Friday, August 22, 2014




(Councilman & Republic Steel Employee)
(Tying Paying Taxes to Getting Canton Business) 
Today, The Stark County Political Report launches its Stark County public official/political figure "video blog" series with Canton treasurer Kim Perez.

In interviewing Perez (some of the discussion referred to did not take place on camera), the SCPR's overall take is that he is still smarting from the cascade of events that took place during what local civic activist and attorney Craig T. Conley has termed as being Zeiglergate (April 1, 2009 through October 19 2011), part of which period Perez served as Stark County auditor, and which (i.e. the cascade of events) most Stark County political observers think resulted in Perez being defeated in his 2010 reelection try.

Perez thinks he was unfairly criticized by local media (including the Stark County Political Report) for his not having done enough to alert local and Ohio officials that something was amiss in the county treasurer's office.

He is particularly hard on The Canton Repository.

The Report reminded Perez that it has always been a policy of the SCPR to place "unedited" e-mails, letters or on camera interviews at the top of any blog which critiques a Stark County government/political figure.

His response?

"That's not how I operate."

Okay, but with that continuing offer always being on the table by the SCPR, how can any subject of the SCPR complain about unfairness?

And to his credit, Perez did not dispute with The Report that he knew that he had ample opportunity on this blog to respond.

Subjects of Repository stories certainly do not get that opportunity.

Accordingly, The Report has seen many instances where the "powers that be" or "powers that 'have been'" at The Rep. have been unfair and The Report thinks the folks of 500 Market Avenue, South consequently have served Stark Countians very poorly.

Perez is a good starting point for this series inasmuch as he has been active in Canton/Stark County politics and government since the mid-1980s.

At the end of each and every biography blog, the SCPR will post the entire video - unedited - for readers of The Report to measure Martin Olson's running commentary on segments of the video.



"A Young Turk?"

With the election of Kevin Fisher (D, Ward 5), John Mariol (D, Ward 7), Edmond Mack (D, Ward 8) and Frank Morris, III (D, Ward 9) in 2011, it was obvious from the get-go that Canton City Council had been - with their election - infused with a stout shot of civic/political energy.

Over time, the SCPR picked up on the significance of the election of the four young (except, maybe, for Morris) and tabbed them as being the "four young Turks" of Canton City Council.

Probably more than any other characterization that the SCPR has done of Stark County officials/public figures, the "four young Turks" has been the one which readers of The Report have latched onto as being their favorite.

The characterization resonated with Kim Perez as evidenced by this first video snippet from yesterday's interview.

Perez goes back to 1985, perhaps 1983 as the date he first got involved in Canton/Stark County politics as a Democrat.

It was 1988 before he was elected as Ward 1 councilman (then encompassing "downtown Canton") in which position he served for 6-1/2 years.

As a part time councilman (working full time, contemporaneously, at Republic Steel as a transportation supervisor) he says:
  • He was part of the founding group of Canton Tomorrow as one of several responses to the beginnings (from his perspective) of the deterioration of downtown Canton,
  • He identifies himself, current Councilman at Large Bill Smuckler and former Councilwoman at Large Mary Cirelli among others was being the 1980s/early 1990s equivalent of the SCPR's "four young Turks,"
    • SCPR note:  It is a political irony that Cirelli decided to take on Perez when he ran for Canton treasurer in 2013,


      Highly respected Canton City auditor R.A. Mallon (the father of the current Canton auditor) died in 1994.

      As Kim Perez tells it, nobody thought 20 years ago that he could best Don Casar (retired from council in December, 2009) to become the senior Mallonn's successor.  Roy Gutierrez was party chairman.

      The vote was 22 to 22 in a meeting of Canton Dems precinct committeepersons at Canton Council Chambers.  However, there was one vote on the way.  That precinct committeeperson was in ill health had was delayed in getting to the meeting.  But when he did arrive, the vote was for Kim Perez, and as the saying goes, the rest is history.

      By his account, being selected as city auditor was the beginning of Perez's romance as a government administrator with computer technology.


      On January 1, 2004 current Stark County commissioner Janet Weir Crieghton (a
      Republican) was elected mayor of Canton over the-then former Canton city councilman Bill Smuckler.

      Her election as mayor left the county auditor's position empty inasmuch as Creighton had been auditor before her defeating Smuckler in November, 2013.

      Stark's Republicans appointed Brant Luther (then her chief deputy) as her replacement.

      The Republicans had held the auditor's office for years and years and at that time the office had quite a few political patronage jobs to hand out.

      The Report remembers (harkening back to the pre-SCPR days) that the Democrats were hot-to-trot to capture the county auditor's office.

      The then-chairman Johnnie A. Maier, Jr was salivating over the possibility of the Democrats ousting Luther.

      There was talk of the-then county commissioner Gayle Jackson (who Maier calls the best Stark County commissioner of all time) running for auditor.

      But Gayle was way too protective of her position in county government to chance a loss to Luther.

      Undoubtedly, Maier (then party chairman), would have pulled out all the stops for Jackson had she wanted to take the political risk.

      Perez had been Canton auditor upward of 10 years by 2014 and therefore it was natural that the Democrats should turn to him to run against Luther.

      The Report recalls (again, reminiscing about the pre-SCPR days) how Maier, Jr complained about how lazy Perez was in the conduct of his campaign.

      What Maier, Jr was missing in criticizing Perez was that in 2004 the Perez name in Stark County was one of most powerful political name in the county.

      Kim, with his political base in highly Democratic Canton, and with brother Rick being one of the high profile leaders in the Stark County sheriff's department under then sheriff Tim Swanson; it should have surprised nobody that Kim pulled what the SCPR terms as being at least - a mild, if not greater - upset of the auditor's office entrenched Republicans.

      In hindsight, the SCPR thinks - had she run - Jackson would have lost to Luther.

      The Report's interview was focused on the Perez county auditor years (2004 through 2011) not on that part of his term coined by Conley to have been the years of Zeiglergate.

      As indicated in the video below on the county auditor years, the SCPR will sit down with Perez again to spend another hour going over the details of those years.  And that interview will be made part of the his Kim R. Perez biography blog.

      On a positive note, for his 2004 through 2011 years, Perez again focuses on his having fixed on incorporating computer and digital technology in to the operation of the county auditor's office, to wit:
      • The reduction of scattered and fragmented computer/technology in what existed in county computer infrastructure into a more centralized and therefore more efficient and money savings to the taxpayers system, and
      • The sophistication of and refinement of GIS (Graphical Information System).
      A poignant moment in the interview occurred when Perez took a moment to reflect on his 2010 loss of the county auditor's office to Republican Alan Harold.

      Perez claims to harbor no ill feeling towards Harold and cites situations wherein he has - since the losing campaign - worked collaboratively with the county auditor's office.
      However, to the SCPR it is unmistakable that he still carries memories of the campaign.

      Especially a billboard ad which shows Perez to be a member of a golfing group which included then-Stark County treasurer Gary Zeigler in a "for charity" golfing event.

      There is no doubt about it, the 2010 Perez/Harold face off was an "in your face" political hardball effort by Harold.

      Perez termed the loss as being "a perfect storm" (or "the stars aligning") having in mind, undoubtedly, Zeiglergate and 2010 being a Republican year across Ohio (e.g. Richard Cordray losing his office of attorney general to former U.S. Senator Mike DeWine).

      And, of course, but for the godsend of a independent (to the political right) candidate running for commissioner,  Democrat Tom Bernabei would never had won a commissioner's seat.

      On another note, off camera, Perez talked about how The Rep. has worked him over on political patronage over the years he was county auditor.

      He thinks he has been singled out on this score and that a different standard is being applied to his successor Alan Harold.

      Perez cites the recent hire (August 4, 2014) of a chief information officer and administrator in the information technology office of the county auditor's office as, perhaps, being unnecessary.

      Perez praises Anita Henderson (who worked for Perez when he was Canton auditor) as being the county's top notch government employed information technology person.

      He suggests that the August 4th hire has close political or personal ties to Harold. 

      It is interesting to note that the hire (Seth Peterson) is being paid nearly $32,000 more annually than Henderson and she has been employed in Stark Canton/Canton computer technology for 27 years.

      The SCPR asks:  Why couldn't Henderson be promoted to the newly created job?

      It will be interesting to hear Harold's response to the Perez's intimation, no?

      Moreover, Perez alluded to, in Wednesday's interview, Harold's addition of two information technology employees at a total - just annual salary cost - a little over $96,000 annually.

      Hardly sounds like Perez has gotten over his loss to Harold, no?

      However, he does ask some pretty pointed questions.

      The Report believes that Perez has been no worse than Harold (see Conde blog) and many other Stark County based elected officials on the patronage thing.

      But to the SCPR for any elected official to hand out taxpayer supported jobs without first inviting the public to apply is unacceptable, be it Perez or any other elected official.

      Again, off camera, The Report ticked off the names Fisher (Kevin Fisher, now Ward 5 Canton city councilman), Jimmy Babcock (now Canton councilman-at-large) as persons he seems hired to hired on the basis of them having political connections.

      Another person who now comes to mind is David Maley (now with Massillon's Catazaro-Perry administration).

      Perez seemed to want to assign political patronage justification to the "everybody does it" category or by diverting attention to the Republicans or to The Repository's imbalanced attacks on him.

      That does not work with the SCPR and The Report has no sympathy with him that The Rep may have singled him out.

      Of course, the SCPR excoriates every Stark County officeholder (Republicans and Democrats with equal zeal) on this issue. The Report thinks that "political connectedness hirings" short-circuit everyday Stark Countians of the opportunity to get public employment.

      Depriving taxpaying Stark County employment opportunities needs to stop for every Stark County official, including Kim Perez.

      By not advertising and thereby getting a field of candidates to consider, a public official misses out on some exceptionally well qualified candidates that would serve the public and the officeholder quite well - if - given a chance.

      In this video, Perez talks about his county auditor years.


      Having been Canton auditor and Stark County auditor in the wake of the political sunami of 2010, Perez, on his own judgment and on the advice of family and friends, does the obvious and runs for Canton treasurer in light of the announcement by long time treasurer Robert Schriak that he would not seek reelection in 2013.

      Lo and behold!  Who should be one of his opponents but former "young-Turk-esque" council ally of yesteryear (1980s/1990s) Mary Cirelli.

      As it turns out Cirelli came in third in a field of three which surprised the political pundits.

      Of course, as the victor, Perez predictably in the interview took the high road and said that he did not take it personal that Cirelli challenged him.

      Though he denies it, the SCPR believes that he is not so magnanimous with the likes of Republicans Alan Harold, Janet Creighton and others.  Moreover, the SCPR suspects he harbors dislike for Democrat Johnnie A. Maier, Jr whom he opposed for the party chairmanship in 2003 when Chairman John Ferrero resigned on becoming Stark County prosecutor.

      In discussing his running for and being elected Canton treasurer the conversation seemed to migrate to his becoming a rather active treasurer (not simply the city's income tax collector) as a prelude - the SCPR thinks - to running in the May, 2015 Democratic primary against sitting Democratic mayor William J. Healy, II.

      As this part of the video shows, in his less than a year as Canton treasurer, Perez (uncharacteristic of what the SCPR thinks one would expect of a city treasurer) has:
      • raised the issue of Stark County's Ohio General Assembly standing idly by as the State of Ohio devastates local government in taking away various state level funding of local government,
      • raised the issue of Canton having reduced (at the initiative of the Healy administration) the credit that Cantonians who work out-of-town on their Canton income tax obligation from a full 2% to 1.7%,
        • SCPR Note:  Canton council passed legislation to restore the full 2% credit but the measure was vetoed by Mayor Healy
      • raised the issue of Canton devoting more resources and leverage (i.e. if you want get city business, you companies better have paid or be up-to-date with your city income taxes [a criticism of Healy for not using this leverage?]) to collect sorely needed delinquent income taxes,
      • raised the issue of Canton capital funds (a criticism of Healy, maybe?) being used to fund city operations
      The Report thinks Perez is being coy in how he handles questions as whether or not his uncharacteristic activity as treasurer is clear indication that will take on Mayor Healy.  Bill Smuckler has already told the SCPR that he will not run, if there is more than one opposing candidate in the field.

      Apparently, all Perez has to do is to let it be known that he is running for mayor.  And, it could be that such is exactly what he is telling Canton politicos privately.

      Feedback that the SCPR gets from "in the know" Canton politicians point in that direction.

      In the following video, Perez - in mostly a forward look - addresses being city of Canton auditor.


      It was difficult to get Treasurer Perez on topic with respect to the "let's tie doing business with Canton with having paid taxes."

      He wanted to talk ad nauseam about the income tax credit issue.

      Finally, the SCPR was able to get him on topic.

      While the SCPR fully supports Perez's tie-in, it would be incredibly naive to think that his being an evangelistic Canton treasurer does not have its roots of his setting himself up to run for mayor.

      Kim Perez does like to present himself as a kind of political innocent that things (bad, but mostly good) just happen to.

      Far be it from that.

      Kim Perez is one of Stark County's most sophisticated politicians who nearly survived the disaster election of 2010.

      If he decides to take on Mayor William J. Healy, II in the May, 2015 Democratic primary, the SCPR thinks that he will come out the winner.

      Moreover, if the mayor's political calculus tells him he would lose such a match up, look for him to move on to something else rather than absorb political humiliation at the hand of a fellow Democrat.



      No comments: