Tuesday, January 14, 2014


UPDATED:  08:15 AM



While some if not a good part of Canton City Council may have breathed a "sigh of relief" when former Republican councilman Richard Hart was elected councilman-at-large on November 5, 2013; it could turn out to be a disaster for the Hall of Fame City in terms of having a functioning city council, the SCPR thinks.

Everybody assumed that Democrat Roland K. Burns, III would be elected.  But he wasn't and the likely reason The Report thinks is the last minute buzzsaw that Burns ran into days before the election in the publication of a series of articles in the local mainstream media detailing complaints that city of Canton officials had with regard to the maintenance and upkeep of a number of properties his company is owner of in the city.

Had Burns been elected, as expected, he - believed to allied, more or less, with the six councilpersons who were in favor of Frank Morris (D-Ward 5) being the replacement vice president and hence majority leader for David Dougherty (D-Ward 7) likely would have voted for Frank Morris thereby providing 7 votes for Morris and making him the undisputed choice of a majority of council.

Dougherty, the SCPR believes, fell out of favor with the six because of his acerbic manner in dealing with his fellow councilmembers during the last term of council.

Had Dougherty maintained "passable" relations with a majority of council, Frank Morris is unlikely to have emerged as a challenger.

Anyhow, enter Richard Hart.

Nobody knows nor are they ever likely to know the "real" reason Hart decided to abstain last Thursday night from the vote to elect a vice president (majority leader) of Canton's council.

Had he voted for West as it is thought was his original intention, then there would have been a six to six tie.  In his situation, there is a division of thinking as to whether or not council president Allen Schulman could break a tie.  If he can, then Morris wins and council moves on his having attained 7 of 13 votes.

If Schulman is not entitled to break the tie (Councilman Thomas West's position), then a gridlock develops and only "wheelin and dealin" over who knows what period of time will be need to break the deadlock.

Such situation would be like the one that is currently in place (perhaps, worse) in that there are not 7 votes for Morris, which causes Canton law director concerns as to whether or not council decisions made with the participation of a questionable vice president (majority leader) would be challengeable.

Martuccio is worried that a person or entity affected by legislation passed in the foregoing context might result in the challenged ordinance (or even all such ordinance) be successfully challenged as never having had any validity because of the context of the legislation being passed.

Witness this debate last night among council members as to whether or not it was legal for apparent Majority Leader Morris to have what he was calling a committee meeting on rules changes.

(Note:  As shown on the video, Clerk of Council Cynthia Timberlake indicated to council members and placed on the agenda for last night's meeting [done on Saturday] at Law Director Martuccio's direction that the meeting which, in fact, was held had been canceled)

Some think that somehow Mayor Healy got to Hart and persuaded him that it would be good idea to throw "a monkey wrench" into the organization of council by voting to abstain in the vote for council leadership thereby throwing the whole process into turmoil and possibly to litigation.

Why would Healy want to get involved?

The thinking is that if he does not have a majority on council on "key" issues to him like he pretty much had enjoyed in his first term and so far in his second term, then the more division on council the better.  For if he finds a need to veto legislation, then - with a deeply divided council - it is unlikely that a veto would be overridden.

If litigation ultimately becomes the tack taken in the contest between Councilman Tom West (D-4) and Frank Morris (D-9), it risks a similar fate to that experienced in the contest between interim Stark County sheriff Tim Swanson and the Stark County Democratic Party Central Committee selected (Febuary 5, 2013) George T. Maier as its appointee to succeed Sheriff-elect Mike McDonald when he could not take office due to what turned out to be a terminal illness.

The Supreme Court ousted Maier from office on November 6, 2013 saying that he was not qualified under Ohio statutory law to be appointed.

All of which is to say - in the view of many - that the Democrats have put Stark County into a state of  uncertainty and thereby seem to put themselves in negative stead with Stark County voters.

So in an analogous sort of way the question becomes, would some court declare that Morris does not properly hold office?

As far as Democrats jeopardizing their hold on Canton government, such is not a likelihood given their 9 to 1 registration majority.  However,  Cantonians certainly have to have a negative view of what is going on and the chaotic proceedings have to affect their confidence in Canton City Council governance.

The reason for Hart's abstaining is now unimportant.   For the fact of the matter, it appears that a consequence of his having done so has put council in a state of gridlock.

Perhaps, Canton council's fight might be worse the gridlock in Washington.

Worse than?

It could be.  Because Canton is a fight among 11 Democrats presumably with similar political points of view and objectives whereas Washington is about a fight between Republicans and Democrats and their varying viewpoints and objectives.

The addition of the "independent" Hart allowing himself to be put in the position of mucking things up by injecting himself in what is really a fight among Democrats makes no sense at all.

As the SCPR sees it, Hart's injecting himself into the intra-Democratic-Party-fight makes him the key factor in prospect that an "in the courts" fight may materialize among the two factions of Democrats that are now squared off against one another over the majority leader selection process.

Last evening, Canton City Council met to have "a committee meeting" (some preferred to have it called a "work session," to determine whether or not to change council rules for the 2014-15 term of office.

As seen in the first video in this blog, almost "right-off-the-bat," majority leader challenger Councilman Thomas West "challenged" the apparent majority leader Frank Morris.

In the same video, Law Director Joe Martuccio put it best:  "the tension among council members [assembled for the 5:30 p.m. meeting] is palpable," he said.

Martuccio, after the conclusion of the meeting, explained to the SCPR exactly what his concerns are, what he might do, and the timetable for his acting.

As Martuccio said, the tension last night was obvious.

What's more is that the unease permeated the regular council meeting which convened at 7:30 p.m.

In the following video, Councilman West in the "miscellaneous business" portion of the regular meeting, is seen opening up the festering sore of his dissatisfaction of Thursday's meeting with his request that one of the six voting for Morris (or the abstaining member Hart) as nominated by council rules move for reconsideration of Thursday's decision.

(Note:  No one responded to West's request.  Accordingly, the opportunity - again, by the rules of council - is lost.  Also, Law Director Martuccio and council president Allen Schulman are seen weighing in on West's request)

Interestingly enough, he could not get the one vote he needed for a reconsideration of Thursday night's council action of selecting Morris by a 6 to 5 vote with Hart abstaining.

After the meeting, West went into greater detail with SCPR as to what his thinking is on the entire majority leader selection process is.

One would have thought that Hart would have "at least" provided West with the motion he needed.  And there is no doubt that West ally Chris Smith (elected by a 12 - 0 vote on Thursday to become Canton's first African-American "female" leadership person) would have seconded the motion.

But no! Hart could not bring himself to do it.

The Report is told that the six who voted for Morris will change a single vote only "when Hell freezes over."

It appears to the SCPR that a thorough going discussion of the process might satisfy West and Canton may thereby be able to "move on" as West keeps saying he wants to do.

But, while West says that it's the process that is his hang up, one has to wonder whether or not his cure has any gain whatsoever of getting Canton council meeting again.

For if the council members were to accede to West and "reconsider" their vote, then they are left with political wrangling like occurred in the history of American political party conventions in which scores if not more than 100 votes (see "History" at this LINK) had to be taken in order for the delegates to settle on a nominee.

What a spectacle that would be, no?

A really "credibility building" exercise (sarcasm), Council West!

So that is why the SCPR is skeptical that West wants to move on.

It could be that Law Director Martuccio will make a decision that he is firm on his Thursday night opinion that for a majority leader (vice president of council) to be elected, it takes 7 votes of the 12 to do so.

Absent those 7 votes, he says, he may require that each and every piece of legislation to be signed off on by at least 7 affirmative voting members.

He has not made a final determination, but that is where the SCPR thinks he is heading.

And if that's where he ends up, it is hard to see how this whole mess does not end up in the courts and ultimately, if not to start, in the Ohio Supreme Court.

Isn't that great.
  • Stark County was in the Ohio Supreme Court (2011) over what turned out to be the-then Stark County treasurer Gary Zeigler's illegal removal from by Stark County commissioners over the commissioners (Bosely, Meeks and Ferguson) [interesting enough, all Democrats]),
  • Of course, the ongoing Swanson v. Maier saga currently under way, and
  • now, West versus Fisher, Hawk, Mack, Mariol, Morris, Smuckler and Schulman?
No wonder Americans are disgusted with the politicians in government at all levels.

Several Cantonians took to the lectern in the Public Speaks portion of last night's council meeting (Bruce Nordman, Stephanie Sweeney, Leon Cote and Peter DeGiacomo) and had their say.

Organized Republicans and Democrats are really doing splendidly these days from Washington, D.C. all the way down to Canton, Ohio, no?

And meanwhile the peoples' business is not getting done.

There is no doubt to the SCPR that Councilman West is dug in and that he feels besieged by his fellow Democrats on council and the result seems likely to be that nothing gets done in Canton City Council while the intra-party fight goes on.

Swell, really swell!!!

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