UPDATE: 5:05 PM
Chuck Osborne comments:
I would like to make a few remarks regarding today’s post. You have done numerous “posts” regarding North Canton Law Director Tim Fox and his (Fox) arrogance and hostility to the citizens of North Canton.
You state that Mayor David Held and a majority of Council members concur with the view that Fox needs to turn over a new leaf. How many times have you reported that City officials had to ask Mr. Fox to “straighten up and fly right” as one might say?
When is enough enough?
I think your comment that “Osborne can and does get dug in and there is only one way, his way” is misconstrued.
What else can one do after the facts have been gathered, than to come to a logical decision on an issue and take a position?
Would you say that 72% of the voters of North Canton dug their heels in when they voted in favor of an initiative to deny part-time elected officials health insurance benefits at taxpayer expense?
I have talked to a lot of citizens over the years and when they are given the facts, they will take a position on an issue. Are they then “dug in?”
For many years, I have researched issues and after gathering the facts, have taken a position, only to be attacked for standing in support of the position.
What happens when other North Canton citizens, gather facts and take a position on an issue? As with me, they too are being attacked for “digging in” and holding to their position.
If one has not caught on to the pattern of attacks in North Canton, it is not just Osborne. Now it is Jamie McCleaster and Miriam Baughman. It is anyone who dares stand up on an issue contrary to what North Canton government wants its citizens to think.
You say discussion and attempts to remedy complaints are always better than litigation. I wholeheartedly agree!
Did North Canton officials really care to remedy citizen complaints regarding a salary increase in 2013 passed as “emergency” legislation “necessary for the preservation of health, safety and peace of the City of North Canton”?
Thus, the lawsuit was filed.
Ohio’s Auditor of State has cited North Canton on numerous occasions over the years for the excessive use of “emergency” legislation.
In regards to the healthcare initiative, did North Canton City officials want to recognize the right of citizens to propose and pass their own laws?
They did not, thus the litigation filed by the City, not me.
Previous to Mr. Fox becoming law director, two North Canton Law Directors had no objections to the healthcare initiative when presented to the City in May of 2012.
Interestingly enough, it was a North Canton Law Director with over 24 years-experience as the City’s Law Director who sent the issue to the Stark County Board of Elections.
As you point out in today’s post, the City will not even participate in mediation offered by the Ohio Attorney General regarding a simple public records request.
City officials in North Canton have no respect for any citizen who takes a position contrary to their official position.
It does not make a difference whether that citizen is Chuck Osborne, Jamie McCleaster, or Miriam Baughman.
When Mr. Tim Fox was appointed to be the City’s first full-time law director in September of 2012, they chose someone who would carry out their attacks on citizens with a vengeance.
For political expediency, I expect Law Director Fox will ultimately pay the price for his actions and Fox’s reign of terror as law director will be ended.
And hopefully, the voters will see that the councilmembers who have fostered this kind of atmosphere and ignored the healthcare mandate of the voters will also pay a price for their actions and be voted out of office this November.
The Stark County Political Report has learned that North Canton Law Director (unelected, appointed by North Canton City Council) could be nearing the end of his time as the city's legal counsel.
As The Report interprets the words of Mayor David Held in a conversation with him yesterday, Fox must adjust from having been in the private sector to being a public official or else it is likely that North Canton government will be asking him to move on from North Canton public employment as not being the right fit in terms of his temperament and concomitantly his ability to relate responsively and respectfully to community activists who make requests (e.g. public records) of North Canton officials.
Held did not state how long Fox has to show that he has has had "a road to Damascus experience." However, the SCPR gets the impression that Fox's conversion had better happen soon indeed.
On September 18, 2012 Fox was sworn-in by then-former law director Roy Battista.
The SCPR's take is that Battista was the last law director that North Canton has had who had the confidence of North Canton's administration, its city council and the citizens of the city.
The first thing Fox should have done, which it appears he did not do, is to have sat down with Battista and vet him on the "ins and outs" of being a successful law director in all the dimensions that being law director entails.
From a legal technician standpoint, a number of Stark County jurists (attorneys and judges) rate Fox as being first rate. One of his high marks from the standpoint of some if not all current city council members and Mayor Held is his sterling track record in winning lawsuits initiated by community activist and Ward 3 council candidate in November's general election Chuck Osborne.
One might think that building on his winning ways vis-a-vis Osborne on his lawsuits, Fox really, really, really over estimated his support by North Canton government elected officials.
Seemingly, think himself unaccountable, he stepped up the ante in terms of arrogating to himself the authority to direct a taxpayer paid for webpage rendition that some North Cantonians saw as a political attack on Osborne, Jamie McCleaster (a council-at-large candidate in November's election) and Miriam Baughman.
Fox has denied to area media that he ordered the publication in support of incumbent councilpersons being challenged by McCleaster and Osborne saying that he was encouraged by an unnamed person to do so.
Who believes that Fox was merely being informative?
Who believes that he acted at the suggestion of an anonymous person?
More believable is a premise that he thought he was so in control in North Canton government that he could virtually do anything he wished, acting on his own.
It was David Held who ordered him to take down the webpage.
That had to be a shock for Director Fox for the SCPR is told by another highly reliable North Canton source in a position to know that Held has been Fox's most dedicated supporter for his nearly two years as law director.
Held himself told the SCPR that he tries to be patient with members of his administration.
However, it is clear to yours truly that Held's patience is running thin with Fox's perceived by the public anti-citizen stance as evidenced by what the SCPR thinks have been "way over the top" Fox denials in too many instances of public records requests. And, Held, says that he is confident that a majority of council's views concurs with view that Fox needs to turn over a new leaf.
Administration officials and a number of councilpersons are upset with the expense borne by North Canton government in complying with the voluminous Osborne in particular public records requests.
And, on the litigation expenses in fending off Osborne lawsuits, Held says that North Canton has had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars.
But what about Osborne and his "out-of-pocket-costs" in initiating litigation?
No mention of this by administration officials or council members. Interesting, no?
How many citizens are willing to spend their own money sticking up for the public interest?
Held suggests that Fox's webpage was a frustration reaction of the law director.
The SCPR can see North Canton's perspective. And Law Director Fox's too.
But The Report is persuaded by Held's other point he repeatedly made in the conversation referred to above, to wit: such is the nature of holding public office, elected and unelected, and therefore being a government official is not for everyone.
As for the government litigation expense matter, that too is a common part and parcel part of being a public entity.
Perhaps if he law director, mayor and members of council had a "come let's reason together," there would be less litigation.
Osborne can and does get dug in and there is only one way, his way.
The SCPR supports discussion and attempts to remedy complaints short of litigation with both sides approaching a controversy with a predisposition to resolving a given matter without resort to the courts.
And the admonition on a conciliatory attitude not only applies to North Canton officials but also to the likes of Chuck Osborne.
It appears that Fox is being currently assessed as to whether or not he can adjust to the realities of being a public official.
However, Fox may have stepped over the line with the webpage faux pas and should an incumbent councilperson or two or three or perhaps even five win in November, it could be that Fox will not get a chance to repent and mend in relationship with the citizen activist community.
One would think that should either McCleaster and/or Osborne and perhaps Holly Pierpont (running against council president and Ward 2 Councilman Daniel "Jeff" Peters) and maybe even Kathy Snyder (running in Ward 4 against councilman appointee Dominic Fonte) might join together to call for the political head of Fox no matter what "born again" conversion he might claim or demonstrate.
Osborne and McCleaster for sure would have to be skeptical of a 180 degree turn around.
Snyder might have motivation too because the reliance on her husband Jon on Fox's opinion as law director on Snyder's eligibility (also councilpersons Kiesling, Werren and Peters) in the legal sense of the word to have the city pay for his/their healthcare insurance benefits.
The Report thinks Snyder resigned first as council president and then as Ward 4 councilman because of the uproar over the healthcare issue.
Was it the Fox healthcare ordinance validity opinion letter the culprit?
Fox's opinion (November 15, 2013; released by Mayor Held on February 27, 2014) came in the aftermath of North Canton voters having voted about 72% in favor of an ordinance initiative referendum by Osborne in the November, 2012 general election which was designed to deny part time elected officials health insurance benefits at taxpayer expense.
For quite a period after issuing the opinion, North Canton officials (including Fox; citing attorney/client privilege) refused to release a copy of the opinion. Eventually, Mayor Held did yield to public pressure and released the opinion.
Subsequently, North Canton's council directed Fox to file litigation (a declaratory judgment action) with the Stark County Court of Common Pleas Court. Judge John Haas decided the case. A source tells yours truly that the source thinks the reason for Haas' favorable to North Canton decision ran deeper than the reason(s) given in the judge's published opinion.
What might that deeper reason be?
Now there is a new controversy between Fox and Osborne on a public records request.
From: Chuck Osborne <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Martin Olson <email@example.com>
Sent: Thursday, July 9, 2015 3:40 PM
Subject: FW: North Canton Declines Mediation Request Regarding Recent Public Records Request
I apparently overlooked you when I first sent this out.
Now you have it.
From: Chuck Osborne [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, July 08, 2015 9:36 PM
Attached is an email I received today from the offices of the Ohio Attorney General informing me that the City of North Canton has declined to participate in mediation to resolve the City’s refusal to provide Public Records - for addresses of purchasers of pool passes to Dogwood Pool in 2014.
I was attempting to determine what percentage of pool passes were purchased by residents of North Canton versus patrons from outside the City, as the Dogwood Pool is a municipal pool for City residents.
I include a second email, dated November 19, 2014, also from the offices of the Ohio Attorney General informing me that the City of North Canton has declined to participate in mediation to resolve the City’s refusal to provide Public Records – a copy of an agreement for outside legal services.
In that request I was trying to determine the scope of legal services to be performed by an outside attorney and the hourly rate of pay for those services.
Once again, City Officials close out the “Public” from the public’s business.
Maybe City Hall should just hang out a sign that reads, “DO NOT DISTURB, WE ONLY WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU AT ELECTION TIME.”
Such is Life in the Dogwood City.
SAD times for the citizens of North Canton!!!
(note: larger text emphasis added)
Awful, just awful!
"[T]he City of North Canton has declined to participate in meidation to resolve the City's refusal to provide public records ... . "
As the SCPR understands the Ohio attorney general's (OAG) mediation offer, the process is that: an offer. No obligation to accept the attorney general's recommendation. Why wouldn't somebody (in this case Law Director Fox) be willing to sit down and talk about reaching a mutually agreeable solution?
Held tells the SCPR the refusal to do OAG's conciliation service is because Fox is convinced that he is correct on the law of the matter and therefore what is there to talk about?
Recently, Ohio's auditor David Yost started up a program to help citizens like Osborne carry a public records matter further.
The SCPR then suggested that Osborne try on the State of Ohio Sunshine Audit for size:
And Osborne followed up on the suggestion, to wit:
Dear Mr. Osborne:
Per our telephone conversation, the Auditor of State’s Office is reviewing your Sunshine Audit complaint and will be sending out a letter with our findings in the near future.
The SCPR applauds Auditor Yost for devising the program.
Hopefully, Osborne's effort will pay dividends.
North Canton's interaction with Yost's office will be an indication of whether or not Held's "adjust or else" admonition to Law Director Tim Fox has been heard by him.
As Ms. Crocker promises: we should know in the near future.
Fox is now on notice that like or not North Canton's government is no longer will to abide his anti-democratic republican attitudes vis a vis the North Canton public no matter who the citizen might be.
The next move is Fox's.
Will he "adjust" or will it be "or else?"