, 2011 they were able to pass a 0.5% countywide sales tax increase on the promise that the $22 million, more or less, that it generates would be dedicated to spending for "law enforcement purposes 'only.'"

It passed by a surprisingly comfortable margin.

Nordman will not admit to the SCPR that a "for police and fire manpower only" tax issue is in Group 175's future and therefore the group sits on their collective hands on the parks issue.

A dedicated "for police and fire ONLY" levy would be the surest past for Group 175 to ensure that Canton achieves and maintains the 175 police and fire staffing level, no?

Reading between the lines, it seems to the SCPR that Group 175 does not trust Mayor Healy to energetically and with purpose to work with them to find funds (including the $1.2 million) from various sources to get Canton's police and fire to 175 in force each.

While the SCPR above all understands the "lack of trust of Healy," it does appear that his plan for restructuring makes sense and should be supported by Canton voters.

Councilwoman-at-Large Mary Cirelli opposed the plan when the levy issue was up for a council vote because 4 mills, she says, generates too much money.  She would support it at 2 mills or $1.45 million.

Councilman Edmond Mack (Ward 9) also voted "no" because, he says, that the 4 mills is too expensive for what Ward 9 residents will get out of it.

Nearly all city officials (including 11 of the 13 councilpersons) are supporting the parks levy.

Impressive is the list that promoters of the levy have come up with in terms of contributors to the levy campaign, to wit:

In the pre-general report filed on October 24th, the levy committee shows that it has raised some $23,000.

But in the end, the levy's passage or failure could boil down to the "silence" of Group 175.

But have they thought of this possible consequence should the parks levy fail?

Given this is a "pet project" of Mayor Healy and if he is convinced that the failure came at the hands of Groups 175's "silence," won't he prove to be much more resistant to their achieving their goal any time soon?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Between 7th Congressional District congressman Bob Gibbs (Republican - Holmes County) and the 16th's Jim Renacci, they represent about 90% or better of Stark County.

Gibbs is a make "no bones about it" right-wing Republican (if not and out-and-out Tea Party type) who thinks he is safe for reelection (due to gerrymandered redistricting) and therefore is not interested in representing the many thousands (many of whom are citizens of Stark County) who are:
  • traditional conservative Republicans, 
  • one of the few remaining conservative Democrats,
  • middle of the road Republicans and Democrats, or
  • that real rare bird in a county like Stark - a left wing, liberal Democrat.
Renacci, on the other hand, has feigned being a more centrist Republican who "says" he wants to reach out to Democrats in Congress to get the country back on track on a bipartisan basis in order to overcome the lingering and stagnating effects of the 2008 Great Recession on the American, Ohio and local economies.

Leading up to his reelection bid in 2012 (in the "new" 16th which includes north-northwest Stark County), having defeated Democrat John Boccieri (then of Alliance in the "old" 16th which included all of  Stark County); Renacci made much ado about his having formed what he call "the breakfast club" which he ballyhooed  (per editorial writer Steve Hoffman of the Akron Beacon Journal) as being a group of:
... 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats, the group operates outside the glare of television lights, tackling ... tough issues such as weak economic growth and the debt, or, as the congressman puts it, “the real problems that Americans care about.”
Recent reports indicate that Ohio, notwithstanding Governor Kasich's largely "out-of-the-public-view" JobsOhio trumpeted cure for what ails Ohio's economy, is now in a "job-losing" mode.

Recently, it was revealed that Ohio lost 8,200 jobs in August apparently with a large share of them coming in the northeast Ohio corridor which includes the Stark County area.

Moreover, Ohio unemployment has hoovered at 7.3% for some time now.

From, this report:
Appearing on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday [October 27th] with Democratic Kentucky Gov. Beshear, Kasich admitted the Ohio "economy is stalled," ... .
So one must ask Congressman Renacci whether or not the loss of jobs in Ohio and concomitantly in Stark County is "one of the real problems that [Ohioans/Stark Countians/16 District constituents] care about."

Of course we all know that rhetorician/politician Jim Renacci would say:  "absolutely! it is."

But his actions belie his words.

He and his fellow Gibbs (insofar as Stark County representation in Congress is concerned) voted lock-stock-and barrel with the 144 "continue the shut-down-the-government Republicans" in Congress.

From Gibbs, the vote was expected.

But Renacci's vote should have been different in the light of his highly publicized "reaching out,' no?

"The breakfast club" founded by Renacci, as he approached the 2012 election in which he was facing a center-left Democrat (Betty Sutton) from Summit County, apparently motivated in wanting to appear that he understood that even the "new" 16th is composed of  many, many more voters who are not right wing Republicans than who are.

But now that the election has come and gone, he seems to think that his future political threat (had he not voted with the 144) was more from the political right than the political center, left of center and so "the breakfast club" thing has lost it political utility and appeal.

Hence, shouldn't we now think of Renacci as being a political huckster, or, to put it in very "Stark" terms (no pun intended) as a shameful and cruel political con artist?

The consequence?

Renacci with his 144 alignment certainly has lost all credibility with the "let's talk" supposedly bipartisan group of 20, no?

The voters of the 16th should also now view Renacci as "a man of the forked tongue"

So Ohio and Stark County gets no help whatsoever from the federal government on "the real problems" [i.e. job stimulation] that [Ohioans and Stark Countians] do indeed care about.

With his "the breakfast club" thing, hasn't Congressman Renacci perpetuated a cruel political hoax that amounts to nothing less than a shameful political con job?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


As the SCPR sees it, the "hotbed" election night focus will be on the city of Masillon and its city council races in Wards 1, 2, 4 and 6.

At stake?

Perhaps who will control Massillon city government for the next two years.

It is rare indeed to see a Republican Party organization and key Stark County elected Republicans heavily engaged in a municipal election in Stark County as between Alliance, Canton and Massillon.

A sampling of campaign contributions to those Republicans in competitive races in Massillon is quite revealing:

  • Votes for Women * ($1,000),
    • * Votes for Women is a front group for the organized Stark County Republican Party, which like the Stark Dems and its Coalition of Women Voters, dons a political neutral sounding name but only endorses candidates of the Republican Party (Votes for Women) or Democratic Party (Coalition of Women Voters)
(All Republicans)
  • ($2,000) Votes for Women
  • ($40) Ward 5 councilman Donnie Peters
  • ($20) Lee Brunckhart (2011 mayoral candidate
  • ($50) Jane Timken (Stark County GOP official)
  • ($50) Stark Co. Commissioner Richard Regula
  • ($20) Common Pleas judge Kristin Farmer ($20)
  • ($20) Domestic Relations judge Rosemary Hall
  • ($20) Stark Co. Commissioner Janet Creighton
  • ($20) former Stark Commissioner Jane Vignos
  • ($100) Stark Co. Auditor Alan Harold
  • ($25) Mayor Pat Fallot of Louisville
  • ($40) Judge C. Roland Centrone - Massillon Municipa
  • ($40) former Judge Rick Kettler - Massillon Municipal
  • ($50) Judge Sheila Farmer - 5th District COA
(All Republicans, except where noted)
  • ($50) Councilman Steven Tharp, Jr of Brewster
  • ($10) Judge Roland Centrone - Massillon Municipal Ct
  • ($10) Judge Curtis Werren - Stark Ct of Common Pleas (
  • ($40) Judge Rosemary Hall - Domestic Relations Ct
  • ($10)  Megan Starrett, Democrat unopposed Ward 5
  • ($20) state Representative Maryilyn Slaby
There is no discernable Republican presence in Canton and Alliance, but Massillon is quite a different matter.

And for the sake of competitive politics and the benefit that competition brings to the give and take of government, it has been refreshing to see the resurgence of Republican "urban" political engagement in at least one of Stark's three major cities.

It was a huge surprise when the Republicans took control of Massillon's council two years ago.

However, the takeover was not an accident.

The SCPR attributes the switch to the superb efforts of Ward 2 councilwoman Nancy Halter.

She went out and recruited attractive candidates to run in Ward 1:  Sarita Cunningham-Hedderly, (herself in Ward 2), Ed Lewis, IV in Ward 6 and Milan Chovan at-large.

And they all won!

Nobody had to be more shocked that the Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. (former Stark County Democratic Party chairman) and Stark Dems political director Shane Jackson.

Fresh off their victory of May, 2013 in ousting 24-year mayor Francis H. Cicchinelli, Jr. in the Democratic Party primary, they took their eye off the "political" ball and forgot that their Kathy Catazaro-Perry was destined for failure as mayor without majority support in council.

Now they are scrambling to recover.

The Maier and Jackson tandem (in the SCPR's assessment) have candidates loyal to them and "their" mayor in Ward 2 (Dave Irwin), Ward 4 (Shaddrick Stinson) and Ward 6 (Linda Litman).

Stinson seems to be the most likely of the three to make it to council.

The Report is told that Catzaro-Perry herself was out in Republican Jim Triner's stronghold (the area including and surrounding The Legends golf course) to campaign door-to-door for Stinson.

Recently a Stinson campaign representative sat down with Cicchinelli and tried to convince him that as councilperson he would not be a Maier/Jackson captive.

And, apparently, he succeeded.

Cicchinelli declined a request that he put a Stinson sign in his yard, but the impression that The Report gets is that he will personally support him mostly because of his being a Democrat.

Cicchinelli tells the SCPR that he thinks "when all is said and done" Stinson will be his own man on council.

The Report does not agree with Cicchinelli.

Looking at Stinson's pre-general campaign finance report and Catazaro-Perry connected contributions ($150) and believing as host of Maier/Jackson loyalists must be hidden within the "contributions of $25 or less" (which by Ohio election law does not have to be attributed to specific names) and, of course, the mayor "hoofing it" for Stinson, it does not compute that - if elected - Stinson will forget "who brung him to the dance."

At one time, the SCPR thought that Republican Jim Triner might pull off an upset in this "most heavily Democratic Ward" in all of Massillon.

How's that?

Well, by The Report's assessment, it appeared that when the Catazaro/Maier/Jackson triumvirate turned on Quenessa Hampton when she did show them that she was an independent minded councilwoman (all of a sudden, her military status became an issue and she had to withdraw because of the Hatch Act prohibition on military holding "partisan" political office); interesting, no?) and her husband Edward decided to act as her surrogate in taking out petitions to run as a non-partisan that such was "the perfect 'political' storm" whereby a Republican might just win in the 4th.

All reports are that Edward Hampton is doing very little, if anything, in terms of campaign.  That he did not reach the threshold of $1,000 raised in campaign contributions and therefore was not required and did not file a pre-general campaign finance report seems to be validation of the reported campaign inactivity.

All-of-a-sudden, the 4th is now a Republican versus Democrat race in Massillon's most Democratic ward.

In the opinion of the SCPR, council president Tony Townsend who was formerly the elected 4th ward councilman was the least able of all of Massillon councilpersons that the SCPR has observed in the nearly six years of existence of The Report covering Massillon politics.

It appears to The Report that his close political friends Maier and Jackson finagled a way to persuade Republican Al Hennon to drop his race against Townsend for council president by inducing him to join the Catazaro-Perry administration as safety director.

There was no way Townsend was going to win citywide in Massillon had Hennon stayed in the race.

Apparently, he got elected in Ward 4 by being a Democrat in Massillon's most Democratic ward, no?

To sum it up, given the apparent fade of Edward Hampton as a viable factor, it would be a surprise equivalent to, if not exceeding, the 2011 Republican takeover of council if Triner were to win.

And if Triner loses, then the Republican's control of council evaporates.

It could be that Democrats like Paul Manson (at-large) or Michelle Del Rio-Keller might join those Republicans elected next Tuesday and form an bipartisan coalition and organize the 2014/25 council.

The new council, even if pro-Catazaro-Perryites Shaddrick Stinson, Dave Irwin and Linda Litman are elected, will, in the SCPR's analysis, tilt against the mayor on key votes.

So the "balance of political power" of council will not shift towards the Catazaro-Perry administration even if everything falls her way in the council races.

Sure to be elected Democrats Andrea Scassa (Ward 3, who the SCPR sees as being truly independent), Megan Starrett (Ward 5, a "John Ferrero Democrat"), Michelle Del Rio-Keller (at-large; a likely independent minded, if not somewhat "anti-Catazaro-Perry type) and Paul Manson (at-large, who probably has ties to the Cicchinelli forces in Massillon politics) constitute a bloc of councilpersons who will keep the administration "on pins and needles."

Moreover, the SCPR believes that chances are very good that Halter (Irwin) and Lewis (Litman) will survive the Maier/Jackson inspired challenges and will return to council.

One has to wonder whether or not Stark prosecutor is following through with his promise (reported in a prior SCPR blog) to Halter that he would be supporting her reelection bid.

If so, the support is of the "word-of-mouth" variety he is passing on to Ward 2 Democrats because there is nothing in Halter's campaign finance report to indicate monetary support.

As noted above, in the SCPR analysis of Ed Lewis' campaign finances, Ferrero political loyalist Megan Starrett has made a contribution to him which occurred on July 31st - and - he has reciprocated with a contribution to her campaign on August 24th.

Also notable on Starrett is the fact that Frank Cicchinelli contributed to her campaign.

Interesting, no?

Here is a look at the Irwin and Litman "list of contributors" campaign finance reports.  They make it abundantly clear that these folks are linked-at-the-hip to the Maier/Jackson Massillon political machine.

Sarita Cunningham-Hedderly may even survive in Ward 1 in her race against former safety-service director Mike Loudiana (a Cicchinelli man).

While the Massillon races will be among Stark County's most interesting to watch, the results will not change the "political - balance of power - in Massillon.

The city will continue to struggle with its financial problems (currently placed "in fiscal emergency" by the state of Ohio Auditor) which are, in the judgment of the SCPR, a consequence of the political turmoil that has plagued Massillon city council for some years now.

Look for that turmoil to continue no matter what the outcome of next Tuesday's election.

Monday, October 28, 2013


UPDATED:  10/29/2013 AT 10:30 A.M.

As the Stark County Political Report always does, when a reader writes "responsive to the substance of" a given blog and does not resort to personal attacks that has nothing whatsoever to do with the subject matter of the blog, The Report presents - in full - a email-sent to The Report in which he praises the public work of Sheriff George T. Maier and Commissioner Tom Bernabei.

Readers should, however, note that the writer, Ron Devies, Marlboro Township police chief does, it seems to the SCPR,  have reason to have hard feelings towards the Swanson administration of the sheriff's department.

Swanson's chief deputy Rick Perez testified in the trial against Devies and his son Kyle (which resulted in a dismissal "at the end of the prosecutor's case-in-chief;" [talk about a legal slamdunk] by now-retired Court of Common Pleas judge Lee Sinclair) that when he was investigating complaints by two of Marlboro's trustees (Wise and Woof) that "he wore a 'hidden' [of course] wire" in interviewing Devies.

The SCPR has written prolifically as to The Report's opinion that the Marlboro matter was nothing more than a communication problem over computer equipment and software that should never have seen the light of day in terms of leading to a criminal prosecution including, unbelievably to me, fourth degree felonies.

The Report believes and has editorialized repeatedly that the more blameworthy party, for what the SCPR believes was a case of bad judgment, is Stark County prosecutor John Ferrero who made the decision to submit the matter to a Stark County Grand Jury which, predictably (a la the adage:  "a prosecutor worth his salt can get a Grand Jury to indict a ham sandwich) the Grand Jury indicted.

But needless to say, Rick Perez did not endear himself to Stark County law enforcement in his wearing of a wire.

So in that light and context here is the Devies e-mail:

Good Morning Martin,

             Just read your article on the Sheriff and as always, found it to be insightful. I just wanted to let you know, for what it is worth, my relationship with both of these gentleman.

              Next April will mark my 30th anniversary in law enforcement. In all of those preceding years, my agency has never enjoyed a good working relationship with the hierarchy of the Sheriff staff...............until George Maier. Prior to his appointment to the office, I had never even heard of George Maier, I knew his brother, but that was it. I first met him at a Stark County Police Chief's Meeting I hosted after his appointment. 

Martin, this man has in just a few months changed the entire working relationship my department has with the Sheriff. Stark County law enforcement now functions as a team like I have never before seen. 

Swanson always dictated to Stark's law enforcement how it was going to be and if you don't like it ......tough! 
Sheriff Maier works with us, he offers his resources without pushing them or reminding us just who he is, unlike his pompous predecessor. I have found Sheriff Maier's leadership a refreshing change from the old cold war we used to endure in Stark County Law Enforcement.  

As a police chief and a life long Stark Countian, I hope he gets to stay in his position, I have a lot of respect for him.

I share the same accolades for Tom Bernabei and the Commissioners. Prior to this board, I can honestly say I had never voted for an incumbent commissioner. Now I write this as a dyed in the wool life long Republican, but both of these men have made me look beyond party line
In closing, as I said before, this is MY experience with these men and my opinion is again, for what it is worth. 

As always, I enjoy your blog, but felt compelled to share my experience with both men.


 Ron Devies


There may have been others before her, but there is no doubt in the thinking of the Stark County Political Report that with the firing of 13-year Stark County Sheriff legal counsel Vivianne Whalen Duffrin on October 11, "politically appointed" Sheriff George T. Maier has begun a purge of anyone working at the department closely connected to former Sheriff Tim Swanson.

It was interesting how the SCPR learned of the Maier move against Swanson associate Duffrin.

In a report from a normally reliable source that "as the source and I spoke on Thursday" of last week, a meeting was underway involving Maier, Duffrin, Swanson and a commissioner (thought to be Tom Bernabei) wherein Duffrin was dismissed in a heated exchange between those in attendance.

It turns out that the report in terms of the particulars was not correct and was likely the product of someone's (the SCPR source's source) - let's be kind - "overactive imagination."

But the core substance of the report (Duffrin's compelled departure) was correct.

As told to the SCPR by Duffrin herself in a conversation on this Saturday past; on October 11th, "out-of-the-blue," Maier brought Duffrin into his office and told her he was dismissing her from employment.

His explanation to her?

He decided to go in a different direction!

So Duffrin "gathered her belongings" and left without so much as being afforded the opportunity "to say her goodbyes" to the many friends she has at 4500 Atlantic Boulevard that she had cutivated over 13 years at Stark County's version of "the big house."

What does "going in a different direction" mean?

Nobody but George Maier and his political confidants (undoubtedly his brother Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. who is former Stark County Democratic Party chairman and still an officer with the Stark Dems and his tag-along and Stark County Dems political director Shane Jackson) know.

It is apparent to the SCPR that Sheriff George T. Maier has embarked on an elimination of folks he questions the personal political loyalty of.

Duffrin was vulnerable and a big, big target because she is an "unclassified" employee meaning that she can be fired without cause.

And, as the SCPR sees it, she got dismissed because of her ties to Swanson.

She says that she had no indication whatsoever during the eight plus months (February 4th through October 11th) she worked under Maier that anything was amiss in her job performance.

While Maier cannot touch those under employment protection (i.e. union contract and the like) at least in a direct sense, one wonders what kind of pressure he might be bringing (indirectly, of course) on the likes of Lou Darrow to step down.

When the Stark Dems chose a successor to Sheriff-elect Mike McDonald (election of November, 2012), who could not take office due to what turned out to be a final illness, Darrow (supported by the-then sheriff Tim Swanson) vigorously opposed Maier in a hotly contested February, 2013 meeting of the Stark County Democratic Party Central Committee.

It was a big time Stark County political fight when Maier with brother Maier, Jackson and Randy Gonzalez (current Stark County Democratic Party chairman) teamed up to put George over the top narrowly over Darrow.

The closeness of the intra-party fight shows that not everybody in the Stark County Democratic party loves and adores George Maier.

Sheriff Swanson certainly did not.  He filed a lawsuit in Feburary with the Ohio Supreme Court in an effort to block Maier's continuance as sheriff.

Even before the Dems met, Darrow had filed a lawsuit with the high court to block the selection process itself.

The issue?

George Maier's qualification under pertinent Ohio statutory law to serve as sheriff.

But apparently Stark County commissioner Tom Bernabei is enamored with Maier.

I have had a number of discussions with Bernabei about the sheriff and Commissioner Tom falls all over himself with accolades about Sheriff George.

I have had to pinch myself and say:  "Is this the man, I know?"

Is this the same guy who as service director and chief-of-staff for Canton mayor William J. Healy, II (early on in the administration, before Healy had had enough and fired him) would berate the mayor for his foolhardy and ridiculous maneuvering as Canton's chief executive?

To boot, Bernabei is known to be the "watchdog-in-chief" about how Stark's departments of government are being run, including those whose head has their own elective political base.

Bernabei is known to jawbone peers of his with whom he disagrees.

So it is interesting that Bernabei seems somehow able to suspend his critical faculties when it comes to George T. Maier when such is not typical of his style of governing.

Credential-wise, in a de facto sense, (which is to say, perhaps, not meeting the de jure Ohio Revised Code statutory requirements [an issue currently being decided by the Ohio Supreme Court in Swanson's Quo Warranto action against Maier]), it does appear that Maier has impressive experience over many years of policing experience including considerable time with Ohio Highway Patrol rising (in a political context - during Democratic governor Ted Strickland's tenure) to second-in-command and - even - for a matter of a few days in the waning days of Strickland's term to the top position.

My thinking is that experience and credential analysis is not complete enough to evaluate Maier on.

For me, it is critically important that a sheriff (though part of Ohio's election scheme of things) distance himself from politics as much as possible and still be able to get elected.

There is no doubt about it, it is a tough balancing act.

Judges in Ohio have the same problem.

The SCPR thinks that George T. Maier has way too many close connections with "the utterly political" and appears to be "too influenced by them" to strike the aforementioned balance.

Moreover, The Report questions his temperament.

There was a problem in terms of allegations of temperament allegations/issues when he was with the Ohio Highway Patrol and the SCPR has blogged about an incident with former Massillon streets and roads supervisor Michael Stevens (under the Cicchinelli administration; Stevens is also a Lawrence Township trustee) over campaign sign issues.  An occurrence in which there appears to have been an "over-the-top" George T. Maier temper tantrum. 

If Bernabei chooses to ignore Maier's full presentation (i.e. the political and temperament factors in addition to his de facto credentials), then I think, despite my overall well-regarding of Bernabei and his critical faculties; such is an example of this commissioner having a blind spot.

It would be one thing if Bernabei were to say "I have considered these factors and, on balance, I think he is the best that Stark County can come up with as sheriff."

But that is not his tone.

My take is that he thinks the political side and temperament of Maier factors are irrelevant.

A curious bit of thinking for a man who usually demonstrates a healthy skepticism, no?

I acknowledge that George T. Maier "on-the-face-of-it" from a policing experiencing standpoint seems to be a guy that is hard to beat in terms of prima facie qualifications.

Nonetheless, I come down on the side "I think we can do better" unless and until George addresses the political/temperament factors.

Because I am not an adorer of anybody (except for my wife); especially political types, the likes of George Maier will not talk to me.

I consider such to be a compliment.  The SCPR does not shill for anyone. 

Any public official or public figure who comes within the sights of the SCPR camera will get asked "uncomfortable" questions.

Soon the Ohio Supreme Court will make a decision one way or the other on Maier's fate.

One would think that he would proceed with prudence until the high court makes its decision.

The SCPR thinks he has not.

He reportedly has gone out and spent thousands of thousands of taxpayer dollars emblazoning George T. Maier on official property all which would likely be changed if the high court turns him out of office.

Now he has fired the department's chief legal counsel in the middle of contract negotiations with the deputies.

Vivianne Whalen Duffrin tells me that the completed captains, lieutenants, and sergeants contracts are her handiwork as chief negotiator.

These contracts were approved at the October 23rd regular weekly meeting of the Stark County commissioners.

If one listens closely to the following video, Brant Luther and Commissioner Bernabei subtly allude to the fact that Duffrin is no longer a part of the negotiation process.   A point that I missed at the time.

At the conclusion of the meeting, I did ask questions of Commissioner Bernabei (and of sheriff department Human Resources person, namely, Teresa Wilson) as to the final cost/savings of the contracts.


We will not know until the deputies' contract is negotiated because the contracts' costs/savings will be based on "the financial base package" negotiated by the county (i.e. the sheriff's department) on behalf of Stark County taxpayers.

Well, guess who was "up to her eyeballs" in negotiating the deputies' contract until her dismissal on October 11th?

Of course!

Vivianne Whalen Duffrin.

Asked if her summary dismissal and the concomitant disruption will delay the timetable for achieving a contract, Duffrin said she felt that it will.

One the most disconcerting things that has occurred in my examination of what I believe to have been a "political" firing of Duffrin, is the dissembling that I think that Commissioner Bernabei engaged in with me.

My take on his initial response to my question:  "I heard that a meeting took place between you, Maier, Duffrin and Swanson and in the context of some sharp words she got fired" was that no such meeting took place.

The impression I got was that he knew nothing - as we spoke - of Duffrin being on the outside looking in.

As it turns out he did know.

He chose to stop on "the ceremony of the question itself" which is to say "the non-occurrence of the meeting itself."

In a follow-up with him after I had talked with Duffrin, he then tells me "Oh, I knew Duffrin was no longer legal counsel for the sheriff as of October 11th.  I learned about it on my returning from my trip to Italy and I did meet with her afterwards to get the context of her dismissal from her perspective." (paraphrase)

From what he tells me, it seems that she gave him the same account as I got from her in my Saturday last interview.

As readers of the SCPR know, I think Commissioner Bernabei and Creighton have done a terrific job of restoring public confidence in the operations of county government since they were both elected in November, 2010 (Bernabei was reelected in November, 2012).

However, this incident with Bernabei and (as I see it) his getting hyper technical with me is noteworthy to me as to the fullness of his responses to questions in general when he knows he has information "highly" relevant to the line of inquiry.

It is likely that Maier and the commissioners wanted Duffrin's firing to be pass unnoticed.

The question is why?

All of which suggests to me that there is more to this story than the Stark County public is not being told.

And the dismissal of Duffrin occurring in the midst of contract negotiations that will impact all Stark County taxpayer wallets, positive or negative, sounds really odd.

To me, it was a pretty dumb thing on Maier's part to have Duffrin negotiate the captains, lieutenants and sergeants contracts when he had to know that he was about to axe her.

And what about the continuity rupture between the two contracts negotiated to finality and, probably, the most important one (the deputies contract) in terms of setting the standard for determining cost/savings to Stark County taxpayers.

Seems quite reckless to me.

If Maier is not retained in office (the Supreme Court decision is due any day now), where does that leave Stark County in terms of wrapping things up with the deputy sheriff contract and other matters under way in the department?

Bernabei tells me that the commissioners have asked their designated lawyer (David Bridenstine) to begin looking into their role, if any, in selecting a successor should the Supreme Court bounce Maier out of office.

In the light of the abrupt departure of Duffrin at a critical time and seemingly on a political basis, shouldn't Stark Countians be shaken in their confidence that Stark County officials (the sheriff and the commissioners [in their oversight function]) are operating in the best interest of Stark Countians?

While I retain a regard for Commissioner Bernabei, the Duffrin matter shows the that he will game you if it suits his purpose.

Such is shades of another Stark County politician that Commissioner Bernabei really, really does not like.

Friday, October 25, 2013



UPDATED:  09:45 AM

On October 22nd, the United States of America filed a "superseding" indictment against Stark County businessman Benjamin Suarez, his company Suarez Corporation Industries, Inc. and a company official alleging violations of federal election laws.

The original indictment, filed on about September 25, 2013 did not name the company.  The SCPR has already dealt with that original filing.

The point of this blog is not to rehash the many media reports on the indictments but to pick up on the point of Stark Countian (Jackson Township) Edwin DaVila as to whether or not the seemingly disparate treatment between how the feds are treating Suarez and the executives of another area company; namely, the Diebold Corporation.

DaVila is an interesting story in and of himself.

He has a history of being a fighter extraordinaire for whatever cause he decides to take on.

Out there on the Internet, there are a number of stories which show some of his storied history.

It appears that as a consequence of some legal difficulties he experienced, he resigned his right to practice law with the Ohio Supreme Court.

In recent years, it seems that he has resumed his activism but this time in commenting on various stories that show up in the headlines of area publications, and, he is known to contribute to the political campaigns of various Stark County political and governmental figures seeking election or reelection.

A comment (of DaVila) of particular note appeared in the comments section of a Repository piece (New federal indictment names Suarez business SCI, Shane Hoover, October 23rd).

The SCPR for one thinks DaVila raises an interesting point.

A point, more or less, raised by The Report some three years ago when it appeared to me that the Stark County prosecutor's office dealt unfairly with Marlboro police chief Ron Devies and his son Kyle when Prosecutor John Ferrero obtained felony indictments for what seemed to me to have been on matters that consituted a misunderstanding between the Devies' and the-then set of Marlboro Township trustees.

Due to the efforts of able criminal defense attorneys Jeff Jakimedes and Richard Reinbold (a former Stark County Court of Common Pleas judge) and the judicially schooled and disciplined mind of Judge V. Lee Sinclair (Stark County Court of Common Pleas; now retired) the Devies father and son were done justice in Sinclair's sustaining the defense attorneys' motion to dismiss.

In prior blogs, I have written thusly of Ferrero and Sinclair:

That he [Ferrero] exercised poor judgment in carrying the case to prosecution was validated in the opinion of the SCPR when Judge Lee Sinclair sustained defense counsel's (Jakmides and Reinbold) motion to dismiss.  This folks is about a close as one can get to a legal slam dunk. 

But let me hasten to add that the SCPR's cite to the Devies case is not to equate it to the Suarez matter.

Of course Suarez is quite capable of defending himself both in terms of his financial resources (without blinking an eye) and his ability to get his side of the story out there in the media.

It is however one thing to be contending with the Stark County prosecutor and quite another in having to up against the federal government.

But it does not hurt to have a tenacious Ed DaVila in your corner either in the sense of raising "fairness questions" in light the Diebold result.

Thursday, October 24, 2013




They are both Democrats and they both serve in Canton city government.

But that is about all the commonality that Ward 9 councilman Frank Morris and Mayor William J. Healy, II have with one another when one gets beyond the superficialities (see photo above).

Healy is a cosmopolitan, suave, politically sophisticated, debonaire, polished, highly educated (MBA from NYU School of Business) and calculating politician who lives out on 55th Street.

Morris is a "down-home," "speak from the heart," "rough and tumble," "in-your-face," union member guy who works with his hands to earn a living and lives in the heart of Canton.

On September 25th, Councilman Morris (one of a group [the dean?] of enterprising "young" councilmen the SCPR has dubbed as being "the four young turks") had Healy come to one his regularly scheduled "monthly" meetings within Ward 9 that Morris holds.

Back on May 21st; Healy, Morris and several Ward 9 residents got into fuss over the safety of Canton's neighborhoods and the failure of the administration to effectively provide for the safety of Cantonians.

Out out that exchange, Healy was invited to a future Ward 9 meeting.  The meeting materialized on September 25th.

The SCPR's introductory blog and accompanying video was published on September 30th.

As can be seen in the first video (more to come in future editions of the SCPR), Healy refers to a series of meetings he is holding with Morris among others on working out a plan to improve safety in Canton.

And Morris himself says that he feels they are productive meetings.

But the question becomes:  how productive?

While Morris and Healy seem to put a "politically correct Happy Face" on the ongoing discussion regarding Ward 9 and all of Canton safety issues (see the introductory Ward 9 video); The Report does not think the relationship is in reality all that cozy.

A glimpse into continuing dissatisfaction with improvement in Canton's safety profile surfaced at Monday night's council meeting in the form of an Morris initiated informal resolution (# 48), to wit:

The resolution passed on a voice vote but with Ward 2 councilman Thomas West not voting (see West video below).  West, Smith, Griffin, Dougherty, Cole and Babcock are usually reliable pro-Healy votes on council.  And West may be the "unofficial" spokesman for the mayor's position on any given legislation that comes before council.

The noteworthy thing about the resolution is that it was co-sponsored by seven councilpersons in addition to Morris.
  • Jimmy Babcock (at-large),
  • Mary Cirelli (at-large),
  • Greg Hawk (Ward 1),
  • Jim Griffin (Ward 3),
  • Kevin Fisher (Ward 5),
  • John Mariol (Ward 7),
  • Edmond Mack (Ward 8), and, of course,
  • Frank Morris (Ward 9)


Mayor Healy seems unalterably opposed to the ordinance - witness The Repository's Matt Rink follow- up with Healy.

The gist of the Rink/Healy exchange is that the passage of the resolution on the votes of 11 of 12 councilpersons left him unmoved.

He says that his administration will not be adding a fire captain.

The political significance of the passed resolution (given the number of sponsors it had, and the nearly unanimous vote in its favor) is that Mayor Healy is fast losing his clout on council.

Even his friends (e.g. Babcock and Griffin [on the sponsorship thing;  Cole, Dougherty and Smith [on the vote] are leaving him.


Are they looking down the road and seeing that come January 1st that the political tide will have turned on the mayor insofar as the vote on key council votes are concerned?

The SCPR believes that come the organization meeting of the 2014/15 council, Mayor Healy may have to deal with Frank Morris more than he wants to.

Earlier this year (January 14, 2013) there was an incident in which Morris challenged the mayor on an issue.

The mayor's response?  

"This matter needed to be discussed on the eighth floor (where the mayor's suite of offices are located) before it is brought up on the floor of council." (paraphrase)

No surprise here to the SCPR.

Just one more manifestation of Healy's track record of trying to shut down that which he does not want to hear.

One would think he would be getting used to such.  More and more (with the election of "the four young turks), the mayor is being compelled to abide that which he does not wish to entertain.

Matters will only be worse for him with the new make up of council come January 1, 2014.

The Report hears persistent reports that there is very little likelihood that current council majority leader David Dougherty will be able to retain his post as leader and that Morris is a possible successor.

He will have to deal with longstanding nemesis Bill Smuckler's return.  And the Healy-obstinate Greg Hawk likely will be replacing Joe Cole as finance committee chair. And to cap things off, he likely will have to deal with being on the losing side of a 7 to 5 vote on issues which the "new" majority on council deem to be important enough for them to stand united against the mayor.

The overall significance of import of "the tide turning against Healy" is whether or not the changed picture of Canton City Council (all Democrats) vis-a-vis the mayor will ultimately prove to be the undoing of the political future of Healy.

As the SCPR has written numerous times, the mayor seems to wear teflon and to be a virtuoso magician-esque performer a la the famous Houdini in escaping from one scrape after another.

But out of the new mix of council, the SCPR believes, could come a rising political star that might prove to accomplish what nothing else could achieve in terms of the political demise of William J. Healy, II.

The 2014/2015 version of Canton City Council could prove to be the most political spellbinding happening that Canton has seen in "many of a moon," no?