STARK COUNTY AUDITOR ALAN HAROLD
ALLIANCE AUDITOR KEVIN KNOWLES
STARK COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
It is clear to The Stark County Political Report that Mandel is the most politically opportunistic politician in all of Ohio.
Even before he lost to Brown (which surely he had to be anticipating was a long shot), Mandel was already busy at work planning, working on his next step in his continued march to the pinnacle of Ohio, perhaps national political power.
In June of 2014 he was urging Ohio Senate passage (which occurred on June 9, 2014) of Republican Ohio state Representative Mike Dovilla's (from Berea) HB 175 (dubbed the "OpenOhio" bill) which Dovilla introduced in May, 2013 which passed the House on June 4th of 2014.
Included among the sponsors were Stark County Ohio House legislators Christina Hagan (Republican, Marlboro) and Kirk Schuring (Republican, Jackson).
As readers of the SCPR know, The Report is not all that enthused with Hagan because of her GOP right wing religious extremism connection as evidenced by her pushing of what his popularly known as "the Heartbeat bill."
However, on the positive side; almost from day one of her appointment to the Ohio House by its Republican caucus to replace Todd Snitchler back in early 2011 she has been at the forefront of legislation to require fiscal accountability of the state of Ohio and Ohio's political subdivisions which of course includes counties, cities, villages, townships and boards of education.
Focus on the last paragraph of the Hagan sponsored bill.
"$10,000 grant to each local government that meets the grant eligibility criteria ... ."
In talking with a local fiscal official, the SCPR's take is that $10,000 will come nowhere near the cost of implementation of the legislation if it were to pass. So here is a case of "naming names" of those legislators who would burden down Stark County taxpayers with the cost of largely "unfunded" state mandates add the name: Christina Hagan!
And by the way, in "naming names" both Democrat Stephen Slesnick (the 49th Ohio House District) and Republican Kirk Schuring (the 48th) voted along Hagan to saddle down Stark Countians with the added taxpayer burden of paying for the largely "unfunded" mandate.
Though the bill passed in the House, the status report issued by Ohio's Legislative Service Commission indicates that get did not make it through the Ohio Senate during the 130th Ohio General Assembly.
It appears that Hagan is Mandel's ally on his drive to make Ohio America's leading state on the issue of government transparency and accountability at all levels.
As the SCPR will get into later in this blog, the problem with Mandel and Hagan and those legislators who support Mandel's project is that it appears that they want to implement it on the backs of local taxpayers.
Since Republican John Kasich was elected governor in 2010 there has been a concerted joint effort by the Kasich administration and the Republican dominated Ohio General Assembly (largely, if not consummately, supported by Stark's Republican legislative delegation) to dramatically reduce the state's contribution to local government operations including the mandating of programs like OpenOhio which at the start is paid for by the state only for the state to - over time - pass the costs on to local taxpayers.
Right now OpenOhio is not mandated for Ohio's political subdivisions.
But one local government fiscal official says it is only a matter of time until that is exactly what the likes of Mandel and locals Hagan, Schuring and Republican State Senator Scott Oelslager (29th Senate District) likely will do.
One of the things that Republicans at the state level have done which should be unnerving to Democrats is to slowly but surely under the leadership of folks like Mandel, Republican Ohio attorney general Mike DeWine (like Mandel, first elected in 2010) and Ohio auditor Dave Yost (first elected in 2010) is to cobble together a series of initiatives which the SCPR thinks adroitly taps into the average citizen zeal to know what government officials are doing with their tax dollars.
Not only are citizens enthusiastic about checkbook items (Mandel), but they have to be impressed with DeWine's and Yost's effort to greatly ease the ability of day in, day out citizens to obtain public records.
North Canton's residents know all too well how their law director Tim Fox has stymied easy access to North Canton public records and North Canton Council seems powerless to get him under control.
Mandel picked up on what appeals to everyday citizens as early as 2005 when Lyndhurst (a Cleveland suburb) councilman, when he successfully sponsored legislation for the city's taxpayers to receive an "on average" $75 property tax rebate.
Before Mandel, Yost and DeWine; Ohio Democrats have made a political living on catering to ordinary, working class Ohioans.
With the populist-esque appeal that this Republican trio have initiated, it could be that the Republicans are positioning themselves to change the public stereotypical perception that Republican elected officials care most about the financial/economic upper crust whereas their Democratic counterparts look out for the lunch bucket crowd.
And the SCPR thinks that being "the people's advocate" is the political trek Josh Mandel is on and if he can pull it off, the sky is indeed the limit for his political future.
The Stark County Political Report's first look at Mandel's initiative is that as of April 23 of 2015 it is mostly political salesmanship that may someday turn into the real deal of thoroughgoing transparency and accountability at all levels of of Ohio government.
A key to the success or failure (or something in between) of Mandel's initiative is how it is received, adopted or rejected by local government fiscal elected (in few Stark County entities "appointed" [e.g. North Canton]) officials.
Accordingly, the SCPR has checked with the elected fiscal official of Stark County (Auditor Alan Harold) and the offices of elected officials in Alliance (Kevin Knowles), Canton (R.A. Mallonn) and Massillon (Jayne Ferrero).
STARK COUNTY: AUDITOR ALAN HAROLD
The Report sat down with Auditor Harold yesterday and recorded this video:
ALLIANCE: AUDITOR KEVIN KNOWLES
And on Monday evening while attending an Alliance City Council regular meeting, The Report captured this presentation of Alliance Auditor Kevin Knowles.
Knowles also provided the SCPR with this copy of the solicitation by Mandel of the participation of local government entities in OhioCheckbook.com.
Apr 21 at 8:22 AM
I received this email on April 8th and hard copy letter on April 13th. The language is identical. I can provide a scanned copy of the letter if you wish.
Kevin G. Knowles
Alliance City Auditor
504 E. Main Street
Alliance, OH 44601
From: Ohio Treasurer's office [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, April 08, 2015 10:30 AM
To: Kevin Knowles
Subject: Partnership with OhioCheckbook.com
Dear Auditor Knowles,
I am writing today about a unique opportunity to become partners in promoting government transparency.
My office recently launched OhioCheckbook.com - a new website that allows Ohioans to search and share more than $400 billion in checkbook-level state spending spanning the past seven years.
We launched OhioCheckbook.com to empower citizens to see how their tax dollars are being spent and to provide public officials with a tool to improve efficiency.
Since its launch a couple months ago, the public's reception to this new search tool has been overwhelmingly positive.
While posting the state's checkbook online was a great first step, we are working hard to equip OhioCheckbook.com with the ability to host and display local spending as well.
My goal is to encourage and facilitate even more government transparency by displaying data from counties, cities, townships, villages, school districts, libraries and other local entities across Ohio.
We intend to host, post and display your local government's checkbook-level spending on OhioCheckbook.com at no cost to your local government.
I am writing to ask if you would be willing to partner with us to put your local government's spending information on OhioCheckbook.com? Yours could be one of the very first local governments to post your spending on OhioCheckbook.com. If you choose to partner with us, we want to ensure that your efforts are recognized in your community and that your constituents know that your local government is a leader in transparency.
By building OhioCheckbook.com and making billions of dollars of spending information accessible to the people of Ohio, we improved the state's transparency ranking from 46th up to 1st in the nation! The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, which releases an annual transparency report card for the fifty states, recently announced that Ohio's transparency grade has improved from D- to A+. This is the highest mark in the history of these rankings. We would like to bring this type of recognition to your local government as well.
If you are interested, please reply to this email with your contact information, sign-up online at OhioCheckbook.com/partner, or call John Roscoe, my Director of Public Affairs, at 614-728-7738.
I look forward to partnering with you to shine sunlight on spending and help showcase your community as a leader in government transparency.
Josh MandelCANTON: AUDITOR R.A. MALLONN
Treasurer of Ohio
Speaking for Canton's take on Mandel's request is the highly regarded Gary Young who is Auditor R.A. Mallonn's chief deputy auditor.
Gary YoungApr 21 at 4:15 PM
CC: Richard Mallonn
Since I couldn't recall the exact date I am forwarding my original email whereby I contacted Mr. Mandel's staff on behalf of Auditor Mallonn.
As you can see the item was send last week April 15th.
The email prompted a follow-up phone call which I eluded to in my prior email response to you.
Again, as I know more I will be more than happy to share with you.
-------- Forwarded Message --------Subject: ohiocheckbook.comDate: Wed, 15 Apr 2015 13:10:40 -0400From: Gary Young <email@example.com>To: firstname.lastname@example.org, Richard Mallonn <email@example.com>
I am writing on behalf of Richard A. Mallonn, Auditor for the City of Canton, Ohio.
He has expressed his desire to work with Treasurer Mandel and his staff in providing the Citizens access to the City's check information.
I have left you a voice message in addition to this email.
At this point, I will await further communication from you as to the specs on conveyance of information etc....
Thank you and I look forward to working with you on this endeavor.
Gary YoungChief Deputy AuditorCity of Canton, Ohiogary.firstname.lastname@example.orgMASSILLON: AUDITOR JAYNE FERRERO
Responding to the SCPR's request for Massillon's reaction (Auditor Jane Ferrero) to Mandel's desire to have Massillon participate in his OhioCheckbook project is Ferrero's chief deputy Debbie Bonk.
Apr 22 at 10:03 AM
To 'Martin Olson'
CC 'Jayne Ferrero'
We have submitted our information to be contacted regarding the process. We are still in the information gathering stages before we make a final decision.
Chief Deputy Auditor
City of Massillon Auditor's Office
Phone (330) 830-1706
Fax (330) 830-1776
From: Martin Olson [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, April 21, 2015 3:48 PM
To: Debbie Bonk
Subject: Mandel's Checkbook.com
Is Massillon going to participate?
Martin OlsonAs SCPR readers/video viewers digest the responses of Stark County officials, it should be obvious that Stark's fiscal officialdom is interested by need to know more.
Stark County Political Report
A major issue with Treasurer Mandel and the Ohio General Assembly and locally state Representative Christina Hagan is: "Who is going to pay for maintenance of the website structure and the 'continuing' long term expense of providing the data to the treasurer's office?"
Initially, it appears that the on-the-face-of-it web interface (i.e.the employees and/or contracts with the likes of OpenGov) will be borne by Mandel's office.
Long term, local officials have to be concerned that OhioCheckbook.com will no longer be permissive but become mandatory and paid for by fees assessed to local governments.
Moreover, it has been pointed out to The Report that much of the data to be included in Mandel's project is already reported to various State of Ohio entities.
Accordingly, it seems the most efficient way to retrieve the data is for Mandel to designate and official within his office (which entails, of course, a high paid executive-esque official and support staff) to collaborate with and coordinate with state agencies which already have the information to make it available to the OhioCheckbook.com project.
The way Mandel has it set up now, is for Ohio's cities, villages, townships et cetera) to replicate the already reported data for submission to OhioCheckbook.com.
While the SCPR likes Mandel's initiative even though his seizing upon same reeks with political opportunism, Stark County's fiscal officials need to ensure that no financial burden is borne by local government entities in their joining up with OhioCheckbook.com.
Yesterday, yours truly spoke with a local political/government cognoscenti who acknowledged that, speaking of transparency, Mandel is an out-and-out political opportunist and that it is surely certain that OhioCheckbook.com is a manifestation of his thoroughgoing opportunism; nevertheless, it is a good thing for Ohioans of every political persuasion and station in life to have the ability to hold elected and appointed officials "feet to the fire" on how they spend hard earned taxpayer dollars.
One of the local agencies of government that the SCPR is anxious to scrutinize is that of Sheriff George T. Maier.
In November, 2011 Stark Countians voted to assess a 1/2 cent sales tax on all Stark County-based purchases as the levy was narrowed as being strictly for Stark County's justice system (i.e. the "Justice System Sales Tax" [JSST]).
A large part of that system is the sheriff's department which receives "a lion's share" of the JSST proceeds.
The Report has written a number of blogs about Sheriff Maier's expenditures in terms of suspecting that he has spent some of our money in furtherance of his personal political agenda cloaked in arguable justifiable departmental operational expenses.
Yours truly has inquired a number of times with Stark County Commissioners' office fiscal officials about what kind of scrutiny the commissioners maintain on Sheriff Maier's expenditures and it appears that it has and continues to be virtually none.
On March 26th, the SCPR received this e-mail from a Stark County citizen, to wit:
Will you be doing a blog on the Stark County Sheriff's Budget and why the Sheriff continues to get a free pass from the Commissioners.
According to the Alliance Review - "Stark County sheriff and jail operations represent the largest chunk of operations and saw a 8.6 percent increase to cover 14 new hires, four new cruisers and miscellaneous computer upgrades."
In 2010 the Stark County Sheriff's budget was at 16,511,204, in 2011 Commissioners cut the budget to 13,884,409, in 2012 when all other departments were cut, the Commissioners increased the Sheriff's budget to $ 15,995,719 in 2013 the Sheriff's office saw another increase to $17,971,933 and in 2014 the budget was increased to $ 19,897,521.
While I can't find an exact number for the 2015 budget an 8.6 increase from 2014 would be 21,608,707 and change[;] at 21,608,707 the budget would be 5,097,503 more than was spent at the office's previous high point in 2010.
That is a 30.87% increase since its previous high point in 2010 and 7,724,298 or a 55.63% increase from its 2011 operating budget.
For the past three years we have been hearing about how the increases were necessary to restore services to a pre-sales tax level.
What services are we getting now that we didn't get in 2010 that justify a 30% increase in funding[?]
I understand the need for computer upgrades and cruisers if those purchases were delayed previously, but 14 new hires on top of the new hires in 2012, 2013, and 2014, which we were told was necessary to bring the jail staffing levels back to 2010 levels.
The second highest general fund appropriation in 2010 was the Stark County Court of Common Pleas at 3,658,187. The Stark County Sheriff's office's $5,097,503 budget increase from 2010 is nearly double the entire Court of Common Pleas' 2010 appropriation.
Put another way, the 5,097,503 increase from the previous high mark in 2010 that Commissioners have given the Sheriff could fund the entire prosecutor's office and public defender's office combined.
I know you seem to have high regard for Commissioners Bernabei and Creighton, but at what point do they start having responsibility for reigning in the Sheriff's spending?Perhaps, Stark County Budget Director Chris Nichols (an employee of the Commissioners' office) will respond through the SCPR to the citizen's questions?
In 2019, if not before, the commissioners will at the very least be asking for a renewal of the 1/2 cent JSST.
The SCPR for one will be "on camera" inquiring of them on the matter of their oversight of Sheriff Maier's departmental use of JSST monies.
It seems to The Report that Mandel's project may well be the mechanism whereby not only Commissioner perusal of sheriff department expenditures is facilitated but that also of each and every Stark County taxpayer.
The SCPR calls on Auditor Harold to take the lead with all Stark County elected and appointed fiscal agents to coordinate and collaborate in a unified response to Treasurer Mandel that protects the "local" taxpayer's purse.
If Harold et al get the job done for us Stark County taxpayers, then - by all means - go full bore with Ohio's treasurer even if he gets political mileage out of his effort.
As for the Stark County commissioners, here is what they had to say about Mandel's proposal yesterday: