Tuesday, September 30, 2014

CAN "EVERYDAY" CITZENS MAKE A DIFFERENCE?



VIDEOS

CITIZEN SIMON IN ACTION

COUNCILMEN
FISHER & GRIFFIN
RESPOND ON
SIMON EFFECT

MAYOR HEALY
ON
GROUP 175 EFFECT

MAYOR HEALY
ON
CITIZEN COTE CRITICISM

The SCPR thinks the "hotbed" of citizen action is between Cantonians and Canton city government.

But after last night, The Report has to ask whether or not Canton's councilpersons and the Healy administration seeming interest in citizen input and acting thereon is simply a mirage?

Citizen Laura Simon was first up at last night's Public Speaks.



On September 8th, Ms. Simon was behind the lectern in the weekly (or nearly so) opportunity afforded by council to citizens to - in effect - lobby the council and/or the mayor and his administration to see things the citizens' way and to change course on policy formulation and/or implementation.

On the 8th Ms. Simon pushed council to override Mayor Healy's veto of previously passed legislation (June  2, 2014) whereby Canton's income tax credit would have been (if not vetoed) been restored to a full 2% (which is the current rate of Canton's city income tax),to wit:
COUNCIL PROCEEDINGS JOURNAL 102 JOURNAL PAGEMINUTES OF THE MEETING SEPTEMBER 8, 2014-557-

LAURA SIMON: Good evening everyone. My name is Laura Simon. I live at 520 32nd Street NW, Canton,Ohio 44709. I am here tonight to express my views on Ordinance 108/2012 which changed the city income tax credit for residents of Canton who work in another municipality from 2% to 1.7%.

I am unhappy and think this Ordinance is an unfair tax targeted to a certain group of Canton city residents. On July 30, 2012,City Council voted on Ordinance #108 to reduce the income tax credit from 2% to 1.7%. This is a 3/10's of a percent tax increase to all working Canton city residents that work in another municipality. The vote was 6 to 6 with the tie breaking vote by President Schulman who voted yes.

The discussion previous to the vote was by Councilmen Morris and Fisher.

Their concern was about construction workers being penalized becausethey could work aside the city of Canton and incur the additional income tax.

I will give you another concern. Me. I have lived in Canton 30 of my 39 working career years. The last 25 years have been with my 3rdgeneration family business in East Canton. Our business has an accountant who, to keep track and pay the income tax due to each of the municipalities where our employees live.

When I filed my 2013 city income tax, I had already paid the correct amount.

The accountant had adjusted to the additional 3/10's of a percent.

I did not recognize the change and did not realize at the time I was paying 3/10's of a percent more city income tax than my neighbor. It wasn’t until my college student daughter’s Canton city income tax paper came back in the mail, stated that she owed more income tax. She lives at home and went to Kent State University main campus and worked in Kent. It wasn’t until the second letter came, that I investigated and found out that she also has been penalized an additional 3/10's of a percent because she lives with me but worked in Kent. I understand that Canton needs more money.

I understand that it is difficult to ask Canton city residents to vote to raise the income tax but targeting only the working wage earner because they work in another city is unacceptable.

I do applaud however our Treasurer, Kim Perez and Councilman Morris and Smuckler in trying to reverse this inequality this past spring only to be passed in Council and vetoed by the President, by the Mayor in June 2014. Mr. Mayor....

PRESIDENT SCHULMAN: Well ma’am you’ve got about 15 seconds to wrap it up if you don’t mind.

LAURA SIMON: Do you remember when Stark County Commissioners voted on their own to raise the county sales tax. People who feel they were taken advantage of by the, that very group that was voted in to watch over them, don’t forget that action.
PRESIDENT SCHULMAN: Thank you very much ma’am. That’s, that’s all we have. Thank you.(APPLAUSE) And Miss Simon I would invite you to stay through the meeting. I’ll be happy to make some remarks in Miscellaneous Business for you.

LAURA SIMON: Will you give me a refund.

PRESIDENT SCHULMAN: I would probably give you a refund, yes.
(SCPR note:  colored text added to differentiate)
On September 22nd, Canton City Council did just that.

Councilmen David Dougherty (Ward 6), Kevin Fisher (Ward 5) and James Griffin (Ward 3) changed their votes from July and the mayor's veto was overriden.

Give Citizen Simon a "high five!," no?

Well, according to Simon some of her friends and relatives did.

The SCPR got to thinking.

Did "everyday" Citizen Simon's September plea "really" have any effect on Dougherty, Fisher and Griffin.

First, listen to Fisher and Griffin after last night's meeting.



Think Simon should have been "high-fiving" over her "apparent" victory?"

Then there was the announcement by Mayor William J. Healy, II that by January, 2015 (only months before the Democratic Party primary election) that his administration would be beefing up the overall strength of the Canton Police Department from its current 162 members to 169.

Readers of the Stark County Political Report will recall the many blogs
The Report has done with regard to a group of Ward 9 Vassar Park citizens (self-described as being Group 175, headed up by everyday citizen Bruce Nordman) wherein various members are shown seemingly week-after-week-after-week besieging council and the mayor to beef up Canton's finest to 175 police officers strong.

With Healy's announcement, the SCPR could not resist.  The Report put to the mayor the question of what effect the Nordman/Vassar Park Group 175 had on his administration being on the brink of the Canton Police Department (CPD) getting to 175 strong.

Here is Healy's answer.



What do you think?

Is mayor giving Group 175 any credit for pushing him and prodding council to push him to get the CPD to 175 officers?

The SCPR thinks "not really."

For generally the egos of public officials are such that they cannot bring themselves to acknowledge that "everyday" citizen-activists had any role in their "seeing the light."

And so much "hurrah" for everyday citizen Leon Cote for thinking he could get Canton government to be more efficient and effective in bringing diversity to the CPD.

Here is Healy responding to Cote's criticism that Canton "is not getting 'enough bang for the buck' spent" with its current hiring diversification program.



Healy sees the need to bring black Americans in greater numbers into the police force to be of  such a critical factor that he told The Report last night that if Canton does not, then, perhaps, Canton will become the "Ferguson, Missouri" of Ohio!

And yet the administration's program of developing diversity resources is not working if one give credence to information provided the SCPR recently by Canton Civil Service director Sam Sliman.

So to return to the base questions:

Canton Canton citizens make a difference?

Are they currently being effective with the Healy administration and with Canton City Council?

First of all, the SCPR knows and can point to a number of Stark County examples wherein citizens have been shown to be difference makers.

However, the politicians are loathe to give "everydays" any credit whatsoever for having moved them on any given issue.

Which phenomenon bleeds in to the answer to the next question.

Is citizen action effective?

The Report thinks it is and has been and will continue to be in Canton, notwithstanding the "in effect" denial of Fisher, Griffin and Healy.

Which responses the SCPR does not quite get.

Shouldn't public officials be eager to signal "everyday citizens" they are heard and whenever the officials can do so they incorporate the ideas and recommendations of "everydays?"

Oh! but that ego.  The ego not successfully managed by many human beings and certainly not by the politician public officialdom.

For way too many politicians/public officials must be "the greatest" and "have all the answers," no?

Monday, September 29, 2014

PART 4 OF A TWO PART (LOL: i.e. 4 of 2) SERIES: A CASE AND OTHER ALLEGATIONS OF MISCONDUCT THAT MAKES THE CASE FOR STARK COUNTY PROBATE COURT JUDGE DIXIE PARK TO RESIGN? OR, BE REMOVED INVOLUNTARILY "BY DUE PROCESS OF LAW!?



CONLEY TO INITIATE A PROCESS 
TO REMOVE
 JUDGE DIXIE PARK FROM OFFICE

PARK'S CURRENT SITUATION

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.

HOW DOES AMERICA'S POLITICAL SYSTEM DEAL WITH THE JUDGE PARKS OF THE WORLD?

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:
    Martin
    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.

  Again:

    "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.

Hmm?

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.

WHAT IS TO BE DONE ABOUT JUDGE PARK?

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!

Friday, September 26, 2014

REPUBLICAN COMMISSIONER RICHARD REGULA FOR STARK DEMOCRATIC PARTY APPOINTED SHERIFF GEORGE T. MAIER?



Back on January 3, 2013, The Stark County Political Report wrote a blog on newly elected Stark County commissioner Richard Regula (son of former 16th District Republican congressman Ralph Regula)  being sworn in the midst of a group of hardcore Stark County Democratic Party well-wishers.

Here is part of that blog write up:
It was interesting to hear him [Regula to the SCPR] describe his swearing-in last Thursday at the Massillon Municipal Court with Judges Roland Centrone (a Republican) and Eddie Elum (a Democrat and Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. political ally) doing the honors.

Two other political significants he
[Regula] identified included Massillon Mayor Kalthy Catazaro-Perry and her political mentor Johnnie A. Maier, Jr.  Maier is a former chairman of the Stark County Democratic Party and currently serves as the elected head of the  Massillon clerk of courts office.
The Report went on in the blog to describe fairly frequent instances in which Regula has shown up and Democratic candidate fundraisers over the years going back to the early 2000s.


So it was no surprise to the SCPR to receive a telephone call from a staunch Stark County Republican saying that he had word that Regula was going around telling everybody what a great sheriff he thought Maier was and thereby leaving the impression that Regula was supporting Maier for sheriff over Republican Larry Dordea.

The caller further informed the caller that he told Regula that if he did publicly support Maier that he would lead an effort to deny him reelection in 2014 when Regula's current term is up.

The SCPR asks the question:  Is this a case of "turnabout is fair play?"

For the SCPR thinks that former Democratic sheriff Tim Swanson supports Republican Larry Dordea for sheriff and George T. Maier seems to agree.

The Report is told that in Swanson's lawsuit in a personal liability against Maier claiming some $90,000 in damages for his assuming office of Stark County sheriff illegally for the period February 5, 2013 through November 6, 2013 (according to an Ohio Supreme Court ruling), the Maier forces are saying that the litigation is designed to help Dordea defeat Maier in the November election.

And, get this.

Maier's attorneys have submitted with pleadings making the claim, copies of Stark County Political Report blogs.

The Report can remember George's brother Johnnie A. Maier, Jr as a Stark County Board of Elections (BOE) member dissing the SCPR as The Report pushed through to gain the right to videotape BOE meetings for the benefit of the Stark County general public.

For the record, the SCPR does not think Swanson is using the lawsuit as a tool to defeat Maier.

Larry Dordea's folks certainly appear to be interested in doing so.  And, you can be sure that if Maier prevails before election day, he and his supporters.

For the Dordea interest, a helpful headline would read:  MAIER FOUND TO BE USURPING SHERIFF.  ORDERED TO PAY SWANSON $90,000 IN DAMAGES.

For Maier and his supporters, they would love to see:  COURT FINDS MAIER DID NOTHING WRONG IN ASSUMING OFFICE ON FEBRUARY 5, 2013.

We should find out late this morning whether or not it is likely that a decision in the civil liability case of Swanson v. Maier will be forthcoming prior to election day.

Not long ago, The Report published a photograph of (taken by Swanson himself) of his son and grandson sporting Dordea for Sheriff campaign shirts in the front lawn of Swanson's home.


And many think that Stark County Democratic prosecutor John Ferrero is telling his supporters to vote for Republican Dordea.


Swanson and Ferrero were among 84 Stark County Democratic Party officials (precinct committee persons) who voted against Maier and for Swanson protege Lou Darrow when they vied with one another on February 5, 2013 to replace sheriff-elect Mike McDonald (November, 2012) who was unable to take office on January 7, 2013 due to an illness which proved fatal on February 22nd.

In fact, Darrow filed a lawsuit to keep Maier from being eligible to seek the Dems' appointment.  That suit failed.


Swanson, however, was successful with his quo warranto lawsuit filed on February 12, 2013

On December 11, 2013, the Dems reappointed Maier but some 66 of the precinct committee persons still voted for Darrow.

Darrow recently retired from the sheriff's department.  The SCPR is told that a tiff developed between Maier and Darrow on Darrow getting a prized assignment within the department and Maier was saying "wait until after the election."

Question.

Is that the reason for the Darrow retirement?

Does this signal that Darrow will be encouraging his family, friends, neighbors and acquaintances to vote for Republican Dordea?

The point of all this discussion is to demonstrate that Maier has much more of a problem holding onto hardcore Democrats on November 4th than does Dordea holding onto to the likes of a Richard Regula.

For his part, Regula told the SCPR yesterday that he is staying neutral.

But he did admit to the SCPR that he attended a George T. Maier breakfast fundraiser last year.

He says that as commissioner he thinks well of both candidates and whomever is elected he has to and looks forward to working with

Hmm?

Does that mean he is going to skip voting in the Maier/Dordea race?

The Report thinks that there are enough Regula ties to the Maier Loyalty Club that he will tap the electronic voting screen for George T. Maier come November 4th.

And that should be of some comfort to Maier.

But the discomforting fact has to be those Darrow supporters, Darrow himself, Swanson and Ferrero seem to remain unreconciled to George T. Maier.

In a year that many normally voting Democrats likely will stay at home because of the weak Democratic gubernatorial candidate (FitzGerald), Darrow, Ferrero and Swanson and their followers may be a difference maker in the Stark County sheriff race.

If George T. Maier wins by one vote, then maybe Dordea and Stark County's Republicans will be looking Richard Regula's way?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

PART 3 OF A TWO PART SERIES: A CASE AND OTHER ALLEGATIONS OF MISCONDUCT THAT MAKES THE CASE FOR STARK COUNTY PROBATE COURT JUDGE DIXIE PARK TO RESIGN?



UPDATED:  07:55 AM

When The Stark County Political Report started this series, it was advertised as being a "two part" series.

But as the headline above indicates, today's blog is entitled "PART 3 OF A (originally intended) TWO PART SERIES."

But if this story breaks the fashion the SCPR thinks it might, it could rival other headline blogs that The Report has been in the thick of; namely, the Phil Davison video (which went viral on the Internet in September, 2010) and the George T. Maier controversy when he was removed as the Stark County Democratic Party appointed on November 6, 2013.

Accordingly, it is likely that today's blog is not the last in this series.  However, if this series continues on, the headline format will remain PART # OF A TWO PART SERIES to serve as a reminder to readers that one never knows where a SCPR blog is going to lead.

The Report learned late yesterday that WOIO, Channel 19, and investigative reporter Carl Monday is instituting an investigation of the judicial conduct of Stark County Probate Court (Trial Court) judge Dixie Park.

The Report is told that parties-in-interest in another guardianship (In re: Balog) forwarded one of or both the SCPR Monday and Tuesday blogs to a lead official at Channel 19 and that Monday was directed to conduct an investigation.

The focus of today's blog is on:
  • the continuing saga of the story behind the Fifth District Court of Appeals (Appellate Court) decision in the case In re: Finan in which the Appellate Court found that Judge Park had violated the Constitutional Rights of Barbara Lockhart of Alliance in jailing her for not timely providing documents and making appearances in the Trial Court.
  • the suffering and indignities incurred by Lockhart in being jailed by Judge Park, and
  • an amplification of allegations made by local attorney and civic activist Craig T. Conley on certain judicial conduct by Park, and
  • where the Park matter might be headed.
    THE CONTINUING SAGA 

    WHERE THE MATTER MIGHT BE  HEADED

    Jeff Jakmides, attorney for Barbara Lockhart, did not know how to respond when Appellate Court Judge Scott Gwin inquired on hearing the horrifying story of an ordinary Stark Countian being thrown into the Stark County jail asked:  What can we do for your client?

    Jakmides' response:  "You can clear her record."

    Another of his responses was "You can refer the matter to Ohio's Disciplinary Council."

    Response from the Appellate Court judges?

    None.

    But, of course, there should have been no response on the "you can refer [Park] to disciplinary counsel."

    For although Ohio judges and attorneys are obligated under the Rules of Professional Conduct to report to Disciplinary Counsel any conduct done by attorneys/judges that they witness or become aware of; anyone who refers is prohibited by those same rules in revealing having done so.

    The only person who can discuss such a referral is the subject him/herself. 

    So it is possible that one or more of the Appellate judges did a referral to Disciplinary Counsel.

    The SCPR has information to the effect that Craig Conley may have filed such a referral on Park.  And The Report asked Conley whether or not he had done so.  But to no avail.  Conley would neither confirm or deny that he had done so.

    Another point of oral argument before the Appellate Court by Jakmides is his description of an exchange that took place between himself, Judge W. Scott Gwin, Judge William B. Hoffman and Judge John W. Wise.

    A paraphrase: (Jakmides speaking)  "Judge Hoffman, Judge Wise, Judge Gwin; you've been around.  We've got a trial lawyer:  Judge Gwin.  We've got former trial courts judges:  Judges Hoffman and Wise.  We've got former prosecutors: Judges Hoffman, Wise and Gwin.  We've got a judge who has been a defense attorney:  Judge Gwin.
    Note:  And Judge Wise is the son of former Stark County judge Reuben Z. Wise, Jr. who died suddenly and tragically (1985) while serving as Stark County Probate Court judge.  The SCPR knew Judge Reuben Z. Wise, Jr.  And, it is clear to The Report, that the Lockhart matter would never, ever have occurred in Judge Reuben Z. Wise's court.  Not the remotest possibility!!! Reuben Z. Wise was a "bend over backwards" type of judge referred to elsewhere in this blog.
    After summing up some 120 years of legal/judicial experience as between Gwin, Hoffman, Wise and Jakmides himself, he asks them:  "Have we ever seen anything remotely like this in all our combined years?"

    Gwin, Hoffman and Wise did not say a word in response.  But the SCPR believes they had to be in full accord with Jakmides observation as evidenced by their clear and unmistakable decision in reversing Judge Park.

    One legal commenter has observed to the SCPR that these Appellate Court judges not only found that Jakmides had established one legal error by Judge Park.

    They went on to do what courts do not generally do (once the court has found one sufficient basis on which to reverse a trial judge) they found that Jakmides had established the second of two asserted Judge Park errors of law.

    And not just any law, but the bedrock of American law:  constitutional rights law.

    It boggles the mind - given In re: Finan that Judge Park thinks she is qualified to get out in the community and talk about constitutional rights.

    LOCKHART'S SUFFERING
    HORROR, TERROR & HUMILIATION!

    As a matter of the public record, Lockhart attorney Jakmides described in some detail in Trial Court and Appellate Court filings the emotional trauma (terror) that Ms. Lockhart suffered as a consequence of being jailed by Judge Park.


    And what 56 year old citizen who has never had to deal with the justice system wouldn't be terrified?

    Jakmides told the SCPR that when he first visited with Mrs. Lockhart on October 9th, she was in a complete state of frenzy.

    Jakmides also tells The Report that in his experience as an attorney (deemed by many in the Stark County bar to be one of Stark's very best criminal defense attorneys) courts bend over backwards (even granting "unreasonable" requests of a defendant) to ensure that all a potential jailed person is afforded all her constitutional rights (notice, opportunity to be heard and the assistance of competent legal counsel, et cetera) before there is any thought of convicting a person such as Lockhart and sentencing them to jail.

    The SCPR has obtained a description (from one in a indisputable position to know) of the process Mrs. Lockhart went through from the moment of being arrested on Judge Park's bench "arrest" warrant, to wit:
    She would have been taken from her home,  handcuffed and placed in the back of a cruiser and then transported to the Stark County Jail, likely in the full view of their family and neighbors, as well as the general public.
    Upon arrival at the Jail, Lockhart
    • would have been fingerprinted,
    • had her mug shots taken, 
    • required to disrobe and surrender all her personal belongings (including jewelry, watches, etc.), and
    • she would have, on October 1, 2013, have been issued a blue Jail jumpsuit and slippers, after which  placed in the appropriate Jail population,
    At the Stark County jail, Mrs. Lockhart almost certainly was incarcerated alongside prostitutes,. drunks, drug addicts and "lesser" violent offenders, noting that more experienced and hardened inmates often cruelly threaten and abuse "newbies" in "survival of the fittest" fashion.
    Note:  An extended stay in the Stark County jail means that Mrs. Lockhart suffered the horror and humiliation of being deprived of her liberty in the company of people who did not have the financial resources to get out of jail on bond, had such a terrible history that they were not eligible for bond or in waiting - after having been convicted to be transported to "hard time" prison.
    Getting out of jail for those charged but not convicted normally is easy to achieve.  Of course, having been illegally convicted, Mrs. Lockhart was not eligible to post bond.  Accordingly, she, for her 11 days in jail, was among the most destitute that Stark County has.
    As a Stark County jail inmate, Mrs. Lockhart was subject to a strict regimen as to what she was permitted and not allowed to do at what time; and, 
    And, perhaps, for the first time in her life, Mrs. Lockhart would had to use common showers, toilet facilities and sleeping arrangements with a large number of fellow prisoners.
    On being transported to Court for hearing on October 2, 2013, Lockhart would have been taken handcuffed and chained and in her jail-issued jumpsuit and slippers.
    Note:  On October 2nd, Mrs. Lockhart - who had never been in trouble with the law in her entire life - her attorney says - on the 2nd gets sentenced by Judge Park to 30 days in jail without having been afforded her constitutional rights. 
    An additional alarming factor of the October 2nd hearing, Jakmides says, is that there is no recording, there is no transcript of what actually went on when Park found Lockhart guilty of criminal contempt and sentenced her to jail.
    Such trauma, terror and utter humiliation is what Judge Park's unconstitutional denial (reference In re: Finan) of Lockhart of her due process of law rights was in large part, if not completely, visited upon over an 11 day period of time until she secured the legal services of Attorney Jeff Jakmides.

    If the "legal thrashing" at the hands of the Appellate Court were not enough to prompt Park to resign her place on the Stark County bench, it seems to the SCPR that the horror, terror and humiliation she visited on an ordinary - no prior record Stark Countian - upon reflection, would be enough for her to do the right thing by Stark Countians.

    WHERE IS THIS MATTER HEADING?

    It is hard to say.

    Of course, the thing the SCPR thinks ought to happen and Judge Park will realize how grievous the consequences to Barbara Lockhart of her legal mistake were and step down.

    But The Report does not think that Judge Park will go that easily.

    Perhaps WOIO and Monday getting into a scrutiny of the Lockhart and other Park handled judicial matters will be a convincing factor to Park.

    Of course, nobody who knows can speak to the matter, but perhaps Ohio's Supreme Court will be taking up the matter in a disciplinary complaint.

    Every judge in Stark County and Ohio has an interest in not having on Ohio's bar of justice judges who do not apparently know the fundamental "law of the land!"


    Wednesday, September 24, 2014

    REDUCING CANTON'S INCOME TAX CREDIT: A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE AND/OR PERCEPTION & NOT POLITICS AS USUAL?


    DID MAJORITY LEADER MORRIS VIOLATE OHIO'S SUNSHINE LAW IN GETTING THE VOTE FROM 7 TO 5 TO 10 TO 2?

    UPDATED:  8:35 AM
    (COUNCILMAN FISHER INPUT) 

    Re: Tax credit

            Kevin Fisher
            Today at 8:30 AM

    To:  Martin Olson

    Marty,

        Regarding your blog post this morning speculating  on the veto override vote from Monday, please allow me to address how I came to my vote.

    First of all, while you are correct in your assessment that council members do have respect for Member Dougherty, he played zero role in my vote Monday, as he and I did not discuss the vote at all between June and September. In fact, I can not recall Member Dougherty ever contacting me about my vote on any issue. My vote Monday, was consistent  with my original vote in 2012. The change was on the vote in the middle, when I felt I did not have enough information on the impact the repeal would have on the increased staffing in both the police and fire departments. In the months since, I have seen an additional three monthly revenue reports and feel, that while there will be an impact, that impact will less than previously forecasted.

    --
    Kevin L. Fisher
    Canton City Council - Ward 5
    (330)-489-3223
    (330)-412-4681
    kevin.fisher@cantonohio.gov  
     
    ORIGINAL BLOG

    As readers of The Stark County Political Report know, The Report sees "politics" everywhere in the operation of Stark County and political subdivision government.

    But the fact is that not everything is political.

    The problem is rightly discerning what is political and what is not.

    And rightly dividing is not as easy as one might think.

    It could be that the vote by Canton City Council this past Monday night (10 to 2) to override Mayor William J. Healy, II's veto of a 7 to 5 "pro-restoration" vote on June 2, 2014 (LINK to blog of June 3, 2014)  of Canton's income tax credit to a full 2% for those Cantonians who work outside the city was not primarily political.


    After talking with the principals (Mayor Healy and the Dean of Canton City Council - Councilman-at-Large Bill Smuckler), the SCPR thinks that as with whether one sees a beautiful woman or an ugly woman in the graphic headlining this blog is "a matter of perspective; a matter of perception."

    According to Councilman Smuckler's interpretation of the vote, the predominant reason for the override was that council became convinced that Canton suffers from a public perception of not being citizen/business friendly.


    And Smuckler is out to change that perception.

    Some might say that Smuckler is being political in that he is preparing to run for mayor in the Democratic primary next May.

    But the SCPR thinks not.

    Smuckler has admitted to The Report that he has given thought to running against Healy for a third time (one win [2003] and one loss [2007]) but that he would only do so - if at all - on the condition that a third match up were a one-on-one race.

    Though he has not taken out petitions yet, The Report understands; Canton City treasurer Kim Perez has announced that he will be running against the mayor for the Democratic nomination.

    So it appears that Councilman Smuckler does not have any political motive for leading (along with Morris) the effort to rollback the credit reduction.

    Kim Perez may.  But Mayor Healy downplays to The Report the possibility that his announced challenge is tantamount to his playing politics with this issue.

    From Mayor Healy's perspective, the whole matter of the reduced income tax credit is about "not rushing to judgment" on the matter and that the prudent fiscal thing to have done was for council to have waited until December to decide if city finances are healthy enough to justify restoring the full credit.

    He does get just a tad pointed and perhaps political in saying that council members can't have it both ways which is to say for them to demand more street department employees, firemen and police but vote to reduce revenues coming into city coffers.

    To The Report, on this point the mayor is to be read as being "fiscally concerned," not "politically retributative."

    As he pointed out in the conversation between the SCPR and himself yesterday, he is the person that the public will be focused upon if there is a shortfall or "unacceptable to the public" inadequate budgeting for street repairs, fire and police come his submitting a budget to council in December.

    A big unknown to the mayor is the degree to which "in the legislative hopper" HB 5 will adversely affect Canton's finances.


    For the SCPR, the mayor makes the more persuasive argument.

    The only caveat to The Report's take is that Smuckler says that the recent authorization by council for Canton treasurer Kim Perez to update the treasury's computer system will not kick in for another six months and that reliable information of loss of revenue entailed in restoring the tax credit (estimated by some to be $400,000 or so) will not be available until after the December voting deadline.

    If Smuckler is correct on the treasury input, then "why wait" becomes more viable.

    Nonetheless, after mulling it over, the SCPR still comes out with what harm is there to the pro-tax-credit position forces having waited.

    The most powerful thing about council's position is that Canton needs to begin yesterday to change the perception of Canton not being community friendly and each day lost is a day is something Canton cannot afford to indulge.

    So whatever side one wishes to take, each has potent arguments that cannot be evaluated at the present time as to whom history will record as having the better "on the merits" take.

    It is refreshing to the SCPR that Monday's differences between the mayor and council seem to be squarely in the camp of a different non-political perspective/model and not on political jockeying and Canton City Council "politics as usual" in the face of the upcoming 2015 council and mayoralty races.

    This even though announced Healy foe and Treasurer Kim Perez has jumped on the bandwagon along with those councilpersons who supported the original council voted reduction on July 30, 2012 as a "temporary" measure" until city finances improved.

    Ward 6 councilman David Dougherty (a former majority leader, who lost the post in a contested fashion to Ward 9 councilman Frank Morris, III) gave as his reason for switching sides from the June 2nd vote that "temporary is now over."


    It seems to the SCPR that Dougherty, if he were a sore loser to Morris, would have, on Monday evening, found a reason to stick by the mayor.

    That he did not, is evidence to The Report that his switch over was not in the least political.

    Moreover, though the SCPR has blogged that Dougherty does not have "the best bedside manner" vis-a-vis everyday citizens as was manifested when he sat in the president's chair during the Public Speaks portion of council's agenda, The Report believes that he is highly respected by his fellow councilmembers and that he likely was a key figure in persuading the likes of Ward 5 councilman Kevin Fisher and Ward 3 councilman Jim Griffin (retiring from council after his current term) to join with the pre-existing seven in rescinding the income tax credit reduction.


    Now that Canton's finances have improved, according to Smuckler, in that city income tax collections are at an all-time high and that Canton is receiving about $4 million annually in casino tax revenues which he estimates is a recovery of about 2/3rds the oft-Healy cited loss of some $5 million to $6 million in State of Ohio undivided local government monies, inheritance/estate tax revenues and utility taxes and the like; it was appropriate for council to act as it did on Monday night in overriding the mayor's veto.

    One reader of the SCPR suggested yesterday to The Report that Majority Leader Frank Morris' words at Monday night's meeting, to wit:
    Majority Leader Frank Morris intentionally kept his plans to reconsider the ordinance off the prepared agenda. Morris said it took several weeks of work among council members to establish the veto-proof majority.

    “It took a lot of council work,” Morris said. “It was a collaborative effort. I think the attitude on council is beginning to change, and we’re starting to work better as a unit.” 
    (Cite: City Council overrides veto, restores tax credit, Matt Rink, The Repository, 09/22/2014)
    was clear indication to the reader that Morris had perpetuated a Ohio Sunshine Law meeting in recruiting a veto-proof majority.

    The SCPR made a point of asking Mayor Healy in a Tuesday late afternoon telephone interview if a Sunshine Law violation was in his thoughts as the vote unfolded on Monday night.

    He said that it did not and on reflection he does not think that Morris did anything wrong in going about persuading Dougherty, Fisher and Griffin to switch their votes.

    Smuckler tells the SCPR that council had assurances from Law Director Joe Martuccio that the change from 7 to 5 on June 2nd to 10 to 2 on September 22nd would not be a violation of Ohio's Sunshine Law in the light of statutory interpretation by the Supreme Court of Ohio.

    The Report tried to contact Martuccio prior to the writing of this blog but was unsuccessful.

    The point of the SCPR bringing up the Sunshine Law factor is to further substantiate that the debate of the timing of the override vote was just that:  "a debate over the merits/demerits of proceeding on Monday night" witness Healy's unwillingness to ascribe a Morris.

    Healy pointed out to The Report that only one councilperson needed to change votes from June to September for the vote to be veto proof.

    It follows that even if Morris had caucused with three of the five voting no in June, three only represents 25% of council as a whole.  The question becomes how is that the equivalent of a majority deciding in a private session to vote to override?

    It is rather unusual for the SCPR to side with Mayor William J. Healy, II on anything.

    But The Report sees very little downside - with all due respect to the "perception argument" of Councilman Smuckler - to council to waiting until December to take a vote.

    The most encouraging thing about the debate is that, insofar as the SCPR can determine, it was a largely, if not completely, a non-political process.

    Perhaps "a debate on the merits of respective positions phenomenon," more than Smuckler's perception thing, is a reason for Cantonians to have hope that the out-and-out political days are over.

    Not that the SCPR thinks that things between the mayor and council will not again have episodes of "politics as usual" at play.

    But the debate on the override seems to be an instance of seeing a beautiful woman in the lead graphic with the lady of ugly politics being nowhere to be seen.

    The SCPR commends Mayor Healy and Canton City Council for elevating the override debate to a level of their differences being a matter of perspective.

    With more instances of this type of interplay between the mayor and council and the democratic processes of government in Canton could become "a beautiful thing to behold," no?

    Tuesday, September 23, 2014

    PART "TWO" OF A "TWO" PART SERIES: A CASE AND OTHER ALLEGATIONS OF MISCONDUCT THAT MAKES THE CASE FOR STARK COUNTY PROBATE COURT JUDGE DIXIE PARK TO RESIGN?



    In yesterday's blog, The Stark County Political Report focused on the decision of the Fifth District Court of Appeals on August 18, 2014 that Stark County Court of Common Pleas judge Dixilene Park had abused her authority and thereby had denied a Stark Countian "due process of law" in placing her in jail for 11 days in October, 2013 (In re: Finan).

    A number of Stark Countians think that Judge Park's legal transgression was of such an order that the right thing for Judge Park to do would be to resign from the bench.

    The SCPR has yet to talk with the attorney for subject of Judge Park's illegal action as to the effect on his client Barbara Lockhart.  However, a highly reliable third party tells The Report that Attorney Jakmides is reporting that Lockhart has suffered great trama in being jailed.

    This incident is a reminder that, in the American system of justice judges (as in most), are very powerful public officials whom are largely unaccountable for the official acts.

    The Fifth District Court of Appeals (Judges Scott Gwin, writer of the In re: Finan opinion, and concurring judges William B. Hoffman and John W. Wise) should be honored by Stark Countians for reversing Judge Park and thereby reiterating that "the rule of law" is to prevail in Stark County courts.

    The SCPR understands that a number of attorneys who practice in Judge Park's court think she is infected with an arbitrary and capricious "legal" virus and has favorites.

    But like most of us, when it comes to dealing with powerful persons in our government; they, by and large, will not come out into the sunshine and confront the powerful persons who abuse their official authority.

    However, Stark County is blessed to have one - local attorney and civic activist Craig T. Conley - who has, with other powerful Stark County officials, and is, in the Park situation, standing in the sunlight with his allegations.


    Of course, if Judge Park wants to respond to Mr. Conley's charges; she is welcome to go on camera with the Stark County Political Report with her response.

    Somehow, the SCPR, does not think that is going to happen.

    Of course, there would be no "off limits" questions.

    But the offer stands.

    Some might want to take Conley's stance as being disrespectful .  The SCPR does not. And the reason The Report does not is that it appears that Conley's coming forward is because of his devotion to "the rule of law" even if it means he has to suffer retaliation for doing so.

    When he took on Judge Frank Forchione of he Stark County Court of Common Pleas for redirecting $5,000 of Stark County taxpayer money to benefit the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in ascribing "political grandstanding" as seemingly being Forchione's motivation, he had to suffer of indignity of having a ethics complaint filed against him by an "anonymous" complainant.

    State of Ohio disciplinary officials did the right thing in finding that Conley had not violated Ohio's canons of ethics.

    In the SCPR's way of thinking, the Conleys of the world strengthen our democratic/republican ways of life and are not a detriment as the powerful subjects of their scrutiny want the public to believe.

    Before getting to a letter sent to the SCPR by Conley, let's review how Judge Park got to where she is now.

    As Stark Countians who read the SCPR know, one of the least favorite ways in the estimate of The Report one becomes a judge in Ohio is for a judgeship to become vacated for one reason or another.

    Upon the creation of a vacancy, under the law of Ohio, the vacancy is filled by the-then sitting governor.

    And structurally this process is just fine.

    However, the structure gets impaired by the introduction of Republican/Democratic Party benefited politics into the structural process.

    Not to get into a detailed description of this - in the view of the SCPR - potential corrupting of our judicial processes aspect of the appointment procedure - the process almost universally ends up with the appointment of a person of the same political identity as the appointing governor.

    Merit, the SCPR thinks, is secondary at best. Politics appears to be the guiding principle.

    That both political parties do it, is no answer.

    All that means that Democratic/Republican political party officials are all too willing to put political party interests ahead of the public interest of seeking out the very best Solomons to administer justice.

    And make no mistake about it, some first-rate people become judges under seeming political party controlled way of making judicial appointments.

    One of the SCPR's ideal judges (now retired) Charles E. Brown, Jr of Alliance was appointed by Governor Taft.  Brown was a no-nonsense judge with a heart and, more importantly, a disciple of the "rule of law."

    One of the highlights of his career was his administration of a convicts re-entry in a wholesome and integrated fashion back into society once "they had paid their debt to society."

    Another of Governor Taft's appointees was Dixilene Park, also of Alliance.

    Needless to repeat; the SCPR is not impressed with this Taft appointment.

    And "time 'may' tell" in his favor (voters may retain him as a  judge in view of the likely Republican sweep of the November 4th election), but the recent appointment by Governor Kasich of J. Curtis Werren to replace the retiring V. Lee Sinclair is suspect to the SCPR inasmuch as Werren is a guy with strong Republican Party connections who got the appointment over Democrat and top flight Stark County prosecutor Chryssa Hartnett notwithstanding that he had not been a practicing attorney for a significant period of time prior to being appointed.

    Voters of Stark County get a chance on November 4th to weigh in on the Werren/Hartnett competition because Hartnett has taken her case to the voters.

    Reports are that Werren is doing okay as a judge.  But the SCPR has to believe that Hartnett is much better positioned to become an outstanding judge than is Werren.

    Now back to the Park matter.

    Here is Conley's letter:

    Regarding the above-referenced subject matter, you have posed a number of questions to me which I am willing to answer, subject only to the restrictions imposed upon me by the Rules of Professional Conduct and/or by the Rules for the Government of the Bar.

    1.  Yes, I would consider it appropriate for Judge Park, based solely upon her gross misconduct as set forth by the unanimous Court in Fifth District Court of Appeals Case No. 2013 CA 00212, 2014-Ohio-3572, to forthwith tender her resignation (which circumstance I consider more than just unlikely).

    2.  No, I do not have any "hidden agenda" here. I simply want every Judge to follow the law and honor our Constitution; and, as an attorney/officer of the Court, I believe I have an affirmative duty to diligently and aggressively pursue the proper administration of justice, notwithstanding any potential for judicial retaliation and retribution.

    Indeed, I believe every attorney should put that same aforesaid affirmative duty ahead of his or her "checkbook".

    3.    Yes, I have previously filed or "ghost written"  Affidavits of Disqualification against Judge Park, two of which were denied
    and two of which were successful in that Judge Park, during pendency of same, "voluntarily" recused herself.

    Additionally, I presently have four Affidavits of Disqualification pending against Judge Park seeking her disqualification from five Stark County Probate Court Cases on the basis of her bias and prejudice against me and/or in favor of my opposing parties or counsel; and, in two of those Cases, I have Motions to Vacate and a Motion to Strike pending, which Motions are predicated upon Judge Park's overtly blatant failure to comply with applicable statutes, Rules of Court and constitutional due process provisions.

    4.    Yes, as to Judge Park's previous decisions, I have both lost and won in the Court of Appeals.

    However, quite significantly, I obtained a (almost-never-granted) writ of procedendo against Judge Park in Fifth District Court of Appeals Case No. 2012 CA 0C121; in Fifth District Court of Appeals Case No. 2013 CA 00206, I obtained vacation, as void ab initio, of several of Judge Park's decisions in a Probate Estate; and, in Fifth District Court of Appeals Case No. 2011 CA 00191, following service of my Complaint in Mandamus against her, she did what she should have done in the first place and provided me, albeit most reluctantly and upon "prodding" by the Stark County Prosecutor, the subject public records (noting that I presently have another such mandamus action pending against her in Fifth District Court of Appeals Case No. 2014 CA 30169).

    5.    Yes, as set forth in my aforesaid pending Affidavits of Disqualification, I do have legitimate (and I believe demonstrable) concerns about Judge Park's willingness and/or ability to understand and comply with applicable statutes, Rules of Court, constitutional previsions and jurisprudence.

    In that regard, as but one example, I am particularly mystified by Judge Park's ongoing insistence in inexplicably returning to me, in "domino fashion", all of the service copies of Affidavit-related filings I had faxed to her.  She returned all of those service copies on the purported grounds (as set forth in her identical cover letters to me} that same were "non-permitted-fax filings" in her Court, notwithstanding the obvious fact that all of those service copies reflected filings made in the Ohio Supreme Court, not in her Court (noting that those service copies were timely and duly served upon her pursuant to O.R.C. 2701.03(B)(3)).

    6.  Yes, dozens of other attorneys have the same opinion of and concerns about Judge Park as do I, but with very few exceptions, most do not have the "intestinal fortitude" to speak up or to otherwise do anything to "rock the boat", noting that neither I nor Attorney Jakmides are among such attorneys and further noting that three of my colleagues in the two pending
    Bolog Guardianship-related Affidavits of Disqualification, notwithstanding their legitimate concerns and fears about retaliation and retribution (and the attendant adverse impact
    on their income), have written letters supportive of same to the Master Commissioner.

    ...  Judge Park consistently "achieves" the Stark County Bar Association's lowest approval rating.


    7. Yes, Judge Park does have several "pals" whose fee requests and/or motions are, of record, rather routinely and quickly

    granted, which has certainly not been either my experience in her Court or the experience of the aforesaid dozens of other attorneys.  

    Indeed, I am aware of a number of out-of-County attorneys who intentionally decline, solely because of Judge Park, to practice in the Stark County Probate Court.


    In sum, notwithstanding the risk to my "fame and fortune", it remains my firm intention to continue (even if in "Lone Ranger" fashion) my aforesaid course of action, with the ultimate goal of improving both the Bench and the Bar in Stark County and therefore, at least: hopefully, assuring the proper administration of justice for its citizens.


    Some pretty serious allegations, no?

    Hopefully, the Stark County public will get some answers either by Judge Park going on camera with the SCPR with a response or in some other forum, voluntarily or involuntarily.

    For the SCPR, the Conley allegations, if borne out, serve the function of adding to what is already enough for Judge Park to resign, that is to say the Fifth District Court of Appeals decision in the In re: Finan case.

    For a higher court to say that Judge Park abused her discretion as a judge in denying constitutionally guaranteed due process of law rights which resulted in what had to be a horrifying experience of being jailed for 11 days on the part of Barbara Lockhart is in and of itself enough to warrant Park stepping down.

    The Fifth District Court of Appeals let Judge Park have her say  (which is another way of saying "affording her due process of law") before it negating her contempt of court finding of September 25, 2013.

    Barbara Lockhart was arrested on October 1, 2013 and remained jailed for 11 days without having been afforded due process of law!

    To repeat, In re: Finan is enough insofar as The Stark County Political Report is concerned for Judge Park to remove herself from the Stark County bench!

    Monday, September 22, 2014

    PART "ONE" OF A "TWO" PART SERIES: A CASE AND OTHER ALLEGATIONS OF MISCONDUCT THAT MAKES THE CASE FOR STARK COUNTY PROBATE COURT JUDGE DIXIE PARK TO RESIGN?



    (SCPR Note:  instances of enlarge type, color text, italicized text and bold text in quoted material used in this blog is added by The Report for emphasis sake)

    As readers of The Stark County Political Report know, The Report abhors anybody running for public office without opposition.


    Even though she has only been a judge for ten years, it appears that the Stark County organized Democratic Party thinks Park (link to bio) has done such a terrific job at being Stark County Court of Common Pleas - Probate Division - judge that former chairman Randy Gonzalez and his cohorts (likely including current chairman Phil Giavasis) decided to give Park a pass this election.

    Or it could be that members of the Stark County bar are so utterly intimidated by Judge Park that none have the intestinal fortitude to take her on as participants in America's electoral process on account of fearing reprisal in their probate court casework should a challenge to Park remaining in office fail?

    And "to be taken on" in an election in which her record as a judge can get out into the voting Stark County public is the way in which - in our democratic system in the preferred way - Judge Park should be removed from office.

    But, of course, "that ain't going to happen" in 2014 and the only alternative is for Judge Park to resign or the Ohio Supreme Court via disciplinary proceedings to step in and remove her from office.

    The SCPR does think that the likelihood of Park resigning is between "slim and none and 'slim' just left town."

    Park's chief "willing to go public" in order to hold Park accountable for her - what the SCPR believes is an -  "over-the-top" handling of an ordinary Stark County citizen, is, of course, Stark County Political Report favorite Craig T. Conley.

    By the way of disclaimer, SCPR readers need to know that Conley and Park have had a highly acrimonious relationship over recent years on cases that he has or has had pending before Park in Stark County's probate court.

    Although the SCPR has been aware of the troubled person/professional relationship between the two, the SCPR does not generally write blogs about such matters.

    But the Finan case and the consequences (i.e. jail time) of  an "unlawful decision" (according to the Fifth District Court of Appeals) to an ordinary Stark Countian is something that the SCPR cannot abide and nor should the Stark County public.

    Stark Countians should appreciate Conley's willingness to step forward.

    He coined the expression "Zeigergate" (2009 through 2011) as a one-word-term to describe what he thought to be series of government process/safeguard/accountability shortfalls which resulted in Stark County taxpayers losing nearly $3 million as a consequence of a theft by former Stark County chief deputy treasurer Vince Frustaci.

    Conley was the leader of a movement that resulted in the rollback by Stark County voters of a Stark County commissioner "imposed" 1/2 cent sales tax increase (December, 2008) in the election of November, 2009.

    Conley has been a major factor in holding Stark County Democratic Party Central Committee sheriff appointee George T. Maier accountable to the law of Ohio in terms of his being qualified to hold the office of sheriff, appointed or elected.

    Conley was instrumental - so the SCPR believes, in Stark County Court of Common Pleas judge Frank Forchione retracting his order redirecting of $5,000 in fine money from the Stark County treasury for the benefit of victims  the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting of 2012.
    • SCPR Note:  For his effort in reining Judge Forchione in, Conley had to suffer the indignity and perhaps a threat on his license to practice law in Ohio in the cowardly filing of a disciplinary complaint on account of Conley terming Forchione's action as being a case of "grandstanding."
      • Ohio disciplinary authorities rejected the complaint.
    Interestingly enough, Forchione is one of three Stark County Court of Common Pleas judges who are unaccountable to Stark County voters thanks to the Stark County Democratic Party and the Stark County Republican Party leadership.


    Stark County elected officials and political party officials may think that the national discontent with Congress does not carry over to local politics.


    But if they do, they are wrong.

    Witness the overall average of 13.9% of registered voters who voted in the May, 2014 primary election.

    Conley moreover has successfully challenged the city of Massillon in promoting George T. Maier's son to the rank of sergeant over another - more qualified candidate; this according to Ohio law and union/city contract language as found by Ohio's 5th District Court of Appeals.

    The Stark County Political Report and Conley constitute Stark County's most courageous and effective factors in holding public office holders accountable for their governance actions.


    And like the SCPR, The Report thinks it is not a question of personal like/dislike with Conley but rather a matter of "the rule of law" over "the rule of men/women" who govern on the basis of personal whim/caprice and thereby:
    • abuse:
      • everyday citizens,
      • the taxpaying public, and
      • in some instances, public employees, and
    • more generally, violate the public trust that elected officials will operate in the public interest
    As pointed out above, Conley has been sparring with Park for some time now.

    But the "crowning event" in Conley being willing to seek the removal of Park from office surfaced with the August 18, 2014 decision (adverse to Judge Park by a 3 to 0 vote) of the primarily Canton-based Fifth District Court of Appeals in a case of In re matter of Finan, 2014-Ohio-3572.

    Tomorrow, in Part Two of this series, the SCPR plans on sharing with Stark Countians Conley's answers to question posed by The Report with regard to matters that he thinks - in addition to In re:  Finan - as being reasons why Judge Park should no longer be Stark County's Probate Court  judge.

    To The Report the facts of In re: Finan are absolutely shocking and the SCPR thinks that once the Stark County general public becomes aware of them, they might well join Conley and other public figures and elected officials (the latter of whom often lack the courage to take a public position) and insist that Judge Park step down.

    What are the "shocking" unfolding of events/factual findings in In re Finan?

    From the 5th District Court of Appeals case:
    • Ms. Barbara Lockhart (Lockhart) held a power of attorney (POA) for a ward of the court; namely, Donald Finan (Finan),
    • August 8, 2013:  The probate court (Court) appointed "limited" guardian filed a motion with the Court asking that the Court revoke the POA.
    • August 12, 2103:  The Court sent a notice of the motion to Lockhart via ordinary mail [to be distinguished form "certified mail - return receipt requested] to two different Alliance addresses (i.e. Union and Norman) three days before a "scheduled hearing" on the motion,
    • August 15, 2013:  At the "scheduled hearing" The Court grants the motion.  Lockhart was not present at the hearing.
      • The Court also:
        • Orders that Lockhart appear before the Court 12 days later and give a full accounting for expenditures made by Lockhart under the POA for Finan,
          • That the order for appearance be served on Lockhart at both addresses by certified and ordinary mail,
            • The Court record shows that only "ordinary" mail mailings of the notice to appear were sent,
    • August 27, 2013 (12 days after the 08/15/2013 hearing):  Lockhart does not appear at the August 27th scheduled hearing,
      • The Court then:
        • sets another hearing for seven days later (September 3, 2013) ordering Lockhart to appear: (personal service ordered)
          • to make the accounting, and, 
        • sets yet another hearing date (September 17, 2013) for Lockhart:
          • "to show cause" why she should not be held "in contempt of court" for not showing up to the August 27th hearing, and
            • Lockhart in the notice was told that should she fail to appear on September 17th, 
              • she would be subject to arrest and on that possibility  she also was notified that,
              • she was entitled to seek legal assistance from the Stark County Public defender or, alternatively, she could ask the Court to appoint counsel so long as she sought to have legal counsel so long as she applied within three (3) days of receiving notification of the September 17th hearing, but that
                • She might not be granted a continuance of the September 17 hearing date if the Court found she had not made a "good faith attempt" to obtain legal counsel, and that
              • she could be subjected to a fine and imprisonment should she be found guilty of contempt of court on September 17th
    • September 5, 2013:  The Court repeated its September 3rd orders and ordered personal service but at a Beeson Street (Alliance) address; abandoning the Union Street address,
    • September 9, 2013, personal service at the Beeson Street address was returned to the Court,
    • September 17, 2013, hearing results:
      • Lockhart appeared and explained:
        • she did not get any of the prior to September 5th notices,
        • she indicated that she had expended under the POA "to buy items or pay bills associated with a home occupied by Finan's daughter."
      • Judge Park:
        • continued the hearing to September 24, 2013, and
        • "ordered Lockhart to provide specific documents, bank statements, and the power of attorney documents,"
        • "indicated Lockhart’s failure to appear and bring the required documentation may result in a finding of contempt," and
          • ordered that notice of the September 17th orders be served via ordinary and certified mail on Lockhart at Norman and Beeson Street,
    • September 24, 2013:
      • Lockhart fails to show up for this hearing,
      • the attorney (Bellew) for Finan's daughter asks for a continuance but is denied,
    • September 25, 2013:
      • Judge Park:
        • issued a judgment entry ... and found Lockhart in contempt for failing to appear and produce the documentation as instructed at the September 17th hearing"
        • "The trial court also issued a bench warrant for Lockhart,"
        • "The judgment entry provided that Lockhart could purge her contempt by appearing on October 2, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. at the Stark County Probate Court and providing the specific documentation set forth in the judgment entry," 
    A SCPR Note:  It appears to The Report that though the record does not "clearly" indicate same, Lockhart did get a copy of the judgement entry of September 25th.
    Continuing on with the events/factual findings of the 5th District Court of Appeals.
    • October 1, 2013
      • Lockhart is arrested pursuant to Park's September 25th bench warrant, and
      • transported to the Stark County jail,
    • October 2, 2013 hearing:
      • Lockhart is brought from the jail to Park's court for the hearing,
        • Lockhart says:
          • she did not have the documents that the Court had ordered her to produce (reference:  August 15, 2013 hearing), and
          • she did not appear at the September 24th hearing because:
            • she understood that Attorney Bellew would be representing her at the hearing, and
            • he had asked for a continuance,
        • To which Park responded:
          • that there was no indication in the record that Bellew was representing Lockhart on the 24th, and
          • there was no written motion for continuance in the Court record,
            • whereupon, Park,
            • found Lockhart "in contempt of court,
            • fined her $250,
            • sentenced her to 30 days in the Stark County jail
              • (Note:  Lockhart was "conditionally" released from jail on October 11th on Lockhart's motion to suspend sentence.)
    Readers of the SCPR need to be aware - and, of course this is in the opinion of The Report - that the Ohio Supreme Court and Ohio's appellate courts rarely reverse the judgments/orders of Ohio's courts of lesser jurisdiction.

    So when Stark County-based appellate judges Gwin (who wrote the opinion), Hoffman and Wise sustained Lockhart attorney Jeff Jakmides' two assignments of error, to wit:
    “I. THE LOWER COURT’S ACTION IN FINDING MS. LOCKHART IN CONTEMPT OF COURT WAS AN ABUSE OF DISCRETION, AND AS SUCH SHOULD BE REVERSED. THERE WAS NO SHOWING OF INTENT TO DEFY THE COURT, AND BY ISSUING A WARRANT FOR APPELLANT’S ARREST THE COURT ACTIVELY PREVENTED THE APPELLANT FROM COMPLYING WITH THE ORDER IN QUESTION.

    "II. THE LOWER COURT DENIED MS. LOCKHART HER RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS BY FAILING TO INFORM HER OF HER RIGHT TO COUNSEL AND BY FORCING HER TO TESTIFY AT THE OCTOBER 2, 2013 HEARING.”
    it became apparent to the SCPR that Park's handling of the matter, in which "as a matter of law" an innocent woman spent 11 days in jail, was tantamount to being a legal outrage.

    For the perpetuating judge to run unopposed in the upcoming November election is also an indictment of a monumental failure of the Stark County Democratic and Republican parties to ensure body politic accountability.

    The SCPR has other allegations that Judge Park has a track record of "going off the 'legal' reservation" in the discharge of her official duties.

    A previously stated in this blog, tomorrow's Part Two of the mini-series blog will get into the specifics of those charges.

    One can only hope that Park will own up to her grievous mistakes of judgement and do the right thing by Stark Countians:  "resign her judgeship."

    But don't bank on it.

    Alliance attorney Jeffrey Jakmides (legal counsel for Lockhart) once again deserves accolades for his role in seeing that justice gets done in Stark County.

    Readers of the SCPR will recall that Jakmides represented Marlboro police chief Ron Devies (and former Stark County judge Dick Reinbold, his son) when they faced felony charges for what The Report thinks was nothing more than a communications problem between them and a couple of members of the-then Marlboro Board of Township Trustees.

    In the Devies case, now retired Judge V. Lee Sinclair did the right thing.  He dismissed the case on the motion of Jakmides (and Dick Reinbold, for the son) for dismissal in that the prosecution had not sustained its burden of making out an prima facie "on the face of it" case.

    Being the high quality jurist he is, Sinclair granted the motion

    Though the Devies family suffered because of  what the SCPR thinks was miscarriage of justice that could have been and should have been solved short of prosecution by the Stark County prosecutor's office; such was not the case in In re:  Finan.

    Barbara Lockhart did go the jail.

    While the 5th District Court of Appeals did not use hyperbolic language in its opinion, the Court did use some very pointed legal parlance in chastising Judge Park for her errant ways, to wit: (restructured for clarity sake)
    • In this case, Lockhart failed to appear at the September 24th hearing and failed to produce the documents as required by the court’s prior order. Lockhart’s acts occurred outside the presence of the trial court and therefore must be characterized as indirect contempt. 
      • The actions in this case do not rise to the level of a serious threat to orderly proceedings that required an immediate sanction to preserve the dignity and authority of the court. 
      • There is nothing in the record to indicate Lockhart’s actions rose to the level of summary contempt.
        • Accordingly, since Lockhart was found in indirect criminal contempt, 
          • she had the right to notice of the charges, 
          • the right to defend oneself and be heard, 
          • the right to counsel, and
          • the right that there be proof beyond a reasonable doubt. 
    • In this case, there is no evidence the trial court made the necessary finding that the contempt was proven beyond a reasonable doubt. 
      • Further, at the hearing on October 2, 2013, Lockhart was not informed of her right to counsel and did not intelligently or understandingly reject an offer of counsel.
    To The Stark County Political Report for Barbara Lockhart to have spent one day in jail is an outrage.

    It would be easy for Stark Countians in general to ignore the misfortune of one fellow citizen at the hand of a judge who, according to the Fifth District Court of Appeals, does not know the law on the matter of what is and what is not jailable contempt.

    But does the SCPR need to get pointed to each and every citizen of Stark County with an adaptation of a saying?

    "There but for the grace of God potentially go each and every Stark Countian" who might have the occasion to appear in the courtroom of Judge Dixie Park.

    To the SCPR, it is more than a tad ironic that on September 18th immediately past Judge Park was the speaker at Mount Union University in celebration of the University's annual Constitution Day celebration.

    A mere 30 days after the Fifth District Court of Appeals reversal of her In re:  Finan decision.

    And remember, one of Jakmides' assignments of error?

    "... DENIED MS LOCKHART HER RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS ... "

    A denial on which the Fifth District Court of Appeal partially based its decision to reverse Judge Park.

    A Constitutional Law Day speaker?

    Really?