VIDEOS IN PROCESS
STARK CO. FAMILY CT OFFICIALS
ON 2014 BUDGET ALLOCATION
PROBATE CT JUDGE DIXIE PARK
VETERANS SERVICE COMMISSION
DIRECTOR GARY ICKES
DIFFER ON NEED FOR
OVERNIGHT HOTEL STAYS
VETERAN SERVICE COMMISSION
"THEY WILL BE BACK"
It was just a few weeks ago that the Stark County commissioners made a presentation to Stark County office holders on the 2014 Stark County budget appropriations.
Now that the 2014 Stark County budget appropriations have been made (budget adopted March 19, 2013), disruptions have broken out between the commissioners and general funded departments of Stark County government.
The Stark County Family and Probate Courts are disputing the 2014 appropriations.
The other fracas is between the commissioners and the Veterans Service Commission (WEBSITE LINK) over commissioner approval of travel expenses.
Yet another demand was instituted by Stark County Democratic Party officials that the commissioner fund it ($8,000 for attorney fees) in taxpayer support in pursuit of the Dems political objective of Democratic sheriff candidate George T. Maier gaining access to the May 6, 2014 primary election ballot.
THE FAMILY/PROBATE COURT DISPUTE
One of the things that commonly comes up with officeholders and citizens alike is that they could not make this or that public hearing or session and they therefore are/were not knowledgeable at the time that this or that public action was taken.
In the case of the case of the Stark County budget process there can be no excuses due to the extensive efforts of the Stark County Political Report to cover both the budget hearings when they took place over January and February of this year and on the explanatory (give us your input/objections) session held on March 13, 2014.
Here are links to the week long series that the SCPR did following the March 13th session, so that interested Stark Countians could be completely informed as to the content of the session.
Its not a big difference, but The Report understands that the Family Court folks did not take exception to the proposed budget until Tuesday, the day before commissioners passed the 2014 Stark County Budget appropriations.
Court officials were into see the commissioners in full force at a work session on their objection set up by the commissioners for this past Monday, March 31, 2013.
The Family court pared down the $3,237,500 (the original request) to $3,167,500 (minus $70,000).
And yet, as pointed out by Judge Jim James, the amount of the court's 2014 appropriation was $125,722 less than it got in 2010.
An interesting aspect of the "discussions" between the commissioners and the Family Court officials is Commissioner Creighton's suspicion (see video at about the 20 minute mark) that court officials (i.e. chief court administrator Rick DeHeer [LINK to Family Court "Administration" website]) had padded the 2014 request with phantom data that made the 2014 approved appropriation higher than what the commissioners otherwise would likely have approved.
Here is a video of that discussion between the commissioners and court officials.
For his part, Judge James' position was "forget the talk about particular line items" (the SCPR's words; not James') and just look at the bottom line, to wit: $3,014,178 appropriated in 2014 as compared to $3,139,900 in 2010. End of story, no?
Well, it was not "the end of the story." The SCPR's take is that there are negotiations going on through commissioners' administrators Brant Luther (the chief administrator) and Chris Nichols (the budget director/manager) to see whether or not the two Stark County government entities can reach a compromise and thereby head off a legal confrontation.
A legal confrontation?
The Family Court judges have the statutory power to order whatever budget number it thinks is appropriate for its operations.
Of course, the commissioners can merely rollover and it is the "end of the story."
However, the commissioners can stand their ground and end up in the Fifth District Court of Appeals (itself of a few Stark County general fund dollars) in a mandamus action filed by the Family Court judges on the issue of who is right on the budget fuss.
In the case of Judge Dixie Park's Probate Court (also a division of the Stark County Court of Common Pleas) the fuss is the commissioners allegation that Judge Park is violating the commissioners' guidelines that raises for 2014 shall not exceed 2% the total payroll across the range of employees of any given department of Stark County government.
Judge Park, the SCPR understands, did object prior to the Monday, March 17th deadline for objecting set by the commissioners at the March 13th presentation meeting of the commissioners.
In the case of the Probate Court, the argument is over $23,680 which is the difference between deficit of the requested amount $776,452 as compared to the appropriated amount of $752,772.
Here is the video taken by the SCPR on the exchange between Judge Park and the commissioners:
As in the case of the Family Court, stay tuned on this one too!
THE VETERANS SERVICE COMMISSION FLAP
On Wednesday of this week, the Veterans Service Commission (VSC) had on the commissioners regular weekly meeting agenda an item for approval of travel expenses so that VSC officials can travel to Independence, Ohio for "mandatory" training.
At dispute was whether or not it was appropriate for the VSC officials to stay at a hotel/motel in Independence as compared to traveling back and forth on and daily basis between Canton and Independence in a county vehicle.
Disputes between the commissioners (particularly Commissioner Creighton) is nothing new. Here is a LINK to the budget hearings in January to a prior SCPR blog wherein the commissioners and VSC officials go after one another.
Here is the video of the exchange between the relatively recent appointed VSC director Gary Ickes and the commissioners.
If one can believe them, it appears that the VSC officials (LINK TO BOARD MEMBER LISTING) have not given up on their desire to have a taxpayer supported stay in the Cleveland area at a hotel/motel the week of May 6, 2014 through May 9, 2014.
The only part of the VSC request that the SCPR thinks might justify the commissioners approving the hotel/motel stay would be the "networking" factor cited by Ickes in the video above.
However, where is the specific evidence that the "networking" will be the necessary value added for commissioners to approve the overnight stays?
No specifics were provided in Wednesday's meeting.
Perhaps if the VSC would come back with powerful evidence that "networking" done during "after meeting hours" has enhanced VSC functions; the commissioners might reconsider their request?
For an idea of what the VSC does for veterans is an "extract" from its website:
The Stark County Veterans Service Office can assist you with a multitude of items including helping you with your claims and benefits. We have two full-time service officers to assist you. Please call our service officers at (330) 451-7457.
Below are just a few of the benefits they can help you with:
Requesting your discharge papers or medical records
Help in obtaining DD214/Discharge papers
Medical records (201 file)
Assist in obtaining medals or duplicate medals for veteran and family
Compensation and VA Claims
Non-service connected compensation
Service connected compensation
War orphan scholarship
Dependents vocational training
Transportation to Medical Appointments
Assist you with obtaining your H.S. Diploma if you are a WWII, Korean War, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, or OIF/OEF veteran that qualifies.
The SCPR did have a word with Ickes, VSC board member Frank N. Kemp, Sr., and VSC assistant Director Tim Corbi. In the following video, Corbi let's the commissioners know that the hotel stay matter "is not over" and they can expect VSC officials to be back with a renewed request.
The SCPR must say the The Report is impressed with the commissioners challenging Stark officials on budgetary matters.
In the time that the SCPR has been covering the commissioners (since March, 2008), past boards have moaned and groaned about the lack of discipline on the part of Stark County department heads but have done nothing to instill discipline.
Since Tom Bernabei and Janet Creighton have come on board, things have been different.
DEMOCRATS PRESSURE THE COMMISSIONERS
And Commissioners Regula deserves credit also.
On March 13th he joined Commissioner Janet Creighton to deny the Stark County Board of Elections' Democratic members request at $8,000 to hire (under pressure from Stark County Democratic Party chairman Randy Gonzalez) "preferred" legal counsel to represent the Democrats' position [i.e. Democrat appointed member St. John and Sam Ferruccio, Jr., sided with by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted) on the protest of the candidacy of George T. Maier for sheriff (the May 6th ballot).
- SCPR Note: Husted was represented by the Ohio attorney general's office and some Stark Countians think that the Dems' BOE position was more than adequately represented by the attorney general and that it was an outrage for the Dems to want $8,000 in taxpayer money expended for duplicative.
- See Stark Dems' chairman Gonzalez's email (LINK: SEE AT VERY END OF BLOG) to commissioners dated March 14, 2014 taking the commissioners to task for not allocating the $8,000.
- The commissioners did appoint very competent counsel to represent the majority BOE position; namely, David Bridenstine, who is on the commissioners' payroll and, who, accordingly, likely cost no or little money to do the work he did on the case.
A SCPR "Hats Off!" to Commissioner Regula.
He has gotten first hand taste on how the Maiers' (George and Johnnie, Jr) operate and act when things do not go their way.
Otherwise, they couldn't be nicer. (SCPR note: If readers take this comment as being highly sarcastic, The Report would not argue the point)
What hypocrites! And, of course, the SCPR thinks that George and Johnnie, Jr are the county's quintessential political bullies.
The Stark County commissioners are "the real deal" when it comes to "protecting the public purse!"