Monday, August 14, 2017




In this day and age, it is not unusual for city governments to compete with one another especially on economic development matters.

A few years ago, North Canton lured a Massillon company to what used to be officially known as "The Dogwood Tree" city by advancing $400,000 (more or less) of upfront money to buy a crane for the company.

Insofar as the SCPR knows, there is no such history between North Canton and Alliance.

However, it does appear that Alliance and North Canton are vying with one another in a race to the bottom in disrespecting its citizenry's right to know, to be heard and to participate fully as a critically important factor in how we Americans govern ourselves.

At least since September, 2012 and the hiring (by North Canton City Council) of Tim Fox as law director, North Canton appears to The Stark County Political Report (SCPR) to surge to the lead among Stark County's political subdivisions in a dubious category:  a marked decline in respect for and implementation of fundamental democratic-republican values.

Under Fox's reign, North Canton has had problems"
  • being transparent, 
  • providing requested public records, 
  • complying with its own charter requirements, 
  • councilmembers' attendance (Stephanie Werren, a primary offender) at public meetings, and 
  • respecting the will of North Canton voters as expressed at the ballot box.
And there are a number of  other things concerning the undermining of core democratic values that one could cite North Canton government for.

Some think that the Alliance parallel to North Canton's Fox is Safety-Service Director Mike Dreger.

Dreger was appointed by current Alliance mayor Alan Andreani in September, 2014.

A number of Carnation City residents think that Alliance has not been the same in terms of basic democratic-republican values (e.g. first and foremost, administrative transparency).

A big brouhaha broke out into the open at the Alliance City Council on August 7 when Councilwoman Julie Jakmides took it on herself to walk out of council when she was worked over by council president Arthur Garnes for discharging a prime legislative function of questioning Andreani's safety-service director (Dreger) and the independently elected law director (Jennifer Arnold) and various and sundry questions on policing, administrative oversight issues and spending volume for legal services.

Nobody should be surprised by the anti-democratic actions of Alliance government which took place on August 7th.

In April of this year, at the request of Alliance citizen Leslie Young,  Attorney Steve Okey (a former Alliance councilman, a former council president and a past candidate [against Andreani] for mayor of Alliance) filed a lawsuit against Alliance government alleging that the Andreani administration violated Ohio's open meetings law in not complying with Ohio law (on legal advice provided by Arnold) with regard to a proper "in accordance with law" motion to go into executive session as presented to council which ultimately passed:  4 votes to 3.

Here is a copy the suit:

Kudos to the citizen and Okey for standing front and center for Ohio's open records law.

Here is Alliance's answer:

Trial is set for February 12, 2018.

Back in 2014, Okey filed in his own name a lawsuit against certain members of Alliance City Council with Larry Dordea as the lead-named and pleading referenced defendant which the SCPR said at the time appeared motivated to embarrass Dordea, who, at the time was in the midst of Stark County sheriff campaign seeking to unseat Okey political ally George T. Maier.

Okey said that it was unconnected with the Dordea/Maier matchup and the litigation was filed because of Okey's devotion to Ohio's Sunshine Laws.

This Stark County Political Report was not buying Okey's protestation that the 2014 litigation was all about Ohio's Sunshine Laws.

The SCPR wrote a number of blogs castigating Okey for having filed the case on account of what appeared to be obvious political implications of Councilman Dordea running against Okey political friend George T. Maier.

So it is a touch more than ironic that Dordea was among three councilpersons (Jakmides and Edwards also voting NO)  on presented motion for council and certain Andreani administration officials and Law Director Arnold to go into executive session which prompted the Leslie Young lawsuit.

What should disturb the citizens of Alliance is that under the Andreani administration lead, seemingly based, in large part, upon the legal counsel of Jennifer Arnold (Alliance's independently elected law director); it appears that Alliance is heading in the same direction as North Canton in curtailing compliance with core democratic-republican values and perhaps in the process violating Ohio law.

However, as the SCPR sees the matter, it is likely that Okey/Citizen Young will, if the lawsuit goes to trial, prevail.

Of course, it is possible that the Andreani administration on counsel by Arnold will drop defending the suit and implement the asked for remedies.

Either way, there might be these Alliance taxpayer costs, either agreed to or ordered by the court:
  • up to $1,000 in damages,
  • court costs and plaintiff's attorney fees, and 
  • legal fees paid by Alliance government for outside legal counsel
Shouldn't there be a "moral obligation" for those who participated in the manner in which the executive session was presented for an up or down vote to reimburse the city treasury?

Perhaps the Young lawsuit will prove to be curative of the Andreani administration's flirtation with its seeming unlawful manner of going into executive session.

One more thing.

An important point that Okey raises in the lawsuit is that governments MAY but is not required to go into executive session for reasons enumerated in the underlying Ohio statute cited in the Young lawsuit.

The SCPR's take on executive session use among Stark County local governments is that elected officials are all too quick and prone to invoke the permissive right to go into private session without considering adequately the necessity of doing so.

The taxpaying public has a right to know to the greatest degree as is practical and feasible to have discussions which serve as the basis for decisions made in public, be "public" themselves.

Government propensity to overuse is to deny, via out-of-view executive sessions, public access to the deliberations constitute the foundation upon which decisions are made in public session.

Such is a key ingredient among a number of others as why citizen trust of government grows by the day.

 In terms of the taxpaying public having confidence in the integrity of government, the processes of governing can be more important than the substantive decisions themselves.

Alliance council members Dordea, Jakmides and Edwards as well as Leslie Young and his attorney have courageously stepped forward to bolster democratic-republican values.

In North Canton, it appears there is no elected official on the inside at city hall (except perhaps a fleeting moment here and there by Councilman Foltz) who has the moxie to stand up for core government democratic enhancing process values.

All the city's councilpersons and the mayor seem to be good at is patting one another on the back in self-congratulation while they foster North Canton's democratic processes decline.

Accordingly, it  appears that the only North Canton cure is that its voters will take matters in hand in the November general election and place in office council members and a mayor who respect citizens' fundamental democratic-republican values.

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