SCPR Note: material presented in this blog in graphic format on issue of "whether or not to hire" has been "excerpted" for format purposes (i.e. to make more readable in blog format) and for brevity sake which is to say to include what the SCPR thinks is pertinent information.
The seeds for a political controversy to take hold were planted when the Massillon Mayor Kathy Catzaro-Perry administration on June 23, 2014 hired Dwan Gordon-St. John as the city's parking enforcement officer and coupled it with a part time position in the city income tax department to make it a full time position with full benefits.
Earlier in the month (June 16, 2014), Massillon City Council had authorized funds to hire a parking enforcement officer, but as can be seen from the following extracts from Massillon government records, the Kathy Catazaro-Perry administration made the St. John hire a "full time" hire by combining the council authorized parking enforcement job with one in the income tax department (a vacancy having recently have been created by the departure of an employee).
As the SCPR sees it, to expand on the opening paragraph of this blog, the controversy developed because:
- the expansion of the parking enforcement job into a full time position without the mayor having indicated to council her "apparent" plan to use council's approval in the way of joining it with a part time version of the income tax vacated job to create St. John's full time position,
- the full time job would, of course, include benefits, which generally means an increased expenditure of about 1/3rd the base hourly rate
- A SCPR example: If a employee has a $10.00 per hour rate on a full time position, the total expense to the employer when calculating in the cost of benefits (retirement, health care, workers compensation, unemployment insurance and the like) would likely bring the hourly rate in terms of city expense to about $13.00 plus per hour
- Massillon is currently in fiscal emergency (likely as a consequence of the mayor's initiative with the Ohio State of Auditor Office) and can ill-afford the extra financial burden of a seeming "manufactured" need for the creation of a full time position that smacks of possibly having "political connectedness" underpinnings.
Ms. Gordon-St. John landed a job with the Strickland administration in November, 2007, to wit: (per her resume)
Communications Information OfficerTaking Ms. Gordon-St. John's account of the significance of the Communications Information Officer position to be accurate, one would think that her appointment to the job was approved at the highest levels of the Strickland administration and therefore is evidence that she is - as she asserts - "very politically connected."
Bureau of Workers Compensation - November 2007 to August 2010
Duties include monitoring day-to-day operations regarding Injured Workers. I was responsible for transforming HR from a strategic role to an administrative role. I was a part of the Senior Management Team - thus being responsible for conducting current existing HR Policies and finding glitches to revamp what was NOT working for the Agency as a whole. I re-organized and re-developed business plans to update policies and procedures when needed. In addition, I handle all Attorneys, Doctors and Politicians for the agency. I was responsible for all communications and requests from any source requesting said information and was also responsible for handling Agency EEO Issues. I manage the largest team in the office of 500 employees' which was the second largest Worker's Comp Office in the State. I was also responsible for communicating with the Industrial Commission (IC) - preparing reports and gathering evidence regarding Legal Issues and Appeal Hearings and Leading team meetings.
If she lacks political connection in her own right, she certainly has them in spades in being the wife of Deametrious.
Readers have read a number of SCPR blogs wherein The Report went into great detail about husband Deametrious' political involvement in Stark County politics.
He is a former Stark County Board of Elections appointee by the Stark County Democratic Executive Committee (2013) who was a critical factor in the decision making process whereby Johnnie A. Maier, Jr brother George T. Maier was allowed to be on November's ballot in the Stark County election to fill out Mike McDonald's term as county sheriff.
St. John as a Democratic central committeeman voted twice (February 5, 2013 and December 11, 2013) to appoint Maier to serve as sheriff until this November's election when McDonald (sheriff-elect from the November, 2012 election) was unable to take office because of what turned out to be a terminal illness.
Dwan Gordon St. John was present at a Board of Elections hearing on a challenge to George T. Maier being qualified under R.C. 311.01 to be a county sheriff. Deametrious voted to reject the challenge.
Deametrious has a political consulting business and he along with Dwan were earlier this year the recipients of expenditures from the Coalition for Greater Cleveland's Future.
Deametrious has been a key figure in the Stark County Black Caucus.
Deametrious St. John hails from Cleveland. At one time he says he was involved in Cleveland politics when George Forbes was in his heyday.
Undoubtedly, the St. Johns have other political connections that the SCPR is not aware of or does not recall at the moment.
Suffice it to say, it is quite believable that Dwan has the political connections and clout to impress Catazaro-Perry and the Massillon Maier Political Machine that that criterion in and of itself is enough to justify to them that it would be a wise thing for them within Stark County Democratic Party political life to find a place for her in Massillon city government.
Who can forget the outrageous outburst of Her-Highness when Massillon city councilman-at-large Milan Chovan (a Republican) raised questions about the hire.
The SCPR believes the "racist/sexist" charge was:
- a calculated "get ahead of the critics" political gambit
- put together by Catazaro-Perry, her political godfather Johnnie A. Maier, Jr (a former Stark County Democratic Party chairman) and his political protege R. Shane Jackson, Stark Dems' political director
- designed to serve "as a smokescreen" to deflect suspicion and concomitant criticism that the Gordon-St. John hire was grounded in politics
There is suspicion galore that the Catazaro-Perry as mayor of Massillon hires for city jobs primarily on the basis of political connections and does very little, if any, posting of positions so that general tax paying public has an opportunity to be considered for city of Massillon employment.
Moreover, it appears that doing background checks on prospective employees is not a part of the administration's hiring process.
And it needs to be pointed out that Catazaro-Perry is not alone in Stark County in being thought in Stark County government circles as being susceptible to making primarily political hires.
The SCPR has written quite a few blogs over the past six years plus fingering a number of county and political subdivision elected officials as being suspected taking care of the politically connected with taxpayer supported public positions and the general public having had no chance whatsoever to apply for the jobs; let alone actually get hired.
Whether it is Republican Stark County treasurer Alex Zumbar, Republican Stark County auditor Alan Harold, Democrat Stark County recorder Rick Campbell or Democratic Canton Municipal Court clerk of courts Phil Giavasis doing the hiring, the SCPR thinks that it should be unacceptable to the Stark County public for hires to be made on seeming political connectedness.
But Catazaro-Perry probably stands out in the public perception - because of her owing her own election as mayor of Massillon to the Maier/Jackson Massillon Political Machine and her seeming inability to govern without chapter and verse guidance from Maier, Jr and Jackson - as being the most political of all Stark County elected officials.
Other names brought up to the SCPR as conjecture that "political connections" was a primary reason for being a Catazaro-Perry hire include: Safety Director Al Hennon (a close friend to the Maiers, going back many years), Administrative Assistant Larry St. Jean (nephew of former Stark County Dems chairman Randy Gonzalez), Administrative Assistant Margaret Elum (wife of Massillon Municipal Court judge Eddie Elum, a confidant of Johnnie A. Maier, Jr [JAM]), Building Department employee David Maley (husband of JAM administrative assistant Tammy Maley) and, of course, George T. Maier, the current Stark County Democratic Party appointed county sheriff, as safety director as among the very first hires when Catazaro-Perry became mayor of Massillon on January 1, 2012.
And there are a number of others that readers of the SCPR think were hired primarily because of political connections to Maier, Jr and Jackson.
It is not that folks with political pedigree are by that factor unqualified to do the job they are hired for.
There is ample evidence that folks with a political connectedness as a background and therefore are suspected as being employed primarily because of the connections go on to do workmanlike job performance if not above average work.
The rub is that these are public jobs funded by taxpayer dollars that the general public should have access to. Moreover, nobody should be hired in a public position without having been vetted.
The Report did ask for records evidencing posting on the St. John hire.
Here is the exchange between the SCPR and administration official Ken Koher:
RE: Public records request (PRR)
Kenneth Koher, Jun 30
To: Martin Olson
City Law Director
The city is not in possession of any documents responsive to your request. We can’t produce records that we do not have. [SCPR COMMENT INSERTION: In other words, position was not posted, not advertised to the general taxpaying public]
Records Compliance Officer
...If, as it appears to some, St. John is taken by the Massillon voting public as being primarily "a political connections hire," it may turn out in the end to be a political disaster for Catzaro-Perry, JAM and Jackson.
From: Martin Olson [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Monday, June 30, 2014 2:21 PM
To: Kenneth Koher
Subject: Re: Public records request (PRR)
One question I forgot to ask, was this job posted for the general public to have an opportunity to fill it?
If not, why not?
It is less than a year away from the May, 2015 Democratic primary election for the Democratic voters of Massillon to choose whether or not Kathy Catazaro-Perry will continue on for another four years as mayor.
As the SCPR sees it, making a racist/sexist (the latter of which is interesting and inasmuch as five women are members of Massillon City Council (Republicans Sarita Cunningham-Hedderly, Nancy Halter; Democrats Andrea Scassa, Megan Starrett and Michelle Del-Rio Keller) may well backfire on the mayor come the primary.
But no way.
Maier, Jr in in the opinion of the SCPR is infected with political bravado to a degree far superior to any other Stark County political figure, certainly among the current crop, and, maybe, going back through the entire political history of Stark County.
The Report sees him as a "power and might" politician who bullies his way towards realizing his political objectives.
That Steve Okey, a Canton attorney, has gotten involved in the Massillon fray is no surprise to the SCPR.
He seems, when he dons the robe of being a political figure, to The Report to share Maier, Jr's propensity to politically "bowl people over" like they are "ten pins" rather than living human beings.
Okey is the appointee of the Stark County Democratic Party Central Committee (SCDP) Central Commtee (CC) as president of Alliance City Council (April 30, 2014).
The Report thinks that some political strong arming likely got him the nod as the appointee over fellow Alliance Democrat Sue Ryan.
In what the SCPR thinks was a major political miscalculation, in his first meeting as president, Okey tried to force a change in the way Alliance City Council votes (SCPR Link).
He failed in that quest and The Report is being told that he has apparently learned a lesson in Alliance in that he is acting much more like a number of the Alliance councilpersons think a council president should conduct him/herself.
The SCPR brings Okey into today's blog because of a Massillon Independent report on Thursday that he is representing Ms. St. John's legal interests.
She filed a violation of civil rights complaint (racial discrimination) with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission as of July 21, 2014, two weeks to the day that Massillon's council voted to defund the parking enforcement position.
However, his role as legal counsel, is not The Report's primary interest.
The SCPR considers Okey to be one of the most if not the most politically active attorneys in all of Stark County.
Not particularly "politically astute" though.
Okey, a former member of the Alliance City Council before his recent appointment as president, not long ago sued Alliance over the voting procedures that council had employed in certain instances (which, interesting enough, Okey himself has participated in while still a councilman). The lawsuit has been dropped.
He tried to make himself out to the SCPR as being a champion of political sunshine in government. And that may be. But The Report thinks his primary purpose in the Alliance situation was to embarrass Alliance councilman Larry Dordea who is the Republican November election opponent to guess who?
You've got it!
None other that George T. Maier.
Is he a part of the Maier/Jackson Massillon Political Machine machinations, whatever they may be?
Ya have to be believe he is, don't ya?
The Report does not see the Massillon Catazaro-Perry administration/city council flak over the Gordon-St. John hire as being a legal fight but as an extension of the continuing political battles that have been the hallmark of the mayor/council relationship.
The SCPR agrees with those who think that St. John's OCRC complaint will not succeed.
What it will do, The Report thinks, is keep the mayor's racism/sexism allegation front and center in Massillon politics and likely undermine her chances to be reelected mayor.
One would think that the political geniuses who the SCPR thinks may have put Catzaro-Perry up to the racist/sexist thing would have, by now, figured out that this gambit is not going to fly and have the maneuver slink off into obscurity hopefully to be forgotten by May, 2015.
Take a look at Massillon's demographic numbers on race/gender:
It could be that some voters might buy the mayor's argument that race was a factor in the decision to defund the parking enforcement position, given that only two council members of ten (including the presidency) are African-American.
But the SCPR thinks that most of the voters will agree with The Report that the defunding racial allegation is grounded in political gamesmanship, and, if anything, voters might well punish the mayor in May, 2015 for having made what they think to have been politically motivated allegations.
Should she survive the Democratic primary, The Report thinks it is likely she will face Republican Ward 6 councilman Ed Lewis, IV November's general election.
And in that election she will have to face up to the entire Massillon community; not just Massillon's Democrats.
While the SCPR does not buy the racist tag the mayor tried to put on Councilman Chovan and by implication on all those who did not vote her way; council's vote: just looking at the racial makeup of council
- the Catazaro-Perry/St. John allegation might be bought "on the face of the racial make up numbers disparity" by those who want to think the worst of those councilpersons voting to defund,
- the "sexist" allegation is way out there in "left field somewhere" in terms of council being sexists when a majority of council is guess what?
To the SCPR, the sexist allegation is pretty clear indication of "the stretch" (i.e. throw everything in, including the kitchen sink) that the Catazaro-Perry/Maier Massillon political cabal was into in apparently formulating the administration attack on the voting majority of council.
But to reiterate, the SCPR thinks the attempted racist tag is a "red herring" also.
In short, the tussle over the Gordon-St. John hire is part of the ongoing struggle between council and the mayor as to who is in charge of Massillon city government.
It is obvious that the mayor and the voting majority of council do not trust each other.
And it could be that council members have looked at the public trail that Dwan Gordon-St. John has left out there on the Internet and in publicly available public records and question the basis on which - in light of the overall information - Mayor Catazaro-Perry, if not based on political considerations made the hire.
The SCPR has not read nor heard reasons why the mayor thought Gordon-St. John was a good hire for Massillon.
Of course, The Report hasn't seen nor heard heard her vouching the merits of her many hires, other than "glittering generalities."
Since the mayor has made the Gordon-St. John's initial hire an issue with her racists/sexists allegation, doesn't she have an obligation to tell the Massillon public what in her resume and public record (Internet based and otherwise) recommends her for city of Massillon employment?
Here is Massillon's record of her current position of her current hire: (note: July 21, 2014, the day she filed her Ohio Civil Rights Commission complaint against the City of Massillon)
First of all, Gordon-St. John's submitted resume: (an extract)
What apparently was not part of the the consideration of the Catazaro-Perry administration of whether or not to hire Gordon-St. John was the number of listings for her on the Stark County Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) website, the federal bankruptcy court for Northern Ohio and the executive clemency branch of the Ohio Adult Parole Authority.
At least, if the administration knows about these matters and considered them, it did not indicate such to the SCPR in The Report's employment application public records request with regard to Ms. Gordon-St. John.
If the administration has not troubled itself to have at a minimum Massillon Police Department check of a prospective employee (not only Gordon-St. John but all new hires, no matter whom) as former mayor Frank Cicchinelli tells the SCPR his administration did without fail, then shame on the Catazaro-Perry administration and its its failure in its fiduciary duty to protect the public interest.
If the administration does have information that some might deem to be negative in a particular hiring situation, then it owes the public an explanation as to why a given hire was made notwithstanding such information.
These points apply not only to the Catazaro-Perry administration but to all Stark County-based units of government.
The SCPR does not think that merely because a person has a troubled past that such does in and of itself disqualify that person from public employment.
However, the taxpaying public in entitled to know that political considerations are not short-circuiting the employment vetting process.
One of the richest experiences (in the sense of seeing political sausage made) the writer of The Stark County Political Report has ever had has been rubbing shoulders with the power brokers of Stark County politics and government as a candidate for office in 2002/2004.
One particular breakfast fundraiser in the Fall of 2004 stands out.
The "good ol' boys" (mostly boys, there may have been a girl or two) were sitting around at table downing eggs, bacon and orange juice and, in general, having "a laugh-filled, back slapping time" reminiscing on political "war stories."
One of the stories had to do with a person in need of a job who as a politically active citizen was giving a certain Stark County office holder fits.
Solution to the problem?
Hire the person into a public, taxpayer supported job.
End of the person being a problem!
"Knowing" guffaws filled the room.
The SCPR believes and has written that there are many other scenarios of how all too many of Stark County's elected officials seemingly use your and my tax dollars to solve their particular political-based hiring needs.
From early in the days of this blog's existence, the SCPR has been writing about this all too common phenomenon.
To say it again, major damage is done to the public perception of fairness in government when politically based/motivated hires occur in that there is no "posting of the position" inviting the general "taxpaying" public to apply.
In an incremental but sustained fashion, those elected officials who promote, condone or "look the other way" on such hirings turn out to be "their own worst enemy" in terms of undermining public confidence in the fairness of our system of government and thereby make their own jobs more difficult in the sense that they feed the growing cynicism of the public.
And, of course, a failure by public officials to do thorough background checks can and should come back to haunt an offending official.
Let's hope that with all the political connectedness hirings that seem to be going on in Stark County government that one or more do not end up costing the taxpayers because the discoverable was not subjected prudent due diligence discovery processes.
While, perhaps, an offending official will lose his/her job; in the end it likely will be the tax paying public who get left holding the bag.
And thusly the public's distrust of government and "playing politics" public officials will continue to grow.
The overall Massillon hire situation, the SCPR thinks, reeks of "political connections count for everything."
And in such a hiring process the tax paying public gets counted out!