Tuesday, May 30, 2017

PART 4: STARK CO. GOV'T ACCOUNTABILITY, TODAY-STARK CO RECORDER

UPDATE:  Wednesday, May 31, 2017



Prior to Democrat Rick Campbell being elected Stark County recorder in November, 2000, the recorder's office had been held by Republicans seemingly forever.

Thomas, Vignos, Creighton and Motts and who knows how long before Motts, Republicans had—before Campbell—long held the Stark recorder's office with which to reward political loyalists.


By a mere 649 votes out of 147,801 cast in the November 7, 2000 election, Campbell merged victorious.

Before his election as recorder, Campbell was a Jackson Township trustee.

The Trump phenomenon almost spelled a political end to Campbell in the November, 2016 election.


He won by 1,855 in over 162,000 votes cast.

In my view, Rick Campbell is a:
  • Jekyll (the efficient and effective manager), and 
  • Hyde (a highly partisan Democrat who is prone to dispense public jobs to his and Democratic loyalists to the exclusion of the Stark County general public) 
in a schizophrenic-esque management model of Stark County government.

On the one hand from when I first became familiar with Campbell back in 2000 through his political mentor Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. (a former Stark County Democratic Party chairman and, still, believed by many to control the Stark Dems through Phil Giavasis), he was described by Maier to me as a person who is an accomplished "penny pincher" (my interpretation; not necessarily the exact words he used)

If Maier is correct, such a characteristic appears to serving him well as county recorder in his fiscal management of the office.

On the other, as I have followed his career since 2002, I think he has used the recorder's office, though apparently efficiently and effectively, as a landing place for employment for the politically connected.


On this latter factor, I think he is loathed by the Stark County Republican Party leadership.

But not out of any sense that political patronage is a bad thing, so long as the dispenser is the likes of Stark County GOP chairman Jeff Matthews and Stark County based elected officials.

Fewer and fewer Stark County voters, mirroring what is happening across this nation, trust government administered by elected Republicans and Democrats to be open, transparent, accountable and non-self serving like in appointing their political friends to public positions without the general public having had an opportunity to apply for taxpayer paid for jobs.

In my travels around the Stark County political circuit, Campbell is more vilified by Republican leaders and elected officials than any other office holding Democrat.

Stark County auditor Alan Harold in particular has been very, very, very tough on Campbell.  And, I believe (based on my observations in budget hearings) Stark County commissioner Janet Creighton (who began her political career in Stark County as recorder) also is especially scrutinizing of how Campbell runs the fiscal operations of the recorder's office.

In my view, Campbell might be the most loyal of all the Johnnie A. Maier, Jr loyalist and therefore a lighting rod of Republican animosity.

In this Stark County Political Report analysis of the operation of the county recorder's office, Campbell comes out "smelling like a rose" and may end up, at the conclusion of this series, as being Stark County very best public official in terms of efficiencies and effectiveness

Let's take a look at the numbers.


On January 1, 2014 Campbell's office total cost to Stark County taxpayers was $580,009 whereas on April 30, 2017 it was $566,093,

Moreover, Campbell has slashed the payroll by 3 persons which also translates into a nearly 20% drop.

Some might note that Campbell himself has received the largest percentage increase in salary over the reported 3.3 year period.  However, it is pointed out that 10.25% has been mandated by the likes of state Rep. Kirk Schuring (the 48th House District), Christina Hagan (the 50th House District) and state Senator Scott Oelslager (the 295h Senate District) and a majority of their Ohio General Assembly colleagues.

While the approximate $14,000 annual savings is a "drop-in-the-bucket" of the overall (including all sources of funding, federal, state and local) $10 million increase for government at the county level, Democrat Rick Campbell is certainly doing his part to stifle the growth of government while still delivering services to the public with highly increased effectiveness.

Links to prior blogs in this series.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

..........MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND 2017..........

Updated:  the "official" Memorial Day, May 29, 2017

104 Stark Countians Died in Vietnam


As Donald J. Trump was graduating from New York Military Academy, I was completing a four year tour of duty in the United States Air Force having served one year in the Republic of South Korea.

I recall vividly standing in formation in front of base headquarters at Kunsan, Korea on November 23, 1963 in honor of President John F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald.

During my first permanent duty station assignment (November, 1960 through January, 1963, Great Falls, Montana [Malmstrom AFB]), I recall the tenseness we all experienced, especially those of us in the military,  as President Kennedy and the American nation went eye-to-eye with Nikita Khrushchev and the-then Soviet Union in what we now call the Cuban Missile Crisis during the period of October 16 through October 28, 1962.

Now I am the father of a USAF medical doctor currently serving in Honolulu, HI and a USAFR public relations officer.

The Olson family believes in personal sacrifice in service of the well being of the nation. 

It appears to me Donald Trump was having none of that and, in my view, continues to way, way excessively look out for himself over the interests of Americans as a whole.

It certainly seems to be an ironic draft deferment sham that New York Military Academy graduate Trump went on to receive five (5) deferments.  Four for education reasons, and one medical deferment (Y-1; which totally excused him from military service during the Vietnam War era).

One would think that a person with a scintilla of humility would be loathe to criticize any U.S. military connected family.  We all remember Trump's over-the-top reaction of the Kahn family (Muslim American family whose son paid "the ultimate sacrifice") criticism of Trump's deferment record.    Here is a LINK to a recounting of the feud between the Kahns and then-political-presidential-candidate Donald J. Trump.

To be an equal opportunity critic, I single out Democrat William Jefferson Clinton (president from January 20, 1993 through January 20, 2001) as also having a draft-dodging personal deferment history.

And, of course, there is Democrat president Lyndon Baines Johnson whom I cleary recall saying in the 1964 presidential campaign (216 battlefield deaths) that under his watch "no American boy [was] going fight an Asian boy's war."  Four years later there were 16,899 "American boy" deaths (3,094 Ohioans).

Here is a LINK to a website which lists 63 Cantonians as having lost their lives in Vietnam including nurse Sharon Lane who was a Canton South and Aultman School of Nursing graduate.  Lane was the only nurse death owing to hostile action.


From the outstanding website (Virtual Wall), a collective list of those from Canton who died in Vietnam.  By going to the website, one can click on a name to get a more detailed listing of the deceased soldier's military service (see Sharon Lane abbreviated sample as presented above.)


And here is an accounting (41) of those from other parts of Stark County who lost their lives in Vietnam.


Using the two foregoing sources, the SCPR counts 104 Stark Countians as having died serving in Vietnam.

So today's blog is owing to the respect for the office of president of the United States of  America as the position of commander-in-chief of United States Armed Forces; not for the current Republican holder of the office who The Stark County Political Report thinks is not worthy—on the draft deferment issue in and of itself—of holding these titles.

Had I been writing this blog in the Clinton years, he would have gotten the same treatment at the hand of the SCPR.

THE PRESIDENT'S DECLARATION - 2017

PRAYER FOR PEACE, MEMORIAL DAY, 2017

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

Memorial Day is our Nation's solemn reminder that freedom is never free.  It is a moment of collective reflection on the noble sacrifices of those who gave the last measure of devotion in service of our ideals and in the defense of our Nation.  On this ceremonious day, we remember the fallen, we pray for a lasting peace among nations, and we honor these guardians of our inalienable rights.

This year, we commemorate the centennial anniversary of America's entry into World War I.  More than 4.7 million Americans served during The Great War, representing more than 25 percent of the American male population between the ages of 18 and 31 at the time.  We remember the more than 100,000 Americans who sacrificed their lives during "The War to End All Wars," and who left behind countless family members and loved ones.  We pause again to pray for the souls of those heroes who, one century ago, never returned home after helping to restore peace in Europe.

On Memorial Day we honor the final resting places of the more than one million men and women who sacrificed their lives for our Nation, by decorating their graves with the stars and stripes, as generations have done since 1868.  We also proudly fly America's beautiful flag at our homes, businesses, and in our community parades to honor their memory.  In doing so, we pledge our Nation's allegiance to the great cause of freedom for which they fought and ultimately died.

In honor and recognition of all of our fallen service members, the Congress, by a joint resolution approved May 11, 1950, as amended (36 U.S.C. 116), has requested the President issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period on that day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer.  The Congress, by Public Law 106-579, has also designated 3:00 p.m. local time on that day as a time for all Americans to observe, in their own way, the National Moment of Remembrance.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Memorial Day, May 29, 2017, as a day of prayer for permanent peace, and I designate the hour beginning in each locality at 11:00 a.m. of that day as a time when people might unite in prayer. I urge the press, radio, television, and all other information media to cooperate in this observance.

I further ask all Americans to observe the National Moment of Remembrance beginning at 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day.

I also request the Governors of the United States and its Territories, and the appropriate officials of all units of government, to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff until noon on this Memorial Day on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels throughout the United States and in all areas under its jurisdiction and control.

I also request the people of the United States to display the flag at half-staff from their homes for the customary forenoon period.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fourth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand seventeen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-first.

DONALD J. TRUMP

Thursday, May 25, 2017

BREAKING NEWS! (6:47 A.M.) CANTON LOSES 2.3% IN POPULATION SINCE 2010 CENSUS

A 542 Person Loss Over Past Year (2015-2015)

(UPDATED 4:15 PM)

STARK COUNTY WIDE DATA
VILLAGES & CITIES DATA
TOWNSHIP DATA



Over the past year, U.S. Census Bureau (Bureau) data estimates that Canton's population has dipped another 542 to 72,323 continuing a steady decline since a July, 2010 estimate.

Canton is Stark County's county seat and the largest city in the county.

In today's Cleveland Plain Dealer (PD, Cleveland.com), reporter Rich Exner earlier this morning wrote (Link to PD search engine to find particular data)  about the latest Bureau estimates for Ohio and its political subdivisions.

This continuing population decline news comes as in recent days Canton mayor Thomas Bernabei is recommending that Canton City Council hire Cleveland city planner Donn Angus at $110,000 annually at its June 5th upcoming meeting.



Angus bested 17 other applicants for the post to the degree that Mayor Bernabei is quoted in an area media report as saying that had Angus not accepted the position, Canton would have reposted the posting for a new round of applicants.

To The Stark County Political Report Bernabei who is the SCPR's top rated Stark County elected public official is making it clear that reviving Canton as a leading Ohio city is his administration's top priority.

Bernabei already has "a right-hand-man" in Building Department second-in-command J.R. Rinaldi working nonstop on fixing Canton's neighborhoods.

The continuing population decline indicates that there remains much to be done.

Stark County as a whole has had a decline, to wit:


Stark's villages and cities have had a mixed result, to wit:


Canton government officials appear to be making a valiant effort to reverse the downward trend.

Stark County government seems to be sitting back and simply letting things happen.

To complete the Stark County population growth/decline picture, here is a listing of the townships from largest (Plain) to the smallest (Sandy).


And in order  from growth to decline.



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

PART 3: HOLDING STARK CO GOV'T ACCOUNTABLE. TODAY, THE AUDITOR'S OFFICE



(SEE HAROLD RESPONSE TO BLOG AT THE END)

Over the past 3.3 years, the cost of Stark County government has risen about $10 million annually.

However, Stark County citizens should not hold the commissioners responsible for a significant part of the $10 million inasmuch they have no play in those parts funded by the federal and state of Ohio governments.

Though I am not aware of the authority of the courts to order the commissioners to fund court operations at a level mandated by the courts themselves; the commissioners are vulnerable "as a matter of Ohio law" to being ordered to fund as dictated by the courts themselves.

There are three categories of county government expenses:
  • those which the commissioners have "direct"  responsibility,
    • e.g. the operations of the commissioners' office itself,
  • those which the commissioners have "indirect" responsibility by virtue of being the county budgeting/appropriation authority
    • e.g. the Stark County auditor's office, the sheriff's office, the coroner's office and the like for which the commissioner approve/disapprove budgeting requests by way of appropriating or not appropriating county revenues for spending by various county offices/functions,
  • those which the commissioners have no responsibility for whatsoever and which are not funded out of county revenues but rather by federal/state funds or by enterprise generated revenues
Over the objection of county budget director/financial manager Chris NIchols (himself, a commissioners'  "direct" employee, see LINK, May 9th), I have included all three categories listed above as being at one level or another funded (county, state, federal taxes and user fees) by us—the taxpayers, or users of various government services (enterprise funded entities).

As I see Nichols' objection, it is an attempt to complicate the overall fiscal picture of county level of government in order to obscure what government actually costs us taxpayers at one level or another.

Readers of the SCPR know that this blog goes to great length to present an accurate picture of material opinionated upon in this blog.

Accordingly, in this series I make the distinctions outlined above.

In each blog, I will link up with prior blogs so that readers can track from the current blog what I have had to say in prior blogs on Stark County government accountability.
I do this in order to dispel any notion that The Stark County Political Report endeavors in any way, shape or form to not tell the full story of the employee operation expenses for those county government functions covered in this series.

Today's blog covers the Stark County auditor's office headed by Alan Harold.

Harold, elected, in November 2012 took office by virtue of a timetable set by Ohio statutory law on March 14, 2011.


So by January, 2014 Harold's imprimatur of holding office was firmly stamped upon the Stark County auditor's office.

In January, 2014 Harold's office had 92 employees including eleven (a combination of full and part-time workers) Bureau of Motor Vehicle (License Bureau) employees.


But these employees are likely "enterprise" employees in that typically the bureau collected at that time (2014) some $400,000 in revenue used, among other expenditures to pay the eleven and provide some $50,000 annually ultimately to the Stark County general fund.

A search of a May 4, 2017 county employee database shows that three of the eleven are now "direct" employees of Stark County government.

One in employed with Harold's office and two with the Stark County clerk of courts headed up by recently elected (originally appointed by the Stark County Democratic Party Central Committee to replace the retiring-early Nancy Reinbold.

Harold with the approval of the Stark County commissioners jettisoned the bureau for the reason that he at county expense had to post a bond to cover any liability incidents that might occur in the bureau which which hold harmless/indemnification liability would be on Harold.

My overall evaluation Harold's stewardship of the county auditor's office is positive.

He has both downsized core operations of the office and expanded a particular aspect of what the office does for county government.

DOWNSIZING:

The "core" functions include:
  • Auditor (general administration)
  • Auditor Appraisal
  • Auditor Fiscal Administration
  • Auditor Property/Estate Tax
  • Auditor Tax Map
  • Auditor Transfers
  • Auditor Weights & Measures
In January, 2014 there were 82 taxpayer paid for jobs sprinkled through out these operations of the office.

By the end of April, 2017 there were 59 of such positions.

And, according to a recent e-mail from Stark's auditor, the total will recede to 56, to wit:

Alan C. Harold <acharold@starkcountyohio.gov>  May 9 at 1:09 PM 
To:  Martin Olson 
Hi Martin - I show on May 3, 2017, I paid 81 employees.  Of those, two no longer work here (Covey, new job in City of Massillon and not being replaced; Murray, seasonal dog tag entry and work is finished) and their being paid is a reflection of the two week lag in how all county employees are paid.  Additionally, Doug Thorn is retiring at end of May and no hire is planned.  In IT, McBurney is retiring at the end of this year and his replacement (Korte) has been with us for about two months now.
...
Alan
The employment total reduction was aided greatly by the abandonment of the eleven full/part-time license bureau at the cost of $50,000 going into the Stark County general fund at the end of the day.

It is understandable that Harold would not want be potentially liable for a misfire at license bureau considering that running a license burieau is not a traditional auditor's office function.

Downsizing of government with no loss of service on basic functions of that level of government is a sign of highly effective management.

PAY INCREASES & OVERALL EXPENSE INCREASE

Not so impressive, is the increase in the overall expense in running the auditor's office.

It appears that the increase is due to two factors:
  1. Expansion of the staffing of the Information Technology, and
  2. Pay raises to office employees in excess of the standard set back in 2011/2012 by then commissioners Bernabei, Creighton and Regula at 2% per ye,ar to be meted out as the office head saw fit.
EXPANSION OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY CENTER

When Harold took over, Stark County's technology infrastructure was pathetic.

While Harold's predecessor Kim Perez shepherded a major advance in the county Graphic Information System, he doesn't appear to have kept the county apace with available advanced/improved information technology.

I recall commissioners regular Wednesday public meetings that included discussions between Harold's IT Center leadership and commissions in which it came out that much of the county's IT infrastructure was inadequate for effective intra-county communication.

It could be that money resources were the problem for Perez inasmuch as in 2009, 2010 and 2011 Stark County faced major financial shortfalls.

For whatever reason, Harold has picked up with technological infrastructure modernization.  But the improvement has been at a salary expense increase and an increase in the size of the IT Center which, of course, has resulted in counter trend to the reduction in other auditor office functions detailed above.

Here was IT Center as it existed on January 1, 2014 as compared to today:


From 2014 to 2017, the IT Center cost has accelerated by $382,758.

Remember though, McBurney will be retiring at the end of 2017 and Korte will be picking for his position at about $20,000 less per year in salary.

PAY RAISES WITH STARK COUNTY AUDITOR OFFICE

First, the non-IT Center pay raises:

Next, IT Center employees:


The moral of the employment expense increase story is that although Harold has done an excellent job of paring down the overall number of employees needed to get the auditor office functions done in an effective way; the cost of pay increases for both non-IT Center/IT Center employees in excess of the Stark County commissioner recommended 2% per annum (7.5% over 3.3 years) expectation is a contributing reason coalescing with the increased number IT Center employees, Harold's office is costing Stark County taxpayers more in 2017 than in 2014 notwithstanding the substantial reduction in the number non-IT Center employees and the elimination of the license bureau employees.

Here is Auditor Harold's reaction to the SCPR's interpretation of the auditor office employment numbers.

Alan C. Harold <acharold@starkcountyohio.gov>  May 22 at 3:48 PM

To:  Martin Olson

Martin – thanks for the note, and note my comments do not include any figures or references to the BMV.

Rather than measure individual employee salary changes as you lay out, I measure organizational salary changes and try better to keep those costs in line.  For instance, if you look at the last pay of 2013 (12/31/2013), I paid my employees $140,702.19.  On the most recent bi-weekly pay (5/17/2017), I paid my employees $145,481.47, or a difference of +3.4%.  In fact, when you net out planned two departures due to retirement (Thorn at 5/31 – will not be replaced; McBurney at 12/31 – already replaced), the bi-weekly pay drops to $141,251.39, which is +.39% from 12/31/2013 and -1.5% from 12/31/2010.  No one else in the county can claim to be running their office on the same dollars as four years ago or less than seven years ago.  In this respect, I think I have met the Commissioners’ request with room to spare.  And while my core office functions remain the same as four years ago, the role of IT/GIS has and continues to expand greatly.

Specifically at IT/GIS, my challenges to find qualified talent have been well-documented on the public record.  McBurney’s replacement, for instance, took us about 18 months and three separate public postings to find a qualified candidate.  Also at IT, it took us about nine months to hire a new developer.  GIS encounters similar problems, but not to the same extent.  It’s an employee’s market in these technical areas and I’m glad we’ve a) been able to retain the talent we have (though that comes at a cost) and b) attract the talent we have (also at a cost).

And at 12/31/2013, I paid 84 employees; it was 80 employees (headed to 79 in a month with Thorn’s retirement) last pay.  I’m certainly mindful of the head count from the employee benefits perspective and am grateful to my staff who always look to be more efficient in how we carry out our mission.

 Alan

Friday, May 19, 2017

CHRISTINA HAGAN: A U.S. "HOUSE FREEDOM CAUCUS" MEMBER IN WAITING?

UPDATED:  05/21/2017


In early April, Marlboro Township resident and state Representative Christina Hagan (the 50th Ohio House District) announced, though living in the 7th congressional district (represented by Republican Bob Gibbs), announced that she is running to become the Republican Party nominee for the 16th congressional district.



I can remember Stark County/16th district Republicans climbing all over John Boccieri (a Youngstown area Democrat) for announcing for the 16th district seat (which then included all of Stark County) before eventually moving to the Alliance area.

Even then, Alliance area elected Republican leaders would snicker and implied that they questioned whether or not Boccieri was actually living in the 16th.

There is no requirement that a candidate within a given state actually live in the district he/she is running for a seat in Congress.

But in a Republican primary, Hagan living outside the district may become a difference making distinction.

There is  an additional touch of irony in Hagan living outside the district.

She was all on board when in 2012 the Ohio legislature controlled by supermarjority Republicans gerrymandered Stark County:

  • placing the northeast corner of Stark in Democrat Tim Ryan's 13th congressional district,
  • putting the northeast sector of the county in Jim Renacci's reconstituted 16th congressional district (notice the spike down the center of Stark County to capture the Timken Company complex within Renacci's district), and
  • then locating the rest of Stark County (including the Hagan residence) in the 7th congressional district
See all of Ohio's 2012 Republican gerrymandered district at Ohio secretary of state Jon Husted's website.

(Note:  the SCPR acknowledges that if in power,  majority elected Ohio statehouse Democrats would do the same thing; but gerrymandering is not in the public interest but rather in political party interest, whichever one of the two majors it might be.  In benefiting the election fortunes of  their respective political parties, Republican/Democratic controlled legislatures undermine the vitality and continued viability of our democratic-republican system of government.)


Current Congressman Jim Renacci has decided to run for Ohio governor.

Earlier in May, I noted that Hagan as state representative had voted against the 2018-2019 biennium (meaning every two years) Ohio government budget bill.

Hmmm?

What is that about?

After all, it is a bill cobbled together by Republican governor John Kasich with substantial input from the supermajority Republicans controlling the Ohio General Assembly.

Hagan was not the lone lower House Republican (note:  bill currently under consideration by the Senate) to vote "no" on the budget.  She was one of twelve.  Nonetheless the bill easily passed the House.

On May 7th, I both as the author of The Stark County Political Report who happens to be a Hagan constituent sent Hagan this e-mail:


No answer until the May 12th edition of the Hartville News, an extract of which appears in the lead graphic of this blog.

To repeat Hagan's position on Medicaid (highlighting added):


I suspect that Hagan was responding to my e-mail through the Hartville News because she cannot handle the prospect that as response might lead to an exchange of e-mails in which she has to deal with questions she does feel comfortable in answering.

That she failed to give a direct answer to my e-mail should be problematical to Republican voters who will vote in the 2018 Republican primary election.

Should she be elected to Congress, it is predictable that she will only converse with constituents who see eye-to-eye with her.

One of Hagan's plays as a politician is to imply as a working woman having been to suggest that as a restaurant worker prior to getting appointed to the Ohio House in 2010, she understands and can relate to folks who are up against it financially/economically.

Pre-Obamacare many eighteen-year-olds and over stayed on their parents health care insurance by taking a minimum number of college course.

While a college student, she amassed an $80,000 debt for her education.

Of course, now, as a state legislator, her annual income is greatly increaseD and as the the recipient of state of Ohio provided health care insurance benefits she undoubtedly has lost her connection to medicaid eligible Ohioans/Stark Countians.

As a restaurant worker, she likely did not receive much if anything in health care coverage.


But she may have been covered under her parents' health care plan as a under age 26 eligible person as provided for under Obamacare.

If such was the case, then that would make her a typical hypocritical politician.

Perhaps Ms. Hagan will tell us all in particulars what her health care insurance was while she was a restaurant worker, single and living in the Marlboro Township home she was raised in?

It is always interesting to me that politicians who like to tout their connection to the struggles of everyday people by past personal experience forget soon:   witness Hagan voting against the Ohio budget bill because it buttresses Republican governor John Kasich's compassionate commitment to helping "down and out Ohioans" in obtaining health care whereas Hagan apparently sees helping low income folks to attain health care as being a financial burden on Ohio's taxpayers.

I for one (and have to believe more Ohioan taxpayers than not) do not mind the extra tax burden of helping those who have nowhere to turn for basic health care needs.

Another position that Hagan touts for herself is that she is an independent minded Republican who and has and will continue to separate from "establishment Republican views" to chart her own political course.

Hagan does appear to have a penchant to thumb her her nose in at the GOP powers that be here and there but by and large is about a devoutly loyal Republican as one can be.

Given her anti-Medicaid-expansion statement in voting "no" (and, of course, specifically explaining the reason for her vote) on the state budget bill, among other telltale evidentiary signs to be presented in future SCPR blogs on the 16th congressional district race; I think Hagan is a perfect candidate to join up with the U.S. House of  Representative exclusively Republican membered (31 members)  "Freedom Caucus" which forced a defeat of President Trump initial try at repealing Obamacare; now a program that a majority of American population support as evidenced in recent polling.


Just take a look at what the Freedom Caucus stands for.


Seems to be the perfect connection for Candidate Hagan, no?

Ms. Hagan's largest hurdle to become the GOP 16th congrssional district nominee may be her ties to the Presidential Donald J. Trump administration.

Hagan was an early adopter of Trump as evidence at her attending both a fundraiser (Brookside Country Club), apparently, as a non-paying guest, and at Trump's Canton rally in September, 2016.

Everyday now it is more and more appearing that  President Trump could be in deep political trouble as it was announced yesterday that the U.S. Department of Justice has appointed a special prosecutor to assess his campaign ties to Russia which U.S. intelligence services (17 of them) have said tried to interfere with our presidential election of 2016.

Moreover, there is the Comey "you're fired" thing.

As far as the SCPR is concerned, Stark County elected officials who came out in support of Trump (now with unprecedented low national polling numbers) carry the burden for having been front runners for Trump as a matter of follow up accountability in terms of questioning the quality of their judgement and as an indication that political party identification may strongly suggest that with them political party identity "trumps" the American, Ohio and Stark County public interest.


The Republican index leaning of the 16th congressional district is not so favorable to a Republican candidate (espcially one likely to be a fringe Freedom Caucus member, if elected) that retaining the Renacci seat will be easily achieve.

Current polling data shows the American voting public favoring Democratic candidates by as much as 11 percentage points.


The one politically astute thing Hagan has done is to get out in front of potential Republican rivals in starting her campaign none of whom have announced.

But will smart political operations outweigh the political substance she brimgs to the Republican primary table next spring?

The Stark County Political Report, your most complete and thorough poliitical analysis resource for evaluating Stark County based/connected candidates for public office.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

PROBATE COURT JUDGE DIXIE PARK: A SIMON LEGREE-ESQUE JUDGE?

SO SAYS LOCAL ATTORNEY & CIVIC ACTIVIST
CRAIG T. CONLEY



What started out as a unemployment compensation case on the issue of whether or not a staff attorney  (one, Michael F. Kelly) who recently worked of Stark County Court of Common Pleas (Probate Division) judge Dixie Park "quit" employment for "just cause" and therefore entitled to unemployment benefits, has taken on high stakes drama by virtue of hyperbolic metaphor used by the attorney's lawyer (Craig T. Conley) in a legal pleading in a case before Stark County Court of Common Pleas (General Division):  Judge Kristin Farmer.



As readers of The Stark County Political Report know, Conley has had a long standing ongoing acrimonious dispute with Judge Park on the manner in which she presides over Stark's probate court.

The SCPR has reported extensively on several cases in which Park presided and consequently has come to the point of view that she does not demonstrate the qualities that Stark Countians should want in a judge and that she should resign.

But she hasn't and presumably is not about to and it appears that it does not appear that any local [jurists have beseeched the Ohio Supreme Court to intervene to compel her removal.


Even if someone were to step forward to complain about Park to the Supreme Court, one wonders if the high court is up t[o negotiating a deal to get Part off the bench as it did in the case of Cleveland Municipal Court judge Angela Stokes.

There appear to be similarities between how Park and Stokes are said to have handled their respective courts, to wit:  (from the above link Cleveland.com [Plain Dealer, Naymik] article.

The disciplinary counsel's original complaint [2013], which alleged that Stokes had abused court staff, lawyers and defendants, triggered a trial in 2015 before a special panel of the Ohio Supreme Court's Board of Professional Conduct. The trial, which was held periodically rather than continuously, lasted more than eight weeks and likely would have continued well into 2016. (emphasis added)

Ultimately, it likely will be up to Stark County voters in the elections of 2020 to decide the question once and for all.

Both the Stark County GOP and Democratic political parties ought to be grooming candidates to challenge Park should she decide to run for reelection.


In addition to The Stark County Political Report's misgivings on Judge Park's legal competence as elaborated upon in the above-linked blogs, there are rampant allegations that she does not treat her employees.

Moreover, there are allegations that Judge Park has a list of "favored" attorneys, "unfavored" attorneys and those who fall in between favored/unfavored in their work in Judge Park's court.

Well, in the Kelly case, it appears that the "treatment of Probate Co-urt employees" in toto and Kelly in particular is the overriding issue on the question of whether or not Kelly was justified (as a matter of law given the facts of the case) in quitting his employment and still be entitled to collect unemployment benefits.

As the Kelly case unfolded, here is "the findings of fact," as spelled out in a Ohio Unemployment Review Commission (UCRC) decision of December 5, 2016 (appealed by Kelly on December 29, 2016).


And here is testimony by Kelly and another former Park employee (Carlton) as related in Kelly's appeal to the Court of Common Pleas—General Division:

Kelly

"... it was so stressful, not only fore me but I think for a lot of the employees.  We just always felt that we had to watch what we said or did, every little thing.  Like, we'd have to walking on egg shells, so to speak, so as not to set the judge off because at times, you know, she was prone to what I would view as irrational anger.  And so, we always had to watch every little thing that [we] were doing and it just got to be too much.

Also testifying was former probate court staff attorney Bradford Carlton who Conley described as having "no dog in the fight," to wit:

Carlton

"Judge Park has a habit of becoming irate over small matters and it was my perception and belief that if you screwed up you would be at risk of being fired at any moment and I had been in that position for several months under that air  of it I messed up in any way I could be fired and I just couldn't take the stress anymore."

It seems that perhaps the key reason that Kelly did not prevail at the administrative level was on account of his failure to avail himself of a Park generated Employee Handbook provision which is said to contain an "Open Door Policy" and an "Internal Complaint or Grievance Procedure" as an attempt to resolve his difficulty with Park short of quitting or getting fired.

Carlton

"... I have to admit that when I read (those two policies) I actually laughed outloud because I couldn't imagine anybody feeling comfortable going in expressing to her any concerns they had."

Conley also had others (two other attorney staff employees) prepared to testify on how terrible it is to work for Judge Park.

The UCRC affirmed the finding that Kelly (the complainant) and a supporting witness testimony to be credible, to wit:


CONLEY INJECTS "SIMON LEGREE" ANALOGY INTO CASE

In the back and forth of legal pleadings Conley (in his  apparently highly offended County Board of Commissioners legal counsel (Vivianne Duffrin, an assistant Stark County prosecutor) in comparing Judge Park— in employee relationships— to Uncle Tom's Cabin character Simon Legree (LINK to Villains Wikia for a description of Legree's conduct).

A side factor that came up in the pleadings included whether or not Park is an ethical judge (raised by Conley) is the matter of the his allegations of her having favored/unfavored attorney lists.

The triggering language in Conley's April 7, 2017 filed reply brief to Duffrin (having been filed on March 28th)  which got Duffrin's attention:

"Judge Park's aforesaid rather 'unpleasant' personality traits and attendant 'Simon Legree' managerial style aside  ... "

Legal counsel Susan Sheffield (an Ohio attorney general senior assistant) defending the original decision of "quit without just cause" determination of the Director, Ohio Jobs and Family Services as affirmed by the UCRC so far (filed her one and only response to day on March 17th) has not taken Conley to task for his "Simon Legree" comparison.

But Vivianne Duffrin could not contain herself.

On April 28th she filed this response:



It will be interesting to see what Judge Farmer does with Duffrin's Motion to Strike.

Among all of Stark County attorneys, Conley seems to have marked ability to linguistically spice cases up when a judge or opposing counsel gets his dander up.  Most notably he called Stark County Court of Common Pleas judge (General Division) a grandstander for his handling of a case for which Conley was subjected to a disciplinary complaint which did not result in his being disciplined.

In his sparring with Park, Conley does make persuasive arguments as to why Stark Countians ought to be embarrassed to have a judge like Park conducting herself in a manner in which she is accused.

Here we are in May, 2017 and Judge Park continues to demonstrate to The Stark County Political Report a continuing basis for having a belief that she should not be a sitting Stark County judge.

The SCRP renews a long standing call for Judge Dixie Park to resign.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

PART 2: HOLDING COUNTY OFFICE HOLDERS ACCOUNTABLE: TODAY, THE STARK COUNTY COMMISSIONERS' OFFICE

UPDATED:  05/15/2017


On May 9th, I started a series on the expansion of Stark County government.

As the above graphic shows and basic, apples to apples spreadsheet of data provided to The Stark County Political Report (SCPR) by the Stark County auditor's office, shows that for all units for which the auditor's office is the fiscal agent, there has been an increase of nearly $10 million over the space of the last 3.3 years.

On Friday, county financial chief/budget director Chris Nichols (also a Canton Township trustee ), in an e-mail vigorously protested to me that the initial blog of May 9th was an oversimplication along with a more pejorative description of my work.
      • Observation:  I have often wondered how one can be a full-time private/public sector employee and a township trustee without an overlap of the trustee job onto full-time employment time.  Doesn't it seem likely that one job one job or the other is going to get shorted?
      • It is just not Nichols.  Former Plain Township trustee (employed as vehicle title czar by former Stark of Courts Nancy Reinbold) comes to mind as an another example. 
In what undoubtedly took a good chunk of Nichols' time, he took several days to gather information to make the commissioners' case on their oversimplication charge.   His e-mail in my assessment is an attempt to complicate and confuse basic facts as presented in the above graph.



Apparently, the slamming of those of us (reference "perjorative" above) who see things differently than particular government officials do, is an occasion a la the example of President Donald J. Trump to disparage the unwelcome messenger.

It is as if from Nichols perspective I as a blogger have a duty to dig deep into every nook and crany of the fiscal aspect of local government (irrespective who pays for it) and find justifications and thereby be the apologist for the sizeable increase in the cost of Stark County governance that the above graphic shows.

Whereas The Repository bills itself as "the official newspaper of the Pro Football Hall of Fame" which suggests being an apologist the Hall; the SCPR has and never will fill that bill for any government unit at any level.

If I have heard the core Nichols/commissioners complaint once, I have heard it a proverbial million times over the years of publishing the SCPR.

In my view, former Canton mayor William J. Healy was a master at that sort of thing.

Moreover, I think former Stark County Democratic chairman Randy Gonzalez was an accomplished whiner on the SCPR quest to do straight forward analysis on his role as the-then party chairman and Canton Municipal Court official.

To me and I think for most taxpaying Americans, it matters not that financial resources for government services at their core rendered in Stark County for the benefit of Stark Countians may have come from a combination of federal, state, local (i.e. Justice System Sales Tax [JSST], property taxes and fees for county services) county enterprise fund revenues.

Bottom line is that as taxpayers, we all participate in paying the bill for government in whatever form it shows up and funded by whatever source.

The overall rise in employees serving the Stark County public has risen both in number and expense.

The calculation was basic, basic, basic!

Take the auditor's spreadsheet which identifies each and every employee for which the auditor's office is the fiscal agent and simply (if I may use that term) go to the end of the spreadsheet to see the number of employees listed on January 1, 2014 and compare the exact same data on as of May 1, 2017.

Secondly, I created a formula adding the wages paid to those employees and then "simply" subtract the 2014 figure from the 2017 number.

Again, bottom line.

Taxpayers are paying nearly $10 million more in salary expense (not including county benefits paid by taxpayers at about one-third of the salaries/wages).

Of course, there are always extenuating circumstances and explanations.

Since Nichols has gone to such great lengths to complain on behalf of the commissioners about the SCPR not looking for exculpatory factors (see May 9th blog with a summary of Nichols' basic points), I think it is apppropriate at this point in this series to local specifically at operations in the commissioners' office.


Note that the total payroll for the commissioners has increase nearly $200,000 over the January, 2014 through April, 2019 period.

I can hear it now from Nichols.

"But Dittmore, Skondras, Kugler, Kimble and Hayn work for Human Resources not directly for the commissioners."

For me, such, if asserted by Nichols/the commissioners, is a distinction without a difference.

The tip-off that the expansion of local government at the direct hand of the commissioners (under their direct control) came as I began to dig into the data a little deeper when, in putting together the spreadsheet, it dawned on me that I was not seeing the name of Carol Hayn,  Stark's superb county benefits administrator.

The beauty of having databases is that one can search for specific information with which to do tie-ins,which is exactly what I did in the Hayn situation.

And, lo and behold, she shows up under "Human Resources" (HR) rather than the "Commissioner" category column of the auditor office provided spreadsheet.

Ms. Hayn in my assessment is every bit the same employee she was under the category "Commissioner" as she is under the category "Human Resources."

And it could be that the establishing of a "Human Resources" unit is good for Stark County fiscal accountability and responsibility over the long term.

But the fact of the matter is that the salaries for everybody in the unit other than Hayn costs slightly over $200,000 annually.

A question remains as to whether or not the $200,000 plus additional expenditure will eventually be quantifiable in offsetting if not "ahead of the game" savings to Stark County taxpayers?

Hire dates for the "other than" Hayn HR employees:
  • Dittmore:    April 20, 2017 (includes newly elected commissioner Bill Smith's time as commissioner)
  • Skondras:   August 8, 2016
  • Kugler:       August 13, 2015
  • Kimble:      October 14, 2014
An example of a sizeable expansion of "directly responsible for" commissioner action, no?

In Nichols' e-mail he was quick to credit the commissioners with saving taxpayer money by hiring two part-time employees to take the place of what formerly was a full-time position.

But not a word about the additional $200,000 plus of added expense during the 3.3 years for the building up of HR.  Interesting, no?

Clearly the HR factor is an added expense to county government at the "direct" hand of the county commissioners, no?

HR started with Kimble alone.

Now it has escalated to a total of five "new" employees (since January 1, 2014) which of course is six with Hayn but with no extra expense except Hayn's 10% or so salary and benefits increases over 3.3 years.

And one other note on the commissioners' payroll.  One factor I did not include in the chart above was the increase from $76,975.86 to $84,862.96 for two of the three commissioners.  Commissioner Creighton or her successor will not receive the increased $84,862.96 until taking office on or about January 1, 2019.

A positive note on the spreadsheet is that lesser paid commissioner employee over the 3.3 years analysed outstripped the highly paid Brant Luther in percentage increase (25% to 20%).

That increase is mandated by legislation passed by the Ohio General Assembly, but, of course, it is paid out of Stark County taxpayer provided funding.

Note that former commissioner David Bridenstine (appointed by Commissioners Janet Creighton, Richard Regula and Prosecutor John Ferrero to replace Tom Bernabei when he took office as mayor of Canton) has returned to his job as legal counsel for the commission at a $10,000 increase as a "part-time" employee).

As far as the SCPR is concerned his $52,000 for a 40 hour workweek is paying for legal services that ought to be provided by Ferrero's office.

When Bridenstine finally retires, retires, it will be interesting to see whether or not the commissioners continue to burden Stark County taxpayers with their having in effect "in-house" legal counsel.

I clearly understand what the commissioners have direct authority over, indirect authority over and no authority over whatsoever.

The accountability factor of this series of blog is for what they have direct authority for, and, via the "bully pulpit," for their indirect authority by way of their budgeting and appropriating power.

I do not need to be lectured by Nichols on the differences.

And as I proceed with my analyses I will point out the differences as we certainly wouldn't want to be unfair to the commissioners.

The 911 Emergency Preparedness factor is an example of indirect authority.

As I have done for over nine years, I will continue to write the SCPR as I see fit.

I do appreciate the input from the likes of Nichols (on behalf of the commissioners) but it would be more constructive if he could manage to weigh-in without his casting aspersions.

I hope I am not seeing the Twitter-esque modeling of President Donald J. Trump percolating through the personages of certain Stark County officialdom as Nichols' effrontery might suggest.

What is it about government at every level of American governance that wants to define accountability in accordance with self-defined standards?

The SCPR has always had and will continue to have a high standard of accountability that is unaffected by the moaning and groaning of those evaluated.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

BREAKING NEWS! BLACK CONTRACTORS GROUP ORGANIZING "BOYCOTT" OF AUGUST 3, 2017 PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME GAME!

UPDATE:  June 26, 2017

Originally posted on May 11, 2017.

Former WHBC "Points to Ponder" host Ron Ponder says Stark County leadership has acted successfully to avert threatened boycott (LINK).


According to a Cleveland Plain Dealer article, (Mark Naymik, author, online as Cleveland.com) published mid-afternoon today, an effort titled as being The Black Contractors Group is organizing a boycott of the scheduled 2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame (HOFVP) annual football set to be played at Tom Benson Stadium in Canton.

The city of Canton (a $5 million "early on" contributor to the project) and Stark County trade unionists and Stark County economic leaders generally have been highly supportive of the mammoth improvement and expansion of the Canton based Hall of Fame complex.

The state of Ohio through the work of state representative Kirk Schuring has provided support for the project as has Canton government in working with HOFVP officials to provide the project with the ability to generate sales tax revenues and participate in property tax revenues going forward.

In a nutshell, it seems from the article that The Black Contractors Group is unhappy that minority contractors have not had enough of an opportunity to land contracts in the initial stages of construction the upgrade and expansion of the HOFVP complex said in Naymik's piece as being about 15% complete.


According to 2015 U.S. Census data, Stark County has a 7.9% African-American population and Canton proper is attributed  on one website as having a 23.3% black population.

Canton Deputy Mayor Fonda Williams and a HOFVP official are cited as saying that with only 15% of the project completed, there will be ample opportunity for minority contractors to land a piece of the HOFVP construction action going forward.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

PART 1: HOLDING COUNTY OFFICE HOLDERS ACCOUNTABLE!

UPDATE:   COUNTY FINANCE DIRECTOR RESPONDS
05.12.17

Immediately after the original blog



Have most Mr./Ms. Private Sector employee had anywhere near 10% wage/salary increase since January 1, 2014?

Probably not.

Across some 2700 employees, a number of county government employees have and in some cases then some.

Of course, there are some who have had much less during the January 1, 2014 through May 1, 2017 time span.

On January 1, 2014 there were 2632 county employees whereas today there about 2700; an increase of 68 employees, which, of course, account for the overall 10% salary expense increase that Stark County government has experienced.

The Stark County Political Report initiates this series of reports going through county office payroll data (base data provided by Alan Harold's county auditor office).

From time-to-tme, the SCPR will publish an analysis of various county government operations in the context of the salary expense factor.

Readers should keep in mind that the wage expense is only part of the overall salary expense factor. County government provides a generous benefits factor courtesy of Stark County taxpayers which likely amounts to about 35% of the annual wages.

First up in this multi-part series, is the Office of  911 Emergency Preparedness.

This office is not managed by an elected official.

Here is a corrected chart for Emergency Preparedness.


Some interesting numbers, no?

Especially the increases going to the director, the deputy director and the 911 IT coordinator.

But certainly not the administrative assistant.

One would think the that county commissioners would have a tighter grip on things than to allow such a glaring disproportion.

The commissioners' standard since the 1/2 cent sales tax increase passed has been 2% per cent per year in wage increases to be divided as determined by the manager of a given office.

And yet 911 Emergency Preparedness is at 13%/3.5 years (accounting for unfilled planner position in 2014 the real increase number is about 13% not 37% as indicated in spreadsheet) is at 3.7% on average.

As far as the SCPR is concerned the 3.7% is not the worst of this story: 25 (a corrected number), 21 and 8% raises concentrated in three employees.

Really!

Though it is not a huge number, the 68 additional employees means that Stark County government does has spots of growth.

This series over time will reveal where that growth is taking place.

Will the commissioners has an answer as to a "justifying why?"

THE COMMISSIONERS RESPONSE VIA FINANCE DIRECTOR CHRIS NICHOLS

I appreciate  Stark County fiance director Chris Nichol' input and rather bold suggestions as how I should have written this blog, but "I alone" write the SCPR according to my own criteria.

Normally, I would publish his entire e-mail response on behalf of the Stark County commissioners.

However, his e-mail I think will cause most readers to glaze over with all the whys, wherefores and complexities he introduces.

Accordingly, I summarize his objections to the format I have elected to write in, to wit:

  • I have oversimplified and misrepresented the numbers I use as they pertain to the commissioners financial management of Stark County government,
    • There are, Nichols says, extenuating circumstances and explanations:
      • Some local government functions are funded by federal, state and county enterprise dollars,
      • A number of employees listed on the auditor's office database are part-time and part-time season (e.g. Stark County Board of Elections).
        • An example he describes:  there are two part-time employees doing the job of a former full-time employee in the commissioners office itself which saves the county money in total wages.  The point being that the county is charge with having two employees rather than one.
  • I imply that the commissioners have budgeting authority overall 2700 (more or less) employees listed in the auditor's May 4, 2017 database provided to me whereas the real number is 1,054.
  • I do not go deep enough into the data in terms of numbers of years which formed the basis of my analysis.
  • And finally, Nichols makes a couple of points I consider to be of the nitpicking variety and not becoming of a county finance director.

Whether the money for wage increases and numbers of employees comes from the federal government, state government or county government or county government enterprise funds is a distinction that everyday Stark Countians will not appreciate.

All the money comes from those of  us who pay taxes at the federal, state and county levels.

As Nichols points out,  the commissioners do not have budgeting/appropriating authority over the federal, state and county enterprise funds that finance various local government offices.

While most of the listed employee positions are not employees over whom the commissioners have direct control over (excepting, of course, those who work directly for the commissioners), they are paid through the county payroll system which means to me that at least in an generic sense they are Stark County government employees that work to benefit Stark Countians and are paid with funds from various at some level of government taxpayer provided funds.

Nonetheless, the commissioners do have the "bully pulpit" with which to weigh in on the finances (raises and the like) and scope (i.e. numbers of employees).

In the nearly nine years I have covered the commissioners, I have heard them frequently challenge leaders of many Stark County offices on their budget requests.

And from my perspective, they have had an effect on where those offices end up in terms of appropriated monies and moreover, to me  one as one observer, had an obvious effect by critical questioning (in the context of annual budget hearings) on how the office head allocates those  appropriations

The 911 Emergency Preparedness operation is a county government function that is reviewed by the commissioners in their annual budget review.

Nichols makes a point that the total number of employees (about 2700) in this blog are not full-time. Some are part-time and some are seasonal part-time.

As I go through the various Stark County offices I select to analyze I will point out in a comparative context how the mix of full-time/part-time/part-time seasonal employees by offices analyzed.

The 911 Emergency Preparedness office has no listed part-time employees and is the reason I did not get into the part-time/full-time factor in this particular blog.

When I use multiple years (2013 through 2016 and into the first five months of 2017), I do, despite Nichols disagreement, account for all the goings and comings of all (full-time, part-time, part-time seasonal employees listed on the auditor's office database for the time frame reported on.

Apparently, Nichols is assuming that I am not going to provide that full-time/part-time ratio.

Of course, assuming is not a good thing for an analytical person do so.