The Stark County Report is hearing that on Monday of this week, when Stark County Democratic Party Central Committee (SCDP-CC) sheriff appointee GEORGE T. MAIER returned to 4500 Atlantic Boulevard (after having spent Friday battling a "protest" to his candidacy for Stark County sheriff), he was seen and heard to be "rallying the troops" to his cause.
It must have been an surreal scene.
For it is hard to imagine being through all that Maier has been through since launching his drive (January, 2013) to become Stark County's next "permanent" (more or less) sheriff, that it would be him who is picking up the spirits of his supporters rather than the other way around.
Let's walk through the chronology of Maier's quest to become sheriff.
EARLY JANUARY, 2013
As we all sadly recall, long time Stark County deputy sheriff Mike McDonald (chief deputy sheriff of the Jail Division of the Stark County at the time) became ill during his campaign to replace the retiring Tim Swanson effective January 7, 2013.
Though elected in November, 2012, he was unable to take office on the 7th due to the illness which resulted in his death on February 22, 2013.
It fell to the SCDP-CC to appoint a McDonald successor under the statutory law of Ohio.
The aspirants to the appointment were long time Stark County deputy sheriff Lt. Louis Darrow (a Democrat), fellow Democrat Maier (who spent most of his policing career in the Ohio State Highway Patrol) and Republican Larry Dordea who made his mark as a first rate policeman as nine year chief of the Alliance Police Department.
From the beginning, some questioned whether or not Maier was qualified to be Stark County sheriff because, of late in his career path, he was not "a cop on the beat," but rather a top level administrator with the Ohio Department of Public Safety (Columbus) and the city Massillon safety and service department.
Consequently, he was pounced on by local media with questions about his eligibility under the standards of Ohio Revised Code Section (ORC) 311.01 to become sheriff.
Blessed with a certitude that few people have, Maier made a very strong statement indeed on the issue of his eligibility.
However, the SCPR believes in his "heart of hearts" he knew well before February 5, 2013 (the date Democrats selected to me to choose McDonald's successor) that getting qualified to be sheriff was going to be a much more difficult undertaking than his bravado statement indicated.
In early January, his emissary and probably Stark County's most enthusiastic George T. Maier for Stark County sheriff (outside of his brother and executive vice chairman of the Stark Dems, Johnnie A. Maier, Jr - JAM) Stark Democratic Party chaiman Randy Gonzalez convened a meeting with Stark County commissioner Thomas Bernabei and Sheriff Swanson to devise ways and means to shore up George's "questionable from the beginning" credentials under ORC 311.01 to be sheriff.
Gonzalez naively believed that Swanson would help out.
But the retiring sheriff had plans of his own.
And they were not focused on Maier.
BACKGROUND TO SWANSON RESISTANCE TO MAIER
Swanson, when he started considering retirement (a second time) a few years ago, he first designated his other (other than McDonald) chief deputy sheriff (operations) Rick Perez to become his designated successor.
But then came along the Marlboro chief of police Ron Devies case in which Perez committed a big "no, no" in Stark County policing circles in investigating the case in which Devies and his son got indicted (including felony counts) for what the SCPR thinks was "merely" a "communications problem" over computer equipment and software issues between the Devies son and at least one, perhaps two, of the Marlboro Township trustee at the time (January, 2009).
A big "no, no?"
Yes, Rick testified in the case that he wore a tape recorder (unknown to Chief Devies) in questioning the chief about the allegations being made in Marlboro Township.
The SCPR believes that Devies investigation incident was the beginning of the end for Rick Perez's apparent anointment by Swanson as his successor. Devies and his son, by the way, had charges dismissed at the end of the prosecution's case by then Stark County Court of Common Pleas judge V. Lee Sinclair, Jr (since retired).
So whom to take Perez's place?
The highly respected Mike McDonald, that's who.
It was a real blow to the Stark Dems that McDonald fell ill.
The SCPR believes that the Stark County Democratic Party "powers that be" worried with McDonald's resignation about their ability to retain the Party's hold on the sheriff's office most recently for the past 20 years with McDonald having to step aside.
Swanson's choice was Darrow.
While he knew Maier, the SCPR's take (though Swanson's says that he could get behind Maier if he (Swanson) could be assured that Maier had "no" qualifications problem.
The Report believes Swanson but also thinks that he was not all that enthusiastic about the Maiers (not so much George but rather "political power broker" brother Johnnie, Jr, who was Stark County Democratic Party chairman from 2003 through 2009) and was eager to find someone in-house (i.e. someone he had worked with in the sheriff's department) to be the Democratic replacement for McDonald.
So Swanson settles on Darrow as being the only top administrator within the department who indicated he was interested in becoming McDonald's successor.
The Report believes two things happened which created a rift between the Maiers (remember, chiefly Johnnie, Jr.) and Johnnie's stand-in as chairman (Gonzalez) and Swanson.
First, The Report believes that when scuttlebutt developed within the inner circles of the Stark County Democratic Party during the McDonald campaign that McDonald was likely not going to be able to take office, Johnnie, Jr. planted the notion with George that he was an ideal candidate for replacement sheriff and that it became clear to Swanson he was not going to have any input as to whom McDonald's successor was going to be.
- SCPR note: The Report believes that as part of his overall desire to see his political friends, supporters and family members achieve various stations in Stark County government units.
- For example:
- his wife is the elected Tuscarawas Township fiscal officer,
- brother Chuck is chief security officer for the Massillon City Schools, and
- nephew Michael is a Massillon police officer.
- SCPR note: Many of Johnnie A. Maier, Jr political friends and supporters hold Stark County public positions:
- For example: (just to provide a flavor Johnnie's connections)
- Randy Gonzalez is Stark County Dems chairman as Maier's successor (2009) and the "elected" Jackson Township fiscal officer and a former trustee,
- Gonzalez nephew Larry St. Jean holds a position in the Kathy Catazaro-Perry administration (see next paragraph)
- Massillon mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry was groomed by Maier to challenge long time political competitor Francis H. Cicchinelli, Jr for the mayoralty of Massillon. She defeated the 28 years as mayor Cicchinelli in the May, 2011 Democratic Party primary election,
- Massillon Municipal Court judge Eddie Elum (his wife Margaret is the Catazaro-Perry's top administrative assistant).
- David Maley (the spouse of Johnnie's secretary Tammy Maley) works in the Massillon Building Department,
- R. Shane Jackson as Maier's chief deputy clerk of courts (see JAM/Jackson family connection below)
- SCPR Note: Do not for a nanosecond thinks that Johnnie A. Maier, Jr's friends and family are limited to the Massillon area,
- For Example:
- Stark County Recorder Rick Campbell who is married to the daughter (the chief administrator of Plain Township [where Louis Giavasis is a long-term trustee]) of former Stark County commissioner and Perry Township trustee Gayle Jackson (who was the very first Stark Countian to embrace JAM as a candidate for public office when he defeated the legally troubled Red Ash for state representative in the early 1990s),
- Canton clerk of courts Phil Giavasis with whom Randy Gonzalez served as chief deputy until very recently and whom was replaced by Giavasis with Randy's son Kody who had been chief deputy for Rick Campbell
Well, nobody, but nobody muscles Tim Swanson.
They did not know it then, but Swanson was to become "the person" who stands in the way of George T. Maier ever becoming the replacement for Mike McDonald in the sense of serving out McDonald's term through early 2017.
When the Stark Dems met on February 5, 2013 to select McDonald's successor, one could see the disgust on Gonzalez's face as he intoned "your Stark County prosecutor" (John Ferrero) has filed an affidavit to the effect that George T. Maier is not qualified by virtue of ORC 311.01 to be Stark County sheriff.
The Report's take is that Gonzalez humiliated Ferrero (a former Stark County Dems chairman, himself) and thereby created an enduring enemy for George Maier to have to deal with.
But there is another, the SCPR thinks "political" factor that likely flavors Ferrero's willingness to step forward to challenge George. That is the political competition between Ferrero and Johnnie A. Maier, Jr within the bowels of Massillon Democratic politics.
In Massillon there are the Maier Democrats, the Cicchinelli Democrats and the Ferrero Democrats. However, Ferrero does have a loose association with the Cicchinelli folks.
So not only is Tim Swanson to prove to be the main reason (in the opinion of the SCPR) that George Maier does not end up as McDonald's successor; you have John Ferrero working at a fever pitch to double down on keeping George from "permanently" (more or less) filling out McDonald's term.
FEBRUARY 4, 2013
The day before the SCDP-CC meets to select a McDonald successor, Louis Darrow (a Swanson protege) files a Writ of Prohibition with the Ohio Supreme Court to stop the Dems from meeting.
Darrow wants the Supremes to look at Maier's qualifications.
But it was a pipe dream to think that the high court would act within 24 hours and the matter goes "moot" when the Stark Dems act on the 5th in selecting Maier.
Case dismissed on February 13, 2013.
FEBRUARY 5, 2013
Everybody in political circles that the SCPR knows was stunned when George T. Maier narrowly defeated the virtually unknown (within SCDP-CC politics) Louis Darrow 92 votes to 84 votes on February 5th.
Most of us assumed that Johnnie and Randy had done their nose counting and lobbying with SCDP-CC members and that Darrow would prove to be "token" opposition.
Well, the 92 to 84 vote count, meant that "the fight was on" and such a close vote within the Democratic fiefdom itself would encourage the likes of Tim Swanson to mount a legal challenge.
FEBRUARY 12, 2013
Ferrero's filing the affidavit was one thing, but the Maier political force never in their wildest dreams thought Swanson would have the "chutzpah" to actually file a legal action against Maier.
The SCPR predicted from "the get-go" that the Supreme Court would find for interim Sheriff Tim Swanson and oust Maier from office, which it did on November 6, 2013.
If JAM et al thought they were going to go "untested" in bullying through the process to make George sheriff, then this case should have been the clarion call that such was not going to be the case.
NOVEMBER 18, 2013
In its November 6, 2013 ouster of George Maier as the SCDP-CC appointed sheriff of Stark County, the Ohio Supreme Court provided for a re-do of the February 5, 2013 original appointment
But the court was unclear what the "new" qualification date would be.
Was it to be the original February 6, 2013 date or by virtue of the November 6th decision was it thereby changed to November 6th?
Well, Stark County Court of Common Pleas judge Frank Forchione (who had contributed $40 on September 25, 2013 to George T. Maier in a campaign fund raiser; one has to wonder why he didn't recuse himself in favor of another Stark County judge to make the determination) decided to "err on the side of Democracy" and picked the November date rather than the February date which then allowed Maier to re-apply.
Darrow and Swanson believed the date should be construed to be the February date.
Accordingly, they filed a Mandamus action in the Ohio Supreme Court asking the court to limit the SCDP-CC's selection to Darrow and Dordea (the only two other candidates in the February 5th proceeding).
Nobody expected the court to act before the date (December 11th) picked by Chairman Gonzalez to re-appoint.
But they did.
The justices refused to rule one way or the other in dismissing the Darrow/Swanson instituted mandamus on December 10th; one day before the new selection date.
The Maier forces were in a celebratory mode over the dismissal.
NOVEMBER 27, 2013
This date may prove to be George T. Maier biggest nightmare in that it is the of the filing of a taxpayer suit against Maier to recover county monies received by and expended by Maier while he was "usurper' sheriff.
For legal counsel on this case is none other that Stark County's most effective and dogged civic activist Craig T. Conley.
Conley became incensed when he realized (on reading Swanson v. Maier, quo warranto) that Maier had gone to Harrison County and got his "friend forever" (see Balas-Bratton "protest" material below) Sheriff Ronald J. Myers to take him on as a deputy sheriff (he served two weekends) for what Conley thought and still thinks was a "sham" hire which Conley feels indicates a Maier "lack of character."
On top of Conley's disgust on Maier's "opportunism," Maier's legal counsel Thomas L. Rosenberg launched in his pleading response to the November 27 taxpayer lawsuit what Conley views to be "a personal attack" on Conley himself.
Big mistake Thomas!
And, as radio commentator of yesteryear Paul Harvey used say "and now for 'the rest of the story."' (see additional material on Conley's involvement below)
DECEMBER 11, 2013
The SCDP-CC meets once again and re-appoints George T. Maier as Stark County sheriff.
The vote this time was 101 - 65.
Still considerable opposition which the SCPR thinks had to be distressing to the Maier folks.
This vote likely means that even if Maier gets through the legal challenges "on the table" and "yet to come" the JAM/Gonzalez-led Dems have a major job on their hand to get Democrats behind a George T. Maier candidacy let alone convince political independents and Republicans.
FEBRUARY 11, 2014
Massillon Democratic precinct 2A - on the 11th - produced a protester to the candidacy of George T. Maier (with the Stark County Board of Elections [BOE, Board] to be on the ballot as a Democratic candidate in the May 6, 2014 Democratic primary election; namely, Cynthia Balas-Bratton.
At both the February 5th and December 11th SCDP-CC meetings, Balas-Bratton had raised her voice against Maier.
Interestingly enough, word must have leaked out that Balas-Bratton was going to be a thorn is the side of the Maiers, in that a JAM ally Dave Irwin who works for Stark County recorder Rick Campbell) filed petitions to oppose Balas-Bratton for reelection on May 6th.
FEBRUARY 17, 2014
The BOE meets to set a hearing date for the protest, to consider requests to issue subpoenas and to do other housekeeping matters.
February 21, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. at the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce's Millennium Center (200 Market Ave, North) is the date, time and location of the hearing set by the Board.
FEBRUARY 18, 2014
Interim Sheriff Tim Swanson files a "personal liability" lawsuit in the Stark County Court of Common Pleas against George T. Maier to recover some $88,000 in compensation that was denied Swanson because Maier usurped to his office for the period February 11, 2013 through November 6, 2013.
Swanson says that any money he obtains from the action will, after recouping his legal expenses in litigating with Maier (including his successful quo warranto), will be donated to Wishes Can Happen.
February 20, 2014
After having asked the Ohio secretary of state (earlier in the week and the request not being acted upon):
- to prohibit Stark County Democratic Party member Deametrious St. John of the Stark County Board of Elections from participating in the BOE vote on whether or not Maier was to excluded from the May ballot because - she alleges - he had indicated in pre-hearing press statements that St. John had already made up his mind on the matter without hearing,
The complaint was filed too close to the February 21st hearing date to enable to court to rule.
However, Balas-Bratton's attorney (Conley) says he will resist the case's dismissal as being moot on that part of the case having to do with St. John himself on the possibility that the Ohio secretary of state will break a 2 to 2 tie between the Republican and Democratic members of the BOE (see below) on the 21st in favor of the Democrats.
In such an eventuality, Conley says he will then ask the Court of Appeals on whether or not St. John should have recused himself.
If so and the court invalidates the vote of the 21st, presumably a re-vote will be 2 to 1 in favor of keeping Maier off the ballot thereby negating the secretary of state from breaking the tie.
FEBRUARY 21, 2014
The Stark BOE votes 2 (Republicans for) to 2 (Democrats against) on the Balas-Bratton protest to keep George T. Maier off the May 6th ballot.
The Board has 14 days (until March 7th) to file February 21st hearing documents (e.g. transcript and exhibits) with the Ohio secretary of state for consideration in rendering his tie breaking vote.
OTHER LEGAL ACTIONS?
No matter who wins with the secretary of state, there will be an appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court.
However, the review standard with the Ohio Supreme Court is so high that it is likely that secretary's decision whatever it is will stick.
Moreover, if the secretary rules for removing Maier from the May ballot, then the SCPR has reason to believe that a "second" Tim Swanson quo warranto will be filed.
No matter what one thinks of George Maier's cause, his endurance has been and continues to be impressive.
He does not give the impression that "he is the worse for wear" for what he has gone through.
Should he stay on the ballot and ultimately win election to fill out McDonald's term, it is highly unlikely the victory will be without cost.
Maier may appear to be unflappable after going through all that he has and may yet have to endure, but certainly nobody believes that he hasn't thought from time-to-time: "what did I get myself into?"
Moreover, the prospects of Swanson prevailing of holding Maier "personally" liable for the nearly $90,000 in monies that Swanson lost as a consequence of Maier usurping his office are said by number of observers to be very likely.
And there is the matter of legal fees that he is engendering in defending the multiplicity of legal actions past, present, and future.
The Stark County commissioners have paid $20,000 towards his fees.
But The Report believes it is highly unlikely that they will volunteer to ante up fees (as they did in the first quo warranto) should a second one follow.
But the big downer has to be that:
- last Friday's 2 to 2 vote and a Republican secretary of state breaking the tie, and
- his having plenty of legal justification for supporting (and have the Ohio Supreme Court on appeal uphold) a vote to keep Maier off the ballot,
For George T. Maier to be cheering up anybody simply unbelievable!