Friday, June 17, 2016



The SCPR first became aware of that the then in the works merger of the Canton Park Commission and the Canton Joint Recreation District (CJRD) in August, 2014.

An attorney doing work on CJRD matters at the direction of CJRD legal counsel Sally Henning contacted The Report, to wit: (an excerpt from the e-mail)

Of course, the SCPR has many sources throughout Canton and Stark County and after contacting a number of those sources published this blog (LINK):

To fully appreciate this series, readers ought to go back and read the August 28, 2014  blog.

As this series unfolds, the SCPR will tie together what has appeared to be loose ends into an intriguing tale of connectedness that promises to be spellbinding in terms of a number of political agendas that appear to be at play as contractions as the boards of the was formerly known as the Canton Park Commision (now the Canton Parks & Recreation Department) merges with the CJRD.

The intrigue became more apparent as the CJRD met last night for some two hours to consider the agenda posted below (an item or two were added during the course of the meeting).

Also in attendance were Canton Parks & Recreation Commission members Andy Black, Mike Hanke and Sam Sliman.

In this series The Report will publish the video taken of the meeting by yours truly.

Along the way, segments of video highlighting animated discussion of the various discussions will be focused upon.

Publication of the uncut entire version of the video will likely come in the second blog in this series.

Recently the Canton Parks & Recreation Commission hired a director.  (LINK to SCPR blog on the selection including a video of the actual vote of selection)

Healy administration holdover Derek Gordon has been director for several years but was required to reapply as the position was opened up with the change mayor as of January 1, 2016 as political independent (a former lifelong Democrat) defeated two term incumbent Democratic mayor William J. Healy, II in November, 2015.

One of Gordon's competitors was Canton City Schools Board of Education member J.R. Rinaldi who is also the president of the CJRD and presided at last night's meeting.

Gordon was selected to continue on as director but was not the unanimous choice of the three member board (Andy Black, Mike Hanke and Sam Sliman) of the Canton Parks and Recreation Commission (CPRC).

Sliman voted "no" on Gordon saying that Gordon did not demonstrate to him by virtue of his Healy administration service (which Sliman was also part of) and his presentation to the commission as one of five candidates to be finalists for directorship going forward that he had a vision that met Sliman's expectation in terms of the direction that Canton parks and recreations programs ought to be moving.

The SCPR believes that Sliman favored Rinaldi for the post.

And the matter of the directorship may not be over in terms of the selection of Gordon being a final decision.

At the end of six months Gordon's performance will be reassessed.

The SCPR thinks that Gordon might not survive that assessment in which case it is likely that Rinaldi will be tapped to take over.

Rinaldi is close to the new mayor and it could be that the closeness hurt him to land the position for it it could be that Black and/or Hanke (a Bernabei appointee to the commission) did not want to appear to taking marching orders from the mayor.

A Canton councilperson who favored the selection of Gordon told The Report that there was no indication whatsoever that Mayor Bernabei meddled into the selection process.

Commissioner Black at the meeting in which Gordon's selection was made, though joining with Hanke to select Gordon, emphasized in explaining his vote that he like Sliman had expectation that Gordon needed to manage differently with that difference being management with a vision.

Moreover, it was clear that most members of Canton City Council wanted Gordon to stay on as CPRC director.

The SCPR believes that council support for Gordon was his pathway to stay on for at least six more months.

Interesting enough, Gordon's reassessment will come about the same time that it is likely that the new fully merged entity will be up and running.

The SCPR doesn't necessarily expect Gordon to have failed to meet the expectations going forward.

But it would not be a shock for a change to Rinaldi to take place on or about January 1, 2017 which is likely the date that the merger will have been completed.

Among the topics (including video) that will be presented in upcoming parts of this series include:

  • a discussion of the transition to a merged entity,
  • a desire expressed by member Don Peterson, III that the CJRD use some of if not most of its $800,000 in unspent/unbudgeted monies to attempt to purchase the former Canton Jewish Center for its land in order to develop playing fields on the north side of Canton as a counterbalance to Canton Parks money going to the J. Babe Center and the Southeast Community Center,
  • Canton schools continuing to have input with the surviving merged entity,
  • the disposition of property of the CJRD 50/50 to the CPRC and the Canton City Schools,
  • information on CPRC relationship with the Hall of Fame Village Project, and
  • planned capital expenditures from the $800,000 in unspent/unbudgeted CJRD monies should the board as a whole not be in favor of the Canton Jewish Center
While everybody was properly civil at last night's meeting, it was clear to the SCPR that there are some issues to be resolved over the next six months or so.

The CPRC has a meeting on the Parks'  Master Plan scheduled for June 28th at the Canton Garden Center.

Moreover, on July 19th both the CJRD and the CPRC will meet to discuss additional steps in the transition to the merged unit.

The CJRD will meet in the hour preceding the CPRC meeting.

If last night's meeting was any indication of some touchy matters of transition yet to be resolved, the July 19th meetings are ones which Cantonians will definitely want to attend in large numbers.

It seems to the SCPR that the birthing of the Canton Parks & Recreation Department will prove to be painful indeed!

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