Monday, November 25, 2013



Apparently, things have not been controversial enough for Stark County Court of Common Pleas judge Frank Forchione over the past eleven (11) months in terms of his being a focal point in local media.

Follow "the chronology of the Forchione publicity run" under the ensuing list of Datelines.

Dateline No. 1.

Late last week, His Honor seemingly injected himself into the fight between the George T. Maier and Tim Swanson/Lou Darrow camps fight as to whom is going to be eligible to be appointed sheriff of Stark County to replace sheriff-elect Mike McDonald who was too ill to take office on January 7, 2013.

Stark Dems botched the original replacement appointment on February 5th in appointing former Massillon safety director George T. Maier.

According to the Ohio Supreme Court in a November 6, 2013 decision (Swanson v. Maier), he was not eligible under the requirements of Ohio statutory law to be appointed despite Maier's "guarantee" (pre-February 5th meeting) that he would be eligible, "if he applied."

Ohio's "court of last resort" has ordered the Dems to do a "do-over" to correct the February 5th mistake.

The Democrats re-do is slated for December 11th.

Dateline No. 2.

In December, 2012; January, 2013, Forchione made a decision in a criminal case (the Studer case) he presided over that a $5,000 fine he exacted of the defendant be paid for the benefit of the victims of the mass shooting of students in December, 2012 at Sandy Hook (located in Newtown, Massachusetts).

Only problem was that, despite the obvious compassionate and charitable impulse that many Stark Countians think motivated Forchione to order what he did; not all Stark citizens were willing to let him be compassionate/charitable with Stark County taxpayer money.

And one of the particularly "important" unwilling ones was local attorney and civic activist Craig T. Conley.

He has a history of discord with Forchione.

In 2011, Conley had filed an Affidavit of Disqualification in a case he had before Judge Forchione.

Conley lost the case, but then Forchione recused himself post-decision.


One must ask, what was that all about, no?

Dateline No. 3

February 1, 2013.

Conley files suit.

Ohio statutory law provides that fine money can ONLY be deposited in the appropriate county's general fund.  Saying that his motivation was that "the rule of law" has to prevail, Conley filed a civil suit against this judge.  The SCPR, for one believes, was instrumental in Forchione asking the Newtown/Sandy Hook charity to return the $5,000 so that he could place it into the Stark County treasury.

For his effort, an anonymous Stark County person (believed to be a Stark County attorney) filed an ethics complaint with Ohio's Disciplinary Counsel against Conley because Conley was reported in local media of saying that in ordering the diversion of Stark County taxpayer money Forchione was grandstanding.

Conley subsequently was exonerated of any ethics violation for his "grandstanding" remark by counsel assigned to make a determination of whether or not Conley had committed a violation of the Ohio's Professional Responsibility Code in place for lawyers.

If Conley was correct in his "grandstanding" assessment, one needs to ask:  why would Forchione want to grandstand?

Well, Conley did not specify.

The only thing that the SCPR can think of is that Forchione is up for election in November, 2014 and like many incumbents may have been thought by Conley of using his official position to enhance his electability.

Dateline No. 4

Later in February (the 28th), Forchione had to be surprised when a former Stark Countian (Louis Demis formerly of Navarre, but now of Columbus) filed a rarely used legal procedure (Affidavit Pursuant to Ohio Revised Code Sections 2935.09/10) in an attempt to get the State of Ohio to prosecute Frank Forchione for "theft-in-office" for having originally diverted the money from the Stark treasury to the Newtown, MA based charity.

Guess who stepped forward to "volunteer" his "pro bono"  (for the public good) legal services to Demis?

Of course, Craig T. Conley.

Conley has a track record of offering his considerable legal skills as a public service free-of-charge to the taxpaying public going back years.

Back in 2009, the SCPR believes that Conley was instrumental in forcing Stark County prosecutor John Ferrero to more sooner that later in recovering (as provided for in Ohio statutory law) monies lost on account of the theft by former Chief Deputy Treasurer Vince Frustaci of upwards of $3 million of Stark County taxpayer dollars.

While the-then treasurer Gary D. Zeigler was not implicated in the Frustaci theft, Ohio statutory law does make a public official - in a civil suit context - "strictly" liable to the public for monies lost without regard to fault in administering his/her office.

Zeigler has always denied that he failed to properly administer the treasurer's office while he was treasurer.

Dateline No. 5

In an April hearing, Conley, arguing the Demis position, failed to convince a visiting judge (retired Barberton Municipal Court judge Michael McNulty) in a proceeding in the Canton Municipal Court, to find probable cause.

But Conley pressed on.

Dateline No. 6.

The Demis appeal to the 5th District Court of Appeals on May 20, 2013.

On November 5th, Conley argued probable cause to the 5th District Court of Appeals (based in Canton).

He argued that the visiting judge erred in not finding probable cause.

A decision is due any day now.

Return to Dateline No. 1

Here we are in the week of November 18 - 22, 2013 and we have Frank Forchione "in the headlines" once again in the Swanson/Darrow - Maier face-off on whom is going to be sheriff come December 11th.

As stated by Judge Forchione in area media reports, his only role is to be ministerial in the determining base-level eligibility (matters that are susceptible of absolute factual determination) factors.

And yet, there are those Stark Countians who think that Forchione is injecting himself in a more substantive way than that into the the sheriff eligibility controversy.

Saying that he is "erring on the side of democracy," (which seems to the Stark County Political Report as being more "political" question rather than a "judicial" question") is apparently Forchione putting himself in the position of determining the field of candidates "anew" for appointment at the December 11th SCDP-CC meeting.

Forchione appears to be substituting his judgment for that of the Supreme Court notwithstanding that the only date of eligibility articulated by the court in its November 6, 2013 opinion is a "qualification date" of February 6, 2013."


Forchione was adventuresome in ordering the Studer fine money be paid for the benefit of the Sandy Hook victims.  He apparently ate "legal" crow in retrieving the money and having it deposited in the Stark treasury in compliance with Conley's law-based demand.

The question is:  Is he going to be eating "legal" crow once again?

The SCPR is hearing that there are Stark Countians who think that Forchione
(a Democrat who has served for years in the Canton Law Department under current director Joe Martuccio and his predecessor and current county commissioner Tom Bernabei)
in opening up the application process for a qualification date beyond February 6th has "in effect," (presumably not an intentional act) taken sides with the likes of Stark County Democratic Party chairman Randy Gonzalez (a zealot Maier supporter, who has announced he will re-apply) and his prominent Democratic legal advisers Allen Schulman, Warren Price, Steven Okey and Michael Thompson.

Commissioner Bernabei is on record of being a big George T. Maier booster.

Undoubtedly, there are "legal eagle" eyes looking at the legal propriety of Forchione's decision to open up the application process in light of the Swanson v. Maier opinion.

The "fresh eyes," if The Report's conjecture is correct, would be in the supplementation of a writ of mandamus filed on November 18th by Swanson and his top lieutenant Louis Darrow (also a candidate to be the Dems appointee) followed by motions for injunctive relief filed this past Friday.

The mandamus and injunctive relief requests are specifically designed to stop Gonzalez led Dems from including Maier in the ordered "re-do" selection process.

Why, pray tell, would Forchione risk being legally wrong again?  Is the re-open another "bit of grandstanding" a la Conley's charge on Studer/Sandy Hook matter? 

The SCPR would not be surprised to see Judge Forchione himself be drawn into the Ohio Supreme Court legal proceeding(s) in light of his decision to re-open the application process.

Dateline No. 7.

Whether or not he is validated on this decision, it is becoming likely that he is making himself a political lightning rod come the November, 2014 elections.

Forchione was first elected in 2008 and with one term under his belt, he would likely - under normal circumstances - be pretty much a shoe-in for re-election.

The Report is told that Forchione's 2013 judicial activism has given birth to an effort to find "a worthy" Republican opponent against him come next year's election.

Conley (a Republican, but not part of the Stark County Republican Party leadership) makes no bones about it.

Forchione is a prime political target for defeat in next year's general election insofar as he is concerned.

Many, many Stark County judicial elections are uncontested.

However, next year, a rare year indeed in Stark, four of the five Stark County Court of Common Pleas, General Division judgeships are on the ballot and two for the first time (Farmer and Werren).   

Werren has already drawn a daunting rival (in terms of the clout and regard she has in the legal community) in Chryssa Hartnett who is a Stark County assistant prosecutor and an assistant chief prosecutor of the criminal division.

The SCPR has written that she deserved to be considered by the Stark County Republican Party/Republican Governor John Kasich for either of the appointments that went to Kristin Farmer or Curtis Werren.

But we all know that the politicos look out for their respective political parties first and the public interest - maybe - second.

Normally, only first time judicial candidates are thought to be vulnerable to being unseated.

But the question is fast becoming, is second time candidate Frank Forchione in his 2013 activism putting himself into the vulnerable category alongside Farmer and Werren?

Historically, it has been unusual for state judicial races (of course, there are no federal judiciary elections; all positions are appointed) to draw the interest of political action groups (PACs) which are putting increasing amounts of money and effort into the election face-offs.

While the Stark judicial elections are unlikely to draw any PAC money, the Forchione, Farmer and Werren races will likely all be contested and the campaigns could become testy.

The testiness is highly unlikely to come from the candidates themselves because the Ohio Supreme Court has strict rules on what candidates can do in the way of the substance/finances of their campaigns. 

It is hard for the SCPR to see how Judge Forchione is enhancing his chances of being reelected next year in view of the notoriety he has achieved with his 2013 judicial activism.

His break from the tradition of how sitting judges comport themselves in terms of generating public notice may be a sign of the times we now live in, which is to say, perhaps:

A New Politics of Judicial Elections
, Stark County style?

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