Monday, September 29, 2014




In view of the trauma that Stark County Probate Court judge Dixie Park visited upon Stark County ordinary citizen Barbara Lockhart of Alliance on September 25, 2013, to wit:
While the SCPR understands that judges are human beings who make mistakes like we all do; this one is more than a "common variety mistake" and therefore it should have some consequences that serves as a lesson to all persons of judicial or political power who abuse that power.

Not being a judge any more, seems to the SCPR to be a fitting consequence for Judge Park which, if such becomes a reality, will be a lesson not lost on those who hold power in our cherished American democratic/republican system grounded in "the rule of law."

Judge Park could make it easy on herself and everybody else in the Ohio and Stark County body politic and resign.

That, the SCPR thinks, would be the proper thing to do.

But "power people" are not prone to do "the community interest" or what many of us think is "the morally right" thing.  For them, "might is right" is a standard which likely permeates their lives in the public sector.


And, it seems that if one is a judge, those in superior positions of authority in our system of justice who could deal with such a matter as the Park/Lockhart situation; do not - often enough - do so.  Especially if judicial conduct is the issue.

There has been chatter as to whether or not somebody who has the obligation under the Ohio Supreme Court Rules of Attorney/Judicial Conduct has or will possibly make a referral of the Park handling of Lockhart to Ohio's disciplinary counsel.

But we will never know if a referral has been made unless Disciplinary Counsel takes a matter up, files a charge and makes a recommendation to the Ohio Supreme Court that discipline be administered.

Even if Disciplinary Counsel does make a recommendation, as in the Massillon Municipal Court disciplinary affair in which Eddie Elum was the subject matter (LINK to the actual decision), many political and judicial system observers think that Ohio's Supremes take it easier on fellow judges than on "gone-rogue" attorneys.

Elum has long had a reputation among folks who appear before him, or otherwise have had to deal with him, of having a short fuse and being an "over-the-top" pop off.

An example, as cited by the Ohio Supreme Court in Disciplinary Counsel v. Elum, 2012-Ohio=4700.

And, of course, for someone talking the way Elum did to Dunn, it was no surprise that he attacked The Stark County Political Report back in 2010 when The Report blogged about a political conflict between Elum and Chief of Police Robert Williams of Massillon, to wit:
    I received some excepts (sic) on your blog covering a meeting that I had last week with Chief Rob Williams and Chief Prosecutor John Simpson. Our meeting was very constructive and helpful.  Your statements are false and misleading.  You have no conscience, lack professionalism and make no effort to ascertain the facts. As a member of the Bar, you are an embarrassment.  You do nothing to promote the high ethical standards of our legal profession.


    "Your statements are false and misleading.  You have no conscience, lack professionalism and make no effort to ascertain the facts."
Look at this additional excerpt from the aforecited Ohio Supreme Court Decision:

{¶ 18} Judge Elum has since acknowledged that there was no cover-up by the Massillon Police Department of the arresting officer’s conduct in the Farnsworth case and that he used a “bad term” in describing the situation. 

Judge Elum has admitted that through his January 15 order, he placed himself in the middle of an administrative investigation into the arresting officer’s conduct and stepped outside his role as a judge. Judge Elum has recognized that his threat of contempt proceedings at the January 20 pretrial hearing had been a “bad choice of words” because contempt would not have been appropriate under the circumstances. 

And Judge Elum has agreed that he issued an unenforceable order on January 21 when he continued to pursue the submission of the text and picture messages after the criminal and traffic charges against Farnsworth had been
resolved. Finally, Judge Elum admits making statements to the newspaper about the Massillon Police Department, alleging ineffective leadership.

Had the Supreme Court not stayed Elum's six month suspension from the practice of law, the SCPR thinks that the court would have thereby made a powerful ruling that would have resonated far and wide within the Ohio judiciary that the court will not abide such conduct in that there would be "real world" consequences.

Such a ruling may have been effective to make Judge Park think twice, three times or more on September 25, 2013 before doing what she did to Citizen Lockhart.

But Supreme Court did not.

In staying Elum's suspension, they did what many think amounted to a mere "slap on the wrist."

And there are those out in the general public who suspect that judges are not exactly the ideal factor to deal with maverick judges.

Consequently, it is refreshing to have one like Conley (see discussion below) step up and invoke another procedure  that may result in a Judge Dixie Park being removed from office in the wake of the Canton-based Fifth District Court of Appeals having found that she abused judicial discretion in denying Lockhart due process of law.

There are instances (LINK) where governing authorities have effectively and swiftly dealt with "off-the-reservation" judges.

If Park gets removed from office, there will be headlines across the media of Ohio (even The Canton Repository) that no judge will miss the point of.

The Elum and Park matters are relatively rare, and, of course, many if not most Ohio judges are first-rate.

Here in Stark County, the SCPR can point to the likes of now retired judges Charles E. Brown, Jr, and V. Lee Sinclair, Jr.

Stark's David Dowd, Jr. (interestingly enough from Massillon) who sits on the federal bench has had a distinguished career as a jurist as did Leroy Contie, Jr. before him.

And there is Ira Turpin.

Yours truly remembers Ira a being a classy jurists who had a passion for minority rights.

As a political reporter, opinion maker, editorialist and sometimes an investigative journalist, The Stark County Political Report wears as a "badge of honor" receiving attacks like Elum's.

In one conversation with Elum, he was at loss to explain why Martin Olson would write critical blogs about him.  "Martin," he says, "I have checked my records and you have never appeared in my court."

The Report repeats:  For the SCPR, it is never a matter of a subject being friend or foe, it is a matter of "letting the 'political' chips fall where they may."

No passes to those generally thought well of from the pen of the SCPR.

And, The Report, has no problem commending public officials for specific conduct who the SCPR thinks in general are not high quality public officials, and, moreover, perhaps, subjects The Report does not personally like.

The Report has never had a problem with Judge Dixie Park.  Is she thinking what Elum was?  What did I ever do to Martin Olson?

Answer:  nothing, absolutely nothing!

The SCPR is pursuing stories and getting to the bottom of them in the spirit of making our political system a better one in terms of:
  • accountability,
  • respectfulness of government/political officials to the Stark County public,
  • communicability,
  • accessibility,
  • openness, and the like.
Stark County prosecutor John Ferrero attacked the SCPR over The Report's unceasing advocacy that justice prevail in the Marlboro Chief of Police Ron Devies matter.

Of course, The Report has written quite a number blogs referencing Ferrero's attack because it appears to have a frontal assault on The Report's constitutional right to engage in the expression of a free press in holding public officials accountable.

And that (an attempt to intimidate the media) is how the SCPR takes Elum's attack. For the SCPR has never has been written by yours truly as member of the bar.

Noteworthy is The Report's turnabout in commending Ferrero for resisting to what appears to be a bullying effort by George T. Maier, his brother and former Stark County Democratic Party chairman Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. and a number of top-tier political allies to make George Stark County sheriff.

Here is a link list of a series of blogs that the SCPR had penned in early 2010 on Elum's :
As regards to the-then Massillon Chief of Police Williams political flap with Elum, who ends up having a disciplinary complaint filed against him?

As recited above, Edward J. Elum.


What do SCPR readers think?

Did The Report have the facts straight?

Who is an embarrassment to the bar?

Currently, the SCPR is working on a City of Canton/Canton City Schools matter in which a great deal of resistance is being encountered to a public records request.

The more resistance, guess what?  The more the SCPR is likely to dig, and dig, and dig until the question "why the resistance" is found out!

What will The Report uncover if "in an accordance with Ohio law" response is made to the outstanding public records request?

Right now the SCPR is being told that The Report does not understand the import of an Ohio Supreme Court case in terms of what material has to be revealed.

Somewhat like Elum's "Martin, you did not get your facts right," no?

We shall see how much the SCPR understands.

The SCPR has been told many, many times over the life of this blog how The Report does not understand this or that thing or get this thing or that thing correctly. 

The Report's history is that, most of the time, if not nearly all the time, there is understanding/factual knowledge on the part of the SCPR and, more often than not, it turns out the resisting/declaiming officials/entities were hiding something that the public is entitled to know.


The Stark County Political Report would be absolutely amazed if Judge Park were to resign over her handling of the Lockhart matter.

Power public officials like Park always think with time the controversy will fade away and the misdeed will have no "real" political consequences.

And, often, they are correct.

However, Judge Park has yet to square up with the known track record of local civic activist and attorney Craig T. Conley who is one tenacious, bulldog of an activist when it comes to seeing to it that his take on justice and the rule of law becomes reality.

The SCPR has learned that Conley has decided to invoke (starting this week)  a procedure provided by Ohio Revised Code Section 3.07, to wit (focusing on the relevant parts applicable to the Park situation):
3.07 Misconduct in office - forfeiture.

Any person holding office in this state, or in any municipal corporation, county, or subdivision thereof, coming within the official classification in Section 38 of Article II, Ohio Constitution, who willfully and flagrantly exercises authority or power not authorized by law, ... is guilty of misconduct in office. Upon complaint and hearing in the manner provided for in sections 3.07 to 3.10 ... .
The In re: Finan Fifth District Court of Appeals decision is enough, the SCPR thinks, to justify an initiation of a 3.07 procedure against Judge Park.

Moreover, The Report thinks that there is other substantial indication that Judge Park has arrogantly discharged her authority and thereby provides an additional bases on which she should be removed from office.

The SCPR welcomes the courageous effort by Conley and is pleased that he is willing to devote time and effort to this gigantic project.

In order to get started on the multi-step process to remove Park, Conley needs to marshal forces to collect signatures.

When Conley and fellow community activist Thomas Marcelli launched a similar effort in 2009 (Stark County Citizens Right to Vote Committee) in an effort to void by citizen vote the 1/2 cent "imposed" sales tax at the hand of 2008 Stark County commissioners Todd Bosley, Tom Harmon and Jane Vignos, The Report was skeptical that they and their co-workers could pull off getting 10% of the 2008 gubernatorial vote as signatories (about 14,000) on their petitions.

But the committee did,

And, to boot, though the SCPR thought at the time that the "imposed" nature of the levy was ill-advised, The Report supported Stark Countians retaining the tax.

But Stark Countians did not.

By a huge margin, county voters sustained the Conley/Marcelli effort in November, 2009.

The signature collection standard for R.C 3.07 is higher:  15% of the last gubernatorial election vote.

The SCPR thinks the closest standard for calculating what the 3.07 effort will require is the 2010 governor's race (a non-presidential year like 2014 is).

It appears that about 20,000 might be needed.

But perhaps not.

Since Ohio's Democrats have nominated a Rob Burch-esque candidate in Clevelander Ed FitzGerald and it appears  to the SCPR that the entire Republican statewide ticket will cruise to victory in little over a month, it could be that the number could be closer to 15,000 than 20,000.

In 1994 123,085 Stark County voters went to the polls.  So let's see.  Fifteen (15%) percent times 123,085 voters equals 18,463.

Could 2014 (the basis on which the 3.07 calculation will be made) be lower than 1994.

Probably not, but, of course, anything is possible.

It is up to her, of course, but one would not think that Judge Dixilene Park is going to take Conley and his political allies lightly.

Of course, unlike any other media outlet reporting/opinionating on Stark County politics and government, the SCPR provides Conley's gameplan in its entirely as outlined in a letter faxed to The Report on Friday, to wit: (restructured somewhat by the SCPR for clarity/emphasis sake)

September 26, 2014

TO:    Martin Olson, Blogger Stark Political Report

FROM:  Craig T. Conley, Esq.
RE:    Stark County Probate Court Judge Dixie Park

Because Judge Park is running unopposed in the upcoming November election, there are only two means to obtain her removal from the Bench:

  • a disciplinary action through the Ohio Supreme Court, or 
  • the procedure set forth in O.R.C. 3.07, et seq. (which Code Sections apply to many public officials, including Judges).
As to the latter, O.R.C. 3.07 provides, in pertinent part, that:
  • "Any person holding office in this state, or in any . . ., county, or subdivision thereof, . . . who willfully and flagrantly exercises authority or power not authorized by law, . . . is guilty of misconduct in office", noting that applicable jurisprudence indicates the standard of proof is "clear and convincing", not "beyond a reasonable doubt".
As to Judge Park, based upon the Finan Opinion alone, I believe she clearly meets that statutory definition of misconduct in office and that the aforesaid standard of proof can be readily met at hearing.
  • O.R.C. 3.08 provides, in pertinent part, that: "Proceedings for the removal of public officers . . . shall be commenced by:
    • the filing of a written or printed complaint specifically setting forth the charge,
    • and signed by qualified electors of the . . . political subdivision whose officer it is sought to remove, not less in number than fifteen percent of the total cast for the governor at the most recent election for the office of governor in the . . . political subdivision whose officer it is sought to remove".
While that is a relatively "big" number vis-a-vis the last gubernatorial election, it will certainly be a much smaller number vis-a-vis the upcoming November election; and, as evinced by the sales tax repeal referendum here in Stark County, obtaining the requisite number cf signatures is certainly "doable".

Indeed, although Ms. Lockhart is (at least to my knowledge) the most adversely affected victim of Judge Park's misconduct in office, there are many dozens of others who I reasonably presume would be quite willing to assist in gathering the requisite number of signatures.

Also pursuant to O.R.C. 3.08, if the complaint (which I will draft):

  • sufficiently specifies the misconduct, and 
  • if it (which may be signed in counterparts) contains sufficient valid signatures, 
the matter would be heard before the Fifth District Court of Appeals, 
  • noting that Judge Park would have a right to demand a jury and thereafter would have the right under O.R.C. 3.09 to an appeal
Also pursuant to O.R.C. 3.08, provides in pertinent part, that:
  • "Proceedings for the removal of public officers . . . by the filing of a written or printed complaint:
    • specifically setting for the charge, and
    • signed by the qualified electors of the . . . political subdivision whose officer it sought to be removed not less in number than fifteen percent of the total cast for the governor at the most recent election for the office of governor in the . . . political subdivision of whose officer it is sought to remove."
Also pursuant to O.R.C. 3.08, "The court may suspend the officer during pendency of the hearing'' (noting that the "hearing shall be had within thirty days from the date of the filing of the complaint." 

In short, I intend, at my earliest possible opportunity to begin the process, it being more than just unlikely that Judge Park will voluntarily resign.

. . .

Little did Judge Park on September 25, 2013 understand that in legally abusing Mrs. Lockhart that she might be unleashing political forces that may well deprive her of a role in Stark County government she prizes, that of continuing to be a Stark County jurist.

The SCPR is disappointed that Judge Park apparently lacks the capacity to self-correct.

Beyond that, The Report is disappointed in that the judicial system itself (outside of the Fifth District Court of Appeals in its In re: Finan decision) seems to have a blind spot in the handling of "off-the-reservation" judges.

All power vested in the officers of government in our system of government are derived from the people.

How quickly not only Judge Park, Judge Elum and others forget this most fundamental of all American values.

On the flip-side, it is encouraging that the likes of Conley, Marcelli and others, in a display of corrective citizenship, step-up-to-the-public-interest-over-private-interest-plate and get "the people" involved in removing those who do not understand that they are "temporarily" holding the public trust and are subject to being removed when they forget from whence they came!

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