Monday, December 16, 2013




While Stark Countians are waiting to learn whether or not George T. Maier will face yet another legal challenge to his right as "a matter of being qualified" by virtue of criteria laid out in Ohio statutory law, there is no need for those who are following the Maier saga to be bored.

No need to be bored?


Back on November 27, the SCPR did a blog on Stark County Thomas Marcelli prevailing on local attorney and civic activist Craig T. Conley to file a lawsuit against Maier to recoup to the Stark County treasury some $120,000 plus in wages, benefits and "unnecessary/unwarranted" (in the opinion of The Report)  expenses while he was - according to the Ohio Supreme Court - a "usurper" sheriff who, in legal effect, was never sheriff of Stark County during the time-span February 12, 2013 through November 6, 2013.

Apparently, Maier has learned his lesson as being taught by Conley.  At least, that is, on making certain expenditures.

Since, being reappointed a second time (and, perhaps, illegally again) by the Stark County Democratic Party Central Committee (SCDP-CC), in a proceeding that the SCPR has tabbed as being "a dog and pony show;" it has been reported in local media that Maier plans on being more circumspect in making expenditures tied to his personal identity as being the sheriff.

It the SCPR's view, Chairman Gonzalez's contrived and orchestrated Wednesday's "rump session" detracts from his credibility as a Stark County governance leader.

The Report does not separate politics from governance in evaluating public officials who serve both in public office and key "unpaid" political party posts.  In "rightly dividing," one always hopes that governing in the public interest trumps the drive for personal political benefits.

While, as previously pointed out by the SCPR, Gonzalez does have some notable governance achievements, to wit:
  • CJIS [Criminal Justice Information System], 
  • 9-1-1 emergency call receiving/dispatch rehab, and
  • being a major force in the recently announced Canton, North Canton, Jackson Township and Plain Township economic development cooperation pact
[N]evertheless, one should look "behind the curtain" and make an assessment when it comes to figures like Gonzalez (including, by way of specific example, a guy like Republican chairman Jeff Matthews and the belief by the SCPR that he has used his role as Stark GOP chairman to personal political advantage) as to which (i.e. governance in the public interest or personal political advantage) predominate.

Wednesday night's Stark Dems' charade was a spectacle to behold.

Others are to be heard describing the Wednesday event as being akin to "a kangaroo court."

Isn't that something in the United States of America?

There is a gem to be found in the intra-party fight between the "pro-George T. Maier forces" and those who supported Lou Darrow.

It is those 65 brave souls who - though it was obvious they were going to lose - stood fast and "fought the good fight" for the "rule of law" over political expedience.

In a special tribute, the SCPR lists those 65.

So that they will not feel slighted, here is a list of the 101 Maier supporters.

It is astounding to the SCPR that such a large number of active Democrats would support a candidate for sheriff who may yet be subject to another challenge as to his qualifications to be sheriff.

Apparently, they have more confidence in Gonzalez, Johnnie A. Maier, Jr et al that they (the precinct committee persons) are not being led down - once again - "the primrose path by the Stark Dems' executive committee's leadership than The Report thinks is merited.

If Gonzalez and his cohorts are proved wrong again, which the SCPR thinks is likely to be the outcome with the Ohio Supreme Court if Tim Swanson has the stomach to do another quo warranto challenge; will the 101 get an apology from the chairman?

Will the 101 then join with the 65 to visit political comeuppance on the chairman?

In the matter of being a contrast to what happened last Wednesday night, Stark Countians should be appreciate the efforts of Craig Conley as he has endeavored over quite a number of years (even pre-dating the arrival of the Stark County Political Report in March, 2008) taking on unpopular causes in advance what his a really big deal to him:  "preserving the rule of law."

His attempt to restore to the public treasury the $120,000 or so that the George T. Maier received/spent, in combo, while illegally (according to the Ohio Supreme Court) in office is laudable.

As was his successful effort to compel Stark County Court of Common Pleas judge Frank Forchione to retrieve $5,000 of taxpayer money (assessed as a fine in the Studer case) he had sent off to his designated charity in Newtown, Massachusetts.

Readers will recall how Conley was rewarded for his "stand up for 'the rule of law'" stance.

For having the audacity of exercising his Constitutional right of "free speech" in labeling Forchione as being a "grandstander" in his Studer/Newtown action, an anonymous and thereby, by definition, a cowardly person (presumably an attorney) filed an ethics complaint against him, which, was found to be unjustified.

As The Report sees it, Conley is again under personal attack for his having the temerity to try to hold Maier accountable for having received/spent public money while not (according to the Ohio Supreme Court, Swanson v. Maier, quo warranto) the legal sheriff of Stark County.

This time the attacker is not a cowardly, "sink into the shadows" type.

Amazingly enough, Conley's ad hominem attacker (prominent attorney Thomas Rosenberg of Roetzel & Andress/Columbus) reveals himself and his "over-the-top," the SCPR thinks, largely personal attack on Conley in his motion to dismiss Marcelli's complaint.

To go back just a bit and summarize, Conley's (for client Tom Marcelli's) complaint, to wit:

Shortly after Conley filed the civil complaint against Maier, local talk show host Ron Ponder invited him to come on his show to talk about the filing.

As a consequence of his having been on Ponder's show on December 3, 2013, Conley tells the SCPR that he was contacted by Ponder afterwards to let him know that one of the attorneys representing Maier (the aforenamed Thomas Rosenberg) in Swanson v. Maier, quo warranto e-mailed Ponder telling him that Conley may have violated the Rules of Professional Conduct (for lawyers) in being on the radio and talking about "a pending case."

A charge that Conley forcefully refutes (see below).

And, folks, that is probably the mildest thing of all that Rosenberg has had to say about Conley.

Getting so personal with Conley might - just might - prove to have been one huge Rosenberg mistake.

The SCPR thinks that Rosenberg is in for "the treat of his life" in having to deal with Conley.

The word is that Conley has gotten out his slingshot and is scouring the legal landscape for "legal nuggets" to hurl Rosenberg's way.

In order to graphically lay out the "knock down and drag out" legal fight that is apparently underway between Conley and Rosenberg, The Report combs through the pleadings.

First of all, let's get introduced to the legal protagonists.

Rosenberg (of the large [13 offices mainly in Ohio and Florida but also as a presence in NYC, Chicago and D.C.], prestigious Roetzel & Andress) has responded to the Marcelli complaint via a motion to dismiss.

So how is it that George T. Maier got hooked up with the hoity-toity Rosenberg?

It has been suggested to The Report that the connection may be Massillon Municipal Court judge Eddie Elum who is said to be a long time acquaintance of Rosenberg's.

A check of biography information indicates that their acquaintance likely goes back to their overlapping stints in the Ohio Attorney General office.

And, of course, it is generally well known in local political circles that Elum is long standing political ally of Massillon clerk of courts Johnnie A. Maier, Jr.

When Elum was charged with ethics violations in 2012, Johnnie was one of those who vouched for Elum ("attesting to his commitment to his community and his devotion to the law") in a letter submitted to the Ohio Supreme Court for its consideration in the ethics case.

So it appears to the SCPR that it is plausible that Rosenberg and George T. Maier found each other through an Eddie Elum connection.

You talk about a David v. Goliath match up, Conley (a sole practitioner) doesn't even have a website.  But he is licensed to practice in Florida.

Just being funny, of course, but maybe they should - by mutual agreement - try this case in Florida during the winter months.  Roetzel & Andress has quite a few offices in Florida.

What a case for relatively new Stark County Court of Common Pleas judge Kristin Farmer to have to handle.

The SCPR thinks that Judge Farmer will acquit herself well.  As The Report has already written, she did "a simply impressive" job in handling North Canton Councilman-at-Large Mark Cerreta case against the Stark County Board of elections.


In his motion to dismiss (filed December 10th), Rosenberg comes out "for the Conley's jugular."

How is this for openers?

In his motion, Rosenberg goes on to outline his rejoinders to Marcelli's complaint, to wit:

First, (underlining added) with respect to a portion of the funds referred to in the Complaint, Plaintiff [SCPR note:  Marcelli acting for Stark County's taxpayers] improperly seeks recover against Maier, because Maier never personally received said funds.

Second, (underlining added) because Maier was, at all relevant times, acting as the de facto Sheriff of Stark County, Plaintiff's Complaint fails as a matter of law,

Third, (underling added) all funds referenced in the Complaint were paid and/or accepted in good faith and under color of law, preventing the relief sought in Plaintiff's Complaint,

Fourth, (underlining added) with respect to Maier's salary, the bond payment, and legal fees, because those services were actually performed and/or the benefit was actually received, it is inquitable to permit the recover Plaintiff seeks, and

Finally, (underlining added)  Plaintiff's prayer for attorneys' fees is without legal support and should be dismissed, even if the Court refuses to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint outright.


To say that Craig T. Conley was ticked off at Rosenberg for sending off the e-mail to Ponder suggesting that Conley may have violated Ohio rules of ethical behavior is to understate big time Conley's reaction.

Rather than file a direct legal response (which certainly is in the offing) to Rosenberg's motion as most attorneys would do first, Conley sat down an penned a powerful legal attack on Rosenberg's right to continue to represent Maier in Marcelli's lawsuit.

The SCPR believes that Rosenberg, for all his impressive lawyering credentials, has never been up against the likes of Craig T. Conley; especially a "pissed off" Craig T. Conley.

Perhaps he should check with a Stark County attorney or two or three  and even a Stark County judge or two to get a sense of what he is about to experience.


In his motion to disqualify Rosenber (filed this past Friday, December 13th), Conley raises the following assertions:
  • That Ohio courts inferior to the Ohio Supreme Court have inherent power to disqualify attorneys for unprofessional conduct,
  • That Thomas Rosenberg has engaged in unprofessional conduct as defined by the Rules of Professional Conduct in that in his "motion to dismiss" (i.e. the supporting memorandum of law on the motion):
    • he (Rosenberg) "knowingly made a false statement" to [Judge Farmer] in his pleading in alleging that Marcelli sought recover funds of George Maier "while he was the duly appointed Sheriff of Stark County," which Conley said is "untrue."
      • Conley cites Swanson v. Maier, quo warranto decided November 6, 2013, to wit:
        • "Maier fails to meet the criteria in R.C. 311.01(B) to be a county sheriff," also pointing out that Rosenberg had to have actual knowledge that Maier was not the duly appointed Sheriff by virtue of the fact that Rosenberg was one of two attorneys from Roetzel & Andress (Columbus) representing Maier in Swanson v. Maier, quo warranto.
    • he (Rosenberg) made ad hominem attacks on Conley in "at least" implying [in the email to Ponder cited above] that Conley had violated Rule 3.6 (Trial Publicity) of the Rules of Professional Conduct in that Conley "had participat[ed] in radio call-in shows and writing letters to the media" and that Rosenberg had "mischaracterized as 'one or more letters to newspapers extolling the claims [Conley] made in the [Marcelli complaint" which Rosenberg statements Conley says are irrelevant inadmissible hearsay statements which "are not true."
      • Note:  
        • Conley admitted he had appeared by invitation on the radio program referred to but he conducted himself in accordance the Rules of Professional Conduct. 
        • Conley admitted he had written "published" letters which appeared in the Alliance Review, the Massillon Independent.
          • That the letters "made no mention, directly or indirectly, to [the Marcelli complaint]
    • That Thomas Rosenberg has a conflict in interest in that he (Rosenberg) has been paid $20,000 in legal fees to represent Maier in Swanson v. Maier, quo warranto and that should Marceill prevail then Maier would have an indemnification claim against Rosenberg which Conley says means that Rosenberg has a pecuniary interest in the outcome of Marcelli v. Maier and therefore - coming full circle - has a conflict in interest in representing Maier in Marcelli v. Maier,
    • That a further conflict in interest may exist by virtue of Rosenberg having lost Swanson v. Maier, quo warranto, which Conley says, might "well" give rise to a malpractice claim accruing to Maier against Rosenberg,
      • Note:  Conley cites rules in the Code of Professional Conduct prohibiting representation of a client when a conflict in interest is present,
    • That Rosenberg in his assertions that Maier was the "duly appointed Sheriff" and "accepted, in good faith, publicly funded salary and benefits [as Sheriff]" goes to the advice and counsel Rosenberg was giving Maier and would therefore be a 'necessary witness' in Marcell v. Maier.
      • Note:  Conley also names Rosenberg's co-counsel Michael Traven and the Roetzel & Andress law firm for disqualification (corrected [at 2:23 p.m. 12/16/2013] from original publication)
      • Note:  Conley cites the Rules of Professional Conduct and case law and prohibiting an attorney from being an advocate and a witness for a client.

Is there any doubt that there are going to be legal fireworks going off between Conley and Rosenberg as Marcelli v. Maier progresses?

Stay tuned folks, it appears that there is much more to come over the longer term as aspirants jockey with one another in short term tactics and strategies on the matter of who will end up in November, 2014 being "elected by the Stark County voters" to serve as the next sheriff.

As that drama unfolds, we will have to content ourselves with taking in the Conley/Rosenberg face-off.

And what a show that promises to be!

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