Saturday, May 13, 2017


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.

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