UPDATE: 07/02/2014 AT 1:50 PM
Remarks for Your July 2, 2014 Blog
From; Chuck Osborne
Today at 1:05 PM
To: Martin Olson
Tuesday, July 2, 2014
It is sad to say but North Canton’s first full-time Law Director, Tim Fox, apparently spends the bulk of his time fighting the very citizens who pay his salary. I have dozens of letters from Mr. Fox explaining why he cannot (more like WILL NOT) comply with a Public Records request.
It is major litigation whenever one makes a records request in North Canton. Generally Law Director Fox is not shy about denying a records request, but in a recent records request Law Director Fox penned the name of another on the denial letter when clearly the letter was written by Mr. Fox himself.
That letter, attached to this email, is one such example. In that instance, it purports to come from former Clerk of Council, Gail Kalpac. The tone of the letter, the language used, the legal citations noted, do not mask the true author of the letter, namely Law Director Fox. The Council Clerk did not sign the letter, as for obvious reasons, she did not write the letter.
The problems with compliance with Public Records Requests, as the title of your Blog alludes to, goes directly to North Canton Officials.
North Canton City government has had a “closed door mentality” for many years and it extends to City Officials. Presently mirroring what we are seeing in Washington with the request for emails from IRS officials, I too am having the same difficulty. My requests for emails from Council members and the Mayor, alluded to by the real author of the letter noted above, continue to be ignored.
North Canton elected officials want to handle the “Public’s Business” in a confidential manner that suits their needs and not in the manner that is beneficial to the public.
So while Law Director Fox is a “Big” problem for the citizens of North Canton, the “Bigger” problem is found with North Canton’s elected officials.
Editor's note: The documents that Osborne refers to can be viewed at this end of today's blog under APPENDIX.
You talk about missing the point, it appears that such is what is up with North Canton City Council president Daniel "Jeff" Peters.
The SCPR has been the recipient of a storm of protests that North Canton civic activists are making against North Canton law director Tim Fox. Fox is unelected and serves under "appointment" by and therefore at the pleasure of the elected council persons of The Dogwood City.
As far as The Report is concerned, Peters recent response to Concerned Citizens of North Canton spokesman Jamie McCleaster is weak indeed (see the response below).
There has been a running battle between various members of North Canton's Concerned Citizens and non-member but superlatively vigorous civic activist Chuck Osborne seemingly from the day Fox took over as law director (in September, 2012).
- SCPR Note: McCleaster by the way was a candidate along with Councilwoman Marcia Kiesling, Dan Griffith and Mark Cerreta in the November, 2013 election, to wit:
Knowing what they know now, had the Concerned Citizens known that Tim Fox was going to - as some think - be in a better position to become North Canton's law director (again, an unelected office), they would have taken on an active role in Davies' campaign to turn 111 votes around to secure Davies' election.
SCPR Note: For background on the Fox appointment, see The Report's blog of September 12, 2012 entitled "Home Cookin in North Canton?"
To hear and believe their accounts, the Concerned Citizens are having "one devil of a time" getting public records from the now Law Director Fox.
The Stark County Political Report does believe Fox is going to extraordinary lengths to give these citizens a "tough way to go" in getting "the peoples' records."
And The Report blames a majority of North Canton City Council members for creating conditions for Fox to think that he is doing exactly what the majority appointed him to in the first place. It appears to the SCPR that council is enabling Fox and that Fox being the fist is an "hand-in-glove" operation.
And it seems that Fox clearly senses the markedly implied marching orders and is working overtime to please those who appointed him in the first place.
The effect is taken by the SCPR to be an "eclipsing of Ohio's Sunshine Law" in terms of the accessibility of public records to the public.
The SCPR's take on the "protestations to the contrary" (i.e. council's desire to be be transparent and accommodating to citizens' easily obtaining public records) on the part of various council members, including Peters, is that they are being politically correct and that they are privately "delighted" that Fox is playing tough with the likes of Concerned Citizens members Jamie McCleaster and Miriam Baughman.
The Report believes that they are "collateral damage" in council's primary mission to rein-in long term activist Chuck Osborne who has been "one huge thorn in the side" of a parade of North Canton council persons since he was defeated for reelection in 2001 after having served one term as councilman.
Osborne, now that Jon Snyder is no longer on council, is far more knowledgeable about the ins and outs of being a councilperson and in the institutional knowledge of North Canton government and politics than anybody currently on council.
You talk about "a burr in a tender place" for some of the egos now holding council seats, Osborne is a burr that hurts and hurts and hurts.
And the SCPR thinks, a main mission of some council members is not governance of a increasingly financially troubled city, but to "politically" cold cock Osborne.
Of course, Tim Fox knows how incisive, to the point and direct the SCPR is.
Early on (December, 2012) after being selected by council as law director, he made a point to point out to The Report, as he was approached for an camera interview, of how tough he is and he was not going to grant an interview.
Fox is not the first Stark County politico/government official who has played the role of a coward with the SCPR and he will not be the last.
As The Report has repeatedly demonstrated in the six plus years of blogging, the SCPR camera records some telling and embarrassing responses to zinging questions put to various and sundry government officials by this blogger.
If Fox thinks he is so tough, why won't he agree to a "no questions barred" interview?
Need the SCPR say more?
Returning to the first paragraph of this blog, council president Jeff Peters is making it appear that he wants to solve the citizen dissatisfaction with Fox's handling of public records requests.
Here is an excerpt from a texted e-mail he sent public records requester Jamie McCleaster.
(colored text: McCleaster's word, bold, white, italicized: Peters)
From: Jamie McCleaster, Jul 1 at 7:22 PM
To: Martin Olson
Here is the text that Miriam and I received from North Canton City Council President Jeff Peters this afternoon. I'd assume that this is in reference to the separate phone conversations we each had with Mr. Peters last night, and my email that was sent to N. Canton's Director of Law (CCed to Mr. Peters and Council VP Foltz).
"Today I asked Tim to contact the AG's office to review our public records policy. It is my intent to clear the air on this issue once and for all! It is my position as the President of council to be open and transparent regarding all city business. Once we have an opinion on our policy and any interpretation therein, we will share that finding with any and all that wants it. Although I appreciate all of your input on this matter, once we have the opinion from the AG, any concerns thereafter will be directed to the Director of Administration. As you all know, city council does not enforce law, they create laws. The mayor and his administration enforce all ordinances. If you have any questions regarding enforcement of current ordinances, please contact Mike Grimes.
This text was sent to us this afternoon, 7/1/14 at 3:50pm.
It is my intent to clear the air on this issue once and for all! It is my position as the President of council to be open and transparent regarding all city business.
Once we have an opinion on our policy and any interpretation therein, we will share that finding with any and all that wants it. (emphasis added)
Here is the rub, the SCPR thinks.
"... And any interpretation therein ... "
What will Fox include in his communication with the Ohio Attorney General?
Will it include these sharp exchanges to McCleaster and Baughman?
And McCleaster's response:
Here is the "full" McCleaster original request.
What the SCPR thinks is really odd on Fox's part, is his seeming fixation on not responding "as requested" via e-mail.
The Report had a similar experience with Fox on a public records request.
As with McCleaster, the request was for a e-mail attachment of a pdf or equivalent file of the requested record.
How was the record sent?
A Compact Disc which, of course, cost The Report $2.40.
Admittedly, no big deal.
But the point is that Fox is doing things his way and not as requested by the requester as is mandated by Ohio's Sunshine Law as pointed out in the Ohio attorney general's publication on the law as it pertains to providing public records.
Will Fox in his communication make sure that the attorney general's office knows that he is disregarding the requester's chosen format of transmission?
Maybe, just maybe, one of the readers of this blog will send a link of this blog and a LINK of last week's blog to the Ohio attorney general's office to ensure that the OAG gets the full story?
Mister Fox has to forgive the SCPR's skepticism that he will be all that inclusive.
And, of course, there are the two Miriam Baughman requests. One in March of this year and another just a few days ago in June.
From Fox (the June request):
From Fox (the March request):
Now who in this whole wide world thinks that Fox is being citizen friendly?
It is completely understandable why Fox would not want to do an interview with The Stark County Political Report.
The SCPR has a background and a knowledge base and a style of interviewing that The Report is confident that Fox could not handle.
So what has he done and what will he continue to do?
Cut and run!
He is comfortable in the knowledge that North Canton City Council has put him in a position of being answerable to nobody; not even to them.
The North Canton voting public should be holding council responsible for cultivating an antagonistic relationship with Osborne, McCleaster and Baughman.
For it is readily apparent to the SCPR that Fox in is charge in North Canton government.
Council and Mayor David Held have promoted Tim Fox being North Canton government's fist in the cloak of councilmantic and executive gloves.
Council president Peters can try to absolve himself and those council persons who, The Report thinks, "in reality" support every "let me be difficult" move that Fox has made vis-a-vis North Canton citizens and their exercise of democratic rights, but the North Canton public should not be buying.
Although I appreciate all of your input on this matter, once we have the opinion from the AG, any concerns thereafter will be directed to the Director of Administration. As you all know, city council does not enforce law, they create laws. The mayor and his administration enforce all ordinances. If you have any questions regarding enforcement of current ordinances, please contact Mike Grimes. (emphasis added)
The SCPR is not buying.
"If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck," guess what?
It is a duck! no?
President Peters can talk he wants about transparency and openness.
"The proof is in the pudding!"
And the pudding here is that council has enabled and condoned Fox's belligerence.
There is little doubt with the SCPR that council and Fox have a hand-in-glove operation going in full flower!