Wednesday, January 22, 2014




On Thursday, January 16th, Maier appeared before the Stark County commissioners to present the sheriff's department 2014 budget.

As the SCPR has written in prior blogs on the budget hearings, the big "bone of contention" on the part of the commissioners in these hearing is the "trend" among many Stark County department heads is the "excessive" pay raises being handed out by many of them in contravention of the commissioners' position that they will only fund raises at a 2% for 2014 level.

In 2013, the commissioners also funded at the 2% level, but were ignored.

This year they are "getting in the face" of certain officials over the 2% issue and other issues.

But George T. Maier is not one of them.

Because most of the sheriff department employees are covered by union contracts which by their terms specify raises and what are called "step-increases," Maier has no control over what annual increases for what was negotiated by interim sheriff Tim Swanson, he is to be held accountable for the results of negotiations currently under way.

There are about 12 non-union employees under Maier's control which, of course, the commissioners' ought to be paying attention to in terms of their increases.

However, Commissioners Bernabei, Creighton and Regula appear to the SCPR to be in a "love-in" mode with Maier and seem to be in no mood to scrutinize much of anything he does these days.

One has to wonder why at the budget hearing the commissioners did not pursue Maier on a number of questions.

For example:
  • In light of the SCPR's documented report that before he was ousted, Maier was planning on hiring Warren Price (former Canton/Healy administration official) either as the direct or contract employee as an attorney/human resources person:
    • Whether or not he still has plans to hire Price?
      • NOTE: The SCPR has asked Maier, but he refuses to respond.
  • In light of rampant reports that in the wake of the Randy Gonzalez' retirement as chief deputy of the Canton Municipal Court (being replaced by his son Kody) being hired as the sheriff's fiscal officer:
    • Whether or not there is any truth to "about to hire Gonzalez" reports?
      • NOTE:  The SCPR has asked Maier and Gonzalez, but they refuse to respond.
  • In light of Maier's summary dismissal of  human resources employee Vivianne Whalen Duffrin (October 11, 2013) in the middle of deputies' contract negotiations:
    • Why?
    • Whether or not $15,000 for Kruliak, Wilkens was justified in light of his dismissal of Duffrin?
  • In light of Maier saying that he was figuring (as a consequence of current negotiations) on a 3% increase this year (5% demanded) for deputies; a violation of the commissioners' 2% max rule:
    • Why didn't they press him as to why isn't he making the commissioners' 2% standard his bottom line in negotiations?
Nada! (Spanish for "Nothing) from the commissioners.

It is truly interesting how uncritical these commissioners can be with some Stark County public officials.

George Maier does have a suave way about him.  Beyond his polished style, he does have historically impressive credentials as a law enforcement.

But "give me a break," beyond criticism?

Both Bernabei and Creighton (the "we've been around the block political veterans," they are")  have demonstrated that they can "get into the face" of certain public officials, demonstrate in their interaction with Maier that they are quite capable of giving others a pass.

Creighton has often been heard on the current round of budget hearings to assure those being roundly criticized:  "we are not singling you out."


Consistency - commissioners - consistency!

That is what the Stark County public expects, no?

In the past, the SCPR has been a big fan of Bernabei and Creighton for the greatly improved accessibility, accountability, transparency, openness, communicability and even-handedness that they have ushered in at the commissioners' office with their taking office (Bernabei, November, 2010;  Creighton January, 2011).

But The Report's positive take is taking a hit in light of the - obvious to the SCPR -  disparate treatment of department heads coming before them in the budget hearings currently taking place.

Some agree that there is a difference but that it is attributable to how  particular officials (e.g. Zumbar, Murthy, Ickes) approach the hearing; not who the official is.

There is no doubt with The Report that the commissioners' perceived "how" is a factor, but so is the "who."

A few officials (e.g. John Runion of the records department) merit the "kids' gloves" treatment given his obvious high quality stewardship of public monies.

However, Maier is not one of them.

In addition to the Price, Gonzalez, and Duffrin (deputies negotiations) questions, there is the whole matter of his, after nearly a year on the job, of Maier not getting the jail/patrol levels up so that the entire 501 beds at the jail are occupied as Bernabei and Creighton promised the Stark County public way back in 2011 during the 0.5% Justice System Sales Tax (JSST) campaign.

A question that should have been asked is what assurances could Maier give the Stark County public that his promise (in last Thursday's presentation) that the jail would be properly staffed by May, 2014 will hold.

Maier was allowed to make the statement without any commissioner pressing him on the certainty of the date.  He has made similar seeming commitments which have not been kept.  Wouldn't one just be a tad skeptical on the setting of new dates?

Moreover, The Report has input to the effect there may be problems looming on the Stark County jail certification credentials.  Undoubtedly, the commissioners have had to heard about these questions, so why no public questioning of Maier?

And, of course, there was the thing when Maier showed up at a perfunctory commissioners meeting (on sheriff department matters) on December 30th with three of his employees and it was obvious that if anyone needed to be present, it should have been only Maier.   Even his need to be at the meeting is open to question.

It was gratifying that he showed up with merely one employee at last Wednesday's (January 16th) sheriff department budget hearing.

Maybe Maier is learning a little public accountability due to the work o the SCPR?  Do you think, just maybe?

The commissioners like to paint Maier as being "the best thing since sliced bread was invented" in comparing him to the Swanson administration.

And many agree that he is an improvement, but hardly above critical examination.

Bernabei is quite capable of putting other public officials "on the spot" on such such things as Maier's obvious "over doing it" in showing up with three employees who added nothing to the conversation), but seemingly not him.  The December thing was "ripe for the picking," but Bernabei inexplicably demurred.  Hmm?

Consistency in administration is what the Stark County public expects of the commissioners and ought to have.

Here is a video of the entire Maier budget presentation.

The first part of the presentation.

Second, the remainder.

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