The Stark County Political Report has been the object of attack by various public officials, public figures (present) and now "apparently" former Stark County treasurer Gary D. Zeigler.
Thusly, Zeigler joins a list of few headliner Stark County government/political figures who have, at one time or another, launched a diatribe on Stark County's (if I must say so myself) most incisive and courageous media outlet.
Stark County prosecutor John Ferrero filed an ethics complaint with the Ohio Supreme Court's Disciplinary Counsel against me early in 2010 because of SCPR blogs on his and his office's handling of complaints made against Marlboro police chief Ron Devies and his son Kyle.
Massillon Municipal Court judge Eddie Elum threatened me with a Disciplinary Counsel complaint for doing blogs on his political fight with former Massillon police chief Robert Williams. It is more than a tad ironic that the Williams matter ended up in an ethics complaint being filed against Elum which resulted in a Supreme Court finding against him.
Massillon Clerk of Courts chief deputy R. Shane Jackson (also, political director of the "organized" Stark County Democratic Party) sent a "nasty gram email" (copied to a number of public officials) to me back in September, 2013 in which he tried to paint a picture of me being insensitive to the memory of November, 2012 Sheriff-elect Mike McDonald.
- NOTE: Quite to the contrary, I have a very high opinion of Mike McDonald and have written glowing of him in various blogs.
I believe that Stark County Republican Party officials sent an emissary to me in order to jawbone me out of posting the Phil Davison video and his "political rant" at the September, 2010 Stark GOP executive committee meeting. The meeting resulted in Alex Zumbar being appointed to be the Republican candidate to replace the-then removed (August, 2010) Stark County treasurer Gary D. Zeigler in the November, 2010 general election.
And there have been a number of other attempts by other Stark County-based public officials/public figures to stifle the Stark County Political Report.
So why would Zeigler join the list?
It seems that he was upset by a blog ( which I call "the political comeuppance blog, " (PC blog) published on January 16th) I did last Thursday (January 17th) which was focused on a political ally and employee of former Stark County auditor Kim Perez.
The Perez ally/former employee had complained to me about Perez successor Alan Harold (as Stark County auditor) deciding to get out of the deputy registrar business.
The Report covered Harold's appearance at the regular weekly meeting of the Stark County commissioners (January 15, 2014) at which Harold explained - in general - why he was getting out of the BMV business.
As the SCPR always does, I followed up with Harold after the commissioners approved his exit as a deputy registrar and zeroed in on him for more detail.
And he provided it.
The SCPR's preliminary conclusion on the county BMV exit was that Harold was amply justified (i.e. Ohio insisted that his wife sign on to be personally liable should there be a loss of money due to malfeasance/misfeasance, et cetera) in exiting notwithstanding the $400,000 to $460,000 in revenues generated over the span of the county's involvement (2006 through 2014).
In 2006 former auditor Perez signed on in his role as county auditor into the business of issuing State of Ohio license plates in Stark County.
A supplement conclusion of The Report in that blog was that the Perez political ally attack was just that and his concern was in reality was a "political" attack on Harold as "comeuppance" for Harold's defeat of Perez in 2010 which resulted in the complainer losing his job in the auditor's office.
The complainer was saying that Harold in getting of the license plate business was throwing away hundreds of thousands of revenue (which amounted to about $50,000 in annual net profit) for no good reason.
But the SCPR's examination of the matter showed the contrary.
In that blog, I provided some background of the nasty, nasty campaign between Harold and Perez including a photo:
- (taken by The Repository and published on October 17, 2010 and which remains on the Internet) of a Harold billboard campaign roadside ad of a "golf outing" which included Perez, an blurred-out (facially) person, Frustaci and Zeigler
- depicting (by a Harold campaign supplied caption) Perez, in his capacity of being Stark County auditor, should have (according to Harold) have been watching treasury office operations more closely so as to prevent or at least minimize the theft by Vince Frustaci
- depicting (by a Harold campaign supplied caption) Frustaci (a chief deputy in the Stark treasury during the 1999 - October 19, 2011 [Frustaci was fired on April 1, 2009] tenure of Gary Zeigler) of what is believed to have been some $2.9 million in Stark County taxpayer funds. (Note: Zeigler has never been implicated in the Frustaci theft) and
- depicting (by a Harold campaign supplied caption) Zeigler as having been fired - "the guy they fired" - (as Stark County treasurer),
- NOTE: The base photo had been on public display in the lobby of the Stark County sheriff's office. Sheriff Tim Swanson was then and possibly remains a personal and political friend of Zeigler who wrote "letters to the editor" in support of Zeigler during various times that Zeigler served as treasurer.
We haven't head much from Zeigler since he retired/resigned from office on October 19, 2011.
But that may be all changed as perhaps indicated by his launching a couple of "nasty gram email" attacks on me in recent days using the blog described above as a pretext to vent on me.
Zeigler's history since the onset of his trouble times at the county treasury has been to blame others for his difficulties.
The one place he seems not to be looking at for one nanosecond is where?
You have it.
A number of Stark Countians think he failed himself (and derivatively Stark County government/taxpayers):
- in his initial hire of Frustaci,
- NOTE: On April 1, 2009, (the date the Frustaci story broke) Zeigler told me that Frustaci was just some guy he knew out on the golf course
- in promoting him over a relatively short time frame to chief deputy treasurer, and,
- in not - in the view of quite a few Stark Countians and the State of Ohio auditor's office - beefing up sufficiently, if at all:
- the security of treasury office facilities,
- treasury procedures,
- treasury practices and
- treasury policy
But it is rather obvious he is not into self-examination.
For some odd reason, he thinks the SCPR is someone he wants try on for size for venting.
Here is the e-mail he fired off to me last Thursday, to wit:
From: Gary Zeigler Thurs., January 16, 2014 at 9:50 AMMy reaction?
Martin... I have seen your article and picture that you have posted on your blog... as an attorney yourself.. you should be aware of the USA copy write [sic] laws. or if you are not familiar with them.. maybe you should take the time to read up on them and you had no permission from me or any one in that photo! to do so. Your article has severely jeopardized a vary large business deal and you will be hearing from my attorneys on that. Haver [sic] a nice day!!
You have got to be kidding!
A copyright law issue?
No way, Jose!
Remember, the included/referenced photo was taken by The Repository and used by me under the copyright "fair use" doctrine and, of course, attributed by the SCPR to The Rep's photographer who took the photo with a cite to the underlying article (by reporter Kelli Young).
So, I shared the e-mail with local attorney and civic activist Craig Conley (whom the SCPR has had occasion to criticize [the repeal of the "imposed" Bosley, Harmon and Vignos [as the-then Stark County commissioners] who volunteered on a "pro bono" (for the public good) basis to respond to Zeigler on my behalf.
The Conley letter:
End of matter?
It appears that almost immediately on receiving Conley's letter that Zeigler was on his computer once again, to wit:
From: Gary Zeigler Fri., January 17, 2014 at 5:24 PMAha!
Martin... Your letter from your attorney does not empress [sic] me .. You better take a close look at your article.. I was not [FIRED] according to the Supreme Courts decision. You make no! comment in your article that I retired and was not fired. That's a problem !!!
The real reason for the "upset" of Gary Zeigler, no?
I was not [FIRED] according to the Supreme Courts [sic] decision.
The "he was fired" attribution belongs to the Alan Harold campaign which formulated the billboard political advertisement; not Martin Olson.
But now that Zeigler brings it up, perhaps, it would be interesting to take a look at his assertion: "I was not [FIRED] according to the Supreme Courts [sic] decision."
This from Zeigler, notwithstanding that the PC blog of last Thursday was about Alan Harold and the BMV issue.
Like a number of Stark County public officials (elected and unelected: e.g. - as pointed out above - Ferrero, Jackson, Elum, Okey, the Stark GOP leadership and others) who obviously do not like the incisive reporting and opinionating of the Stark County Political Report, it appears that Zeigler has been "sitting all over me" waiting for something surface, anything - no matter how ridiculous and minute - to jump on me about.
Although I do not think I have any obligation to do so, when something like Zeigler's e-mail surfaces, I think it over, and, oft times will go and do what I think I have no obligation to do.
And I am quick to provide space to those who take exception to my blogs.
The Stark County general public is well aware that the Ohio Supreme Court (Zeigler v. Zumbar, et al, [quo warranto] 129 Ohio St.3d 240, 2011-Ohio-2939) re-instated Gary Zeigler on June 23, 2011 because the Stark County commissioners (Bosley, Meeks and Ferguson) in replacing him on August 23, 2010.
It is understandable that in Zeigler's mind he wants to think he was not fired and will "grasp at straws" to find justification that satisfies his need to believe what he is determined to believe.
However, there are a number of Stark Countians who think otherwise and who prefer use the "fired" term rather that the "replaced" term.
So the question is whether or not the Ohio Supreme Court's use of the "replaced" terminology rather the word "fired" is "a distinction without a difference?"
Whatever term one wants to use, the reality is that Zeigler vacated his office on the day that Commissioners' "dismissed" him from office and his departure was involuntary.
Readers of the SCPR know that when I get into things, I have a history of being rather thorough.
In light of Zeigler's second e-mail, I went back to the Supreme Court decision itself to see exactly how the court put things in terms of Zeigler being dismissed by the commissioners on August 23, 2010.
To start with: (at paragraph 5 of the decision)
On August 18, 2010, the board of commissioners adopted a resolution to hold a special meeting and hearing on August 23 to “consider the Special Audit Report and the Complaint,” “determine whether GARY D. ZEIGLER, Stark County Treasurer, has failed to make a settlement or to pay over money as prescribed by law,” and “determine whether the Board should remove such Stark County Treasurer pursuant to R.C. 321.38.”
Next: (at paragraph 7 of the decision)
On the date of the special hearing, August 23, the common pleas court declared that “R.C. 321.38 when read in pari materia with R.C. 321.37 [SCPR NOTE: Zeigler having filed a Declaratory Judgement action against the commissioners which was consolidated with a "recoupment" action against Zeigler by Stark County prosecutor John Ferrero] does not violate Article II, Section 38, of the Ohio Constitution,” that the “due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is not applicable to the within action,” and that “[a]ny due process issue under either the United States or Ohio Constitution is resolved by the Board’s resolution of August 18, 2010.” The court denied Zeigler’s motions for injunctive relief. Zeigler appealed from the common pleas court’s order, and the appeal is currently stayed pending the resolution of this quo warranto case. (emphasis added)
Next: (at paragraph 8 of the decision)
On that same day, the board of commissioners conducted an evidentiary hearing at which the board found: “the evidence presented demonstrated that there is no factual question that * * * $2,964,560 * * * came into the county treasury, and that said money is missing, * * * that Treasurer Zeigler failed to make settlement or to pay over money that is prescribed by law,” and that “the evidence showed that the theft from the Stark County Treasury was not an isolated incident, but occurred over a long period of time during Treasurer Zeigler’s tenure.” The board further found that “although Treasurer Zeigler committed no crime or malfeasance, [he] fail[ed] to appear and be heard about procedures he has implemented to restore the public’s confidence that their tax dollars are protected in the future.” At the conclusion of the hearing, the board voted to remove Zeigler immediately from the office of Stark County treasurer pursuant to R.C. 321.38. The board appointed Deputy Treasurer Jaime Allbritain to be acting county treasurer.
Next: (at paragraph 23 of the decision)
Zeigler claims that he is entitled to the writ because the statute that the board of commissioners relied on to remove him from office, R.C. 321.38, is facially unconstitutional because it violates Section 38, Article II of the Ohio Constitution.
Next: (at paragraph 41 of the decision)
In its August 23 decision, the board of commissioners specifically concluded that Zeigler had “committed no crime or malfeasance.”
And "finally:" (at paragraph 42 of the decision)
Based on the foregoing, Zeigler has satisfied the burden to establish that R.C. 321.38 is unconstitutional on its face. It is important to recognize that although Zumbar was elected to the office of treasurer in November 2010, that midterm election occurred only because of Zeigler’s improper removal. Because we hold today that R.C. 321.38 is unconstitutional, the removal of Zeigler violated Section 38, Article II of the Ohio Constitution, and he is entitled to serve the remainder of his elected term, set to expire in September 2013. (emphasis added)
The point of going through the Supreme Court decision is to show that Zeigler in his email has drawn "an inference" that the court said that "he was not fired."
Well, to be charitable to Zeigler, such an interpretation is in the realm of "being in the mind of the beholder."
Again, the Supreme Court's precise way of expressing that Zeigler's exit as Stark County treasurer was that he was "improperly removed.
Others would put a more strident term to the adjective "improper" and that would be the word "fired."
Alan Harold's campaign chose to use the word "fired."
Anyhow, in this blog and in many, many prior SCPR blogs, the import of the Ohio Supreme Court decision has been cited extensively.
So it boils down to Zeigler quibbling over the word used by various interpreters of what happened on August 23, 2011: "removed," or "fired."
Isn't the argument an example of the proverbial "a matter of semantics.
All of which I think supports my surmise that Zeigler is a new example of those who attack me and my blog on spurious, and/or absurd, pre-textual grounds for no other reason than trying to intimidate me and thereby endeavoring to apply "a chilling effect" on the SCPR and concomitantly the Stark County public's access to the county's foremost political/government analysis and reporting on Stark County government and politics.
It is pretty clear to me that he has not been a happy camper about my blogs on his time in office as treasurer with particular emphasis on the time period after April 1, 2009.
The SCPR is "far and away" the most thoroughgoing presentation of Stark County public issues and election contests and the fast evolving and furious controversy over Zeigler's time in office.
Moreover, The Report had written quite a few critical blogs about Zeigler as treasurer and Stark County political figure in the year preceding April 1, 2009. The SCPR began on March 12, 2007.
So the foregoing is the context of the Zeigler attack.
Gary Zeigler, if he cares about Stark Countians (who elected him repeatedly as county treasurer from 2000 through 2008 [once "unopposed], and their access to incisive analysis and reporting, should be apologizing to me for his unwarranted attack.
Of course, he probably was not thinking that I would share with the SCPR reading public the details of his frivolous attack.
But neither did Ferrero, nor Jackson, nor Okey nor the Stark GOP leadership.
I do have the ability to respond to the likes of Zeigler.
I try to set the standard, in terms of transparency (among other democracy enhancing mechanisms), for what I think Stark County officialdom ought to follow.
That is why I bring gratuitous attacks into the light of the public arena.
The Stark County public should know in all its detail when a Gary Zeigler strikes out at "the messenger" (i.e. the media) with a comprehensive discussion as to the context.
And I understand that being the object of attack on what I think is "trumped-up" is part of the price to pay for SCPR's public office holder/public figure scrutiny.
Although I think Zeigler should have resigned after the Frustaci story broke (i.e. when the findings of the Ohio Auditor of State findings that he did not properly manage the facilities, practices and policies of the treasurer's office so has to - hopefully - prevent the Frustaci thefit); he chose not to do so - insisting - that he did not improperly manage his office.
In a way, one has to admire Zeigler's spunk and I even wrote at least one blog to that effect.
However, spunk is not enough.
My impression is that many, many Stark Countians disagree with his self-assessment. And as we all know "public perception" is everything.
And in our democratic republic the taxpaying/voting public is in charge, whether or not Zeigler or anyone else wants to accept that reality.
A feature of the SCPR thorougly enjoyed by many of The Reports' readers is the time and effort I put into videotaping the out-in-the-public-sight of many of the stories I cover.
As if he did not have enough to be concerned about in defending the lawsuit initiated by Prosecutor Ferrero to recover net monies (after bonds and insurance) lost as a consequence of the Frustaci theft, Zeigler decided to focus on denying the SCPR the right to videotape court proceedings.
Isn't that interesting?
The SCPR has been welcomed by every Stark County judge I have asked for permission to videotape (for the public benefit) "as a qualifying media."
I can only guess. But it seems that Zeigler's feeling anti-Stark County Political Report runs so deep with him that he instructed his attorneys to deny me (but really the general Stark County public) the opportunity to videotape his court appearance.
To his credit, Judge Inderlied was having none of it.
I was game in this blog to go into detail about the commissioners August 23, 2010 removal or firing (whichever term one prefers to use) of Zeigler in response to his whining nasty gram email.
The SCPR explored in detail his quibble over the use of one word (fired) for another (removed).
Stark Countians can satisfy themselves (if only Zeigler will permit them a la "Gary, may I") which word they prefer to think of when remembering August 23, 2010 and the comissioners having replaced Gary D. Zeigler as Stark County treasurer.
He can only hope that they also remember that the removal was labeled - improper - because of the lack of the commissioners' failure to implement "due process of law" measures in their process of replacing him.
If only Zeigler - as many Stark Countians think - had paid as much attention to administrative detail when he was treasurer as he is to the nuances of words, maybe we wouldn't be having this discussion today, no?