Saturday, October 7, 2017


Update:  1:39 PM (Video of North Ridge Place, LLC Legal Counsel Added)
Update:  7:06 PM (Video of Testimony of Housing Director Gary Fry Added)

You've got to give North Canton citizens Roll, Revoldt and Osborne high marks for putting North Canton government on the spot in their pursuing claims of illegality on the part of North Canton officialdom in having initially (2012) approved upwards of $1 million in North Canton taxpayer subsidy to North Ridge Place, LLC on the company's apartment building complex located on North Main Street in the heart of downtown North Canton.

You've got to give North Canton government low marks in the manner in which it scheduled and conducted a hearing on the claims before the North Canton Housing Council.

City officials should be and likely are, in their inner selves,"red faced" over what seemed to be a farce of a process, in terms of transparency and accountability, vis a vis the North Canton public; going all the way back to 2012; the year in which the "out-of-public-view" taxpayer subsidy was granted to North Ridge Place, LLC.

This past Tuesday night (see extract of official notice in the lead graphic above) was all about "face-saving" for elected/unelected North Canton officials who dropped the ball going back to 2012.

A number of expressions came to mind as The Stark County Political Report ruminated on how to characterize the proceeding:  "Kangaroo Court," "Wink & Nod," "Show Trial," and "Catch 22;" just to name a few raced across the mental screen.

In the end, the SCPR settled on the expression "Dog & Pony Show" as intoned by one of the litigants,  post-hearing, as being the most descriptive of what went on Tuesday in the North Canton City Council chambers within the confines of the taxpayer provided city hall building complex.

Having been a lawyer for 41 years before going inactive in June, 2014; it was hard to stomach the proceeding.

The "hearing?" as put together by and, in reality, conducted by Law Director Tim Fox rather than council chairman Dennis Fletchner.  Fletchner who came across as being window dressing.

To the SCPR, Fox in the "hearing?" revealed himself as being a conflicted advocate (i.e. with a straight face tried to appear disinterested) for whitewashing the 2012 secretive decision process and ensured the outcome in influence over the housing council members became in effect "judge, jury and executioner"

Here's Fox's intro to the proceeding.

First up at the hearing was Daryl Revoldt.  (Note:  see North Ridge Place, LLC rebuttal at end of blog)

Here is the video of his argument.

Next up was Citizen Melanie Roll.  (Note:  see North Ridge Place, LLC rebuttal at end of blog)

Especially nauseating was Fox's playing the heavyweight lawyer with citizen activist Melanie Roll as being the non-lawyer she is, she didn't meet Fox's standard of getting her documents before the housing council members

Take a look.

Moving on, here is Roll's argument.

At the conclusion of Roll's presentation, the council stumbled and bumbled to a decision. 

The script cues to council members emanating from Fox were wrapped up in his conflicted role as being both an advocate for his preconceived desired outcome and his obvious desire to be perceived as conducting a fair process which seemed to interfere with council members getting clearly understanding their lines.

The following video take is, sad to say, comical in a tragic sense in that we are dealing with citizen rights to be heard and taken seriously.

Fox is as demonstrated in the video is trying to have it both ways with Roll:

Stick with a pseudo-legal script
  •  i.e. housing council is an administrative body; not a court of law:  rules of procedure are generally more relaxed for administrative hearings than in actual court proceedings) 
while at the same time wishing to appear to be empathetic with non-lawyer Roll.

Finally, it was Citizen Chuck Osborne's turn.  (Note:  see North Ridge Place, LLC rebuttal at end of blog)

Here is his argument.

It was especially dispiriting to see two city councilmen (Foltz and Cerreta), the city's chief administrator (Grimes) and Fox be a part of what appeared from the beginning to be an exercise in utter and complete futility for the claimants but along the way to create an indicia of there being hope that the complainants could actually be successful.

Tuesday night was a virtual playing out of a "Catch 22" screenplay (LINK to Wikipedia article analyzing the Joseph Heller novel "Catch 22") under the guise of being due process for aggrieved citizens of North Canton to say nothing of the North Canton City Schools (NCCS) which will lose nearly $500,000 as a consequence of the award of the CRA.
The novel's title refers to a plot device that is repeatedly invoked in the story. Catch-22 starts as a set of paradoxical requirements whereby airmen mentally unfit to fly did not have to do so, but could not actually be excused. According to the novel, people who were crazy were not obliged to fly missions, but anyone who applied to stop flying was showing a rational concern for his safety and was, therefore, sane and had to fly. By the end of the novel, it is invoked as the explanation for many unreasonable restrictions. The phrase "Catch-22" has since entered the English language, referring to a type of unsolvable logic puzzle sometimes called a double bind(emphasis added)
Citing that the city had made the best of a bad situation in working out agreements between the NCCS, council and North Ridge Place, LLC in mitigating the schools' loss to 50%; former mayor, Ward 4 councilman and council president Daryl Revoldt withdrew his complaint and therefore "technically" did not suffer the humiliation of effectively, in the opinion of the SCPR, being denied authentic due process of law in the context of the "Catch-22" scenario described above.

Understandable on Revoldt's part?

Of course.

While Revoldt with his solid credentials of having been a main stream public official (both elected and unelected) showed tremendous courage (given his historical ties to establishment North Canton politics and government) of challenging the legality of  processes and procedures of what North Canton did in awarding North Ridge Place, LLC an abatement; he was one step behind Roll and Osborne in fortitude in that they forced the Housing Council to foist a seeming charade-esque process upon them to the bitter end.

One doesn't hear this expression often, if ever,  but in seeing the matter through to a predictable preordained decision, Roll and Osborne might be thought to having acquired "civic" martyrdom status.

Not "civic" martyrdom is what either of them wanted.

What they wanted was for North Canton's schools to receive what was due them according to the voting will of North Canton's citizens when the affected levies were voted in.

Let The Report be perfectly clear, the owners of North Ridge Place, LLC did nothing wrong in applying for and accepting the original abatement of real property taxes for the project over 12 years.

In fact, an argument can be made that the owners did a responsible/civic thing in joining in the trio of agreements so that NCCS suffered—in the end—a 50% loss of revenues rather than might have ended up being a 100% loss.

The failure on transparency/accountability on the CRA granted to North Ridge Place, LLC was with North Canton government, pure and simple!

Such a development should surprise no one.

For at least the five years that Fox has been law director, North Canton government has become outright antagonistic to any citizen who differs with the processes and decisions of its officials.

On the North Ridge Place abatement, one city official had the authority to decide on his own to grant the upwards of  $1 million tax abatement and nobody was watching; if one believes the accounts of the mayor, North Canton's councilmembers and its unelected "should have been in a position to know" officials.

Doing what any lawyer would/should do for his client, North Ridge Place, LLC attorney Mark Winkhart did argue that the failure of Revoldt, Roll and Osborne to appeal within 30 days of North Canton's housing officer granting North Ridge, LLC its application for an abatement was a fatal defect as a matter of law.

Never mind that "supposedly" only Bowles and the North Ridge Place, LLC owners knew and the abatement only became known to the complainants in March, 2016.

Thirty days from the Bowles determination had long, long, long ago come and gone.

End of story!!!!!!!!!

Revoldt, Roll and Osborne were caught up in a "Catch 22," a "Double Bind" all at the doing of North Canton government and, perhaps, with an assist from the Ohio legislature and Ohio jurisprudence.

Note that the SCPR uses the word "supposed" in qualifying the word "knowing."

Despite the protestations to the contrary, everybody the SCPR talks to simply refuses to believe that only Bowles and North Ridge Place, LLC officials knew about the abatement when it was granted.

Even if a councilperson, the mayor (Held, who emphatically denies knowing) or other North Canton unelected officials knew but failed to disclose within the 30 days for a timely appeal to have been filed; Roll, Revoldt and Osborne likely would likely have ultimately lost on the "appeal within 30 day rule" if anyone of them opted to take the matter to court.

Lawyers can understand the 30 day stuff.
  • Note:  Readers are encouraged to view the arguments of Revoldt, Roll and Osborne to get a sense of high quality level of their understanding of the law of Ohio abatements which might be persuasive to a court of law BUT FOR not every getting to those argument were a court to rule that they as uninformed claimants are nonetheless bound by the rule.
But not the typical North Cantonian.

How can a citizen not have the ability to know that a decision of government with which the citizen disagrees with on legal grounds and be held to be required to file an within 30 days of the decision appeal?

And, it could be,  (notwithstanding the likelihood that might well be legally fatal to the claimants) that if Roll and/or Osborne had the financial resources to pursue a Stark County Court of Common Pleas appeal from North Canton's administrative decision;  the initial appellate court or an intermediate court of appeals or even the Ohio Supreme Court might recognize the "Catch 22" North Canton government put its citizenry into and fashion a remedy that squares up with fairness and justice?

In law school, every student learns the legal platitude that there is no such thing as a wrong without a remedy.

The SCPR thinks that the maxim sounds nice but in reality in American jurisprudence there are many legal wrongs akin to the North Canton situation in which no remedy is found to correct a wrong that even an everyday person can identify as having occurred.

North Canton citizens ought to be asking:  Why wasn't there a rule in the city's charter requiring the housing officer as the representative of North Canton's administration to notify the mayor immediately (i.e. the day of having made a CRA abatement) of the fact of and the value of CRA granted and, moreover, to require the mayor to provide public notice the very day of the decision?

There is no doubt about it.

The implementation of CRA awarding processes in terms of oversight and revealing decisions made was fatally flawed in allowing for a wrong that may prove uncorrectable, and accordingly, the SCPR blames the Ohio Legislature, North Canton's city council and the mayor for allowing the North Canton Ridge Place, LLC abatement  "Catch 22" situation to come into being.

Their collective failure and the need for "face saving" is what The Stark County Political Report believes was at play in the play-out of the North Canton Political Theater on Tuesday, October 3, 2017 in the city council chambers of North Canton City Hall.

In the end, it appears that Tuesday's proceeding deserves a title of:  North Canton Housing Council Dog & Pony Show.

The more of this kind of stuff in government especially at the local level goes on, is it any wonder that more and more citizens are losing confidence in government?

Grain by grain, our sense of fairness and justice is eroding and it is happening under our very own noses.

Right here in Stark County, Ohio.

And the citizens of North Canton get multiple doses of consequences for the manifest injustice North Canton government has visited upon them, to wit:
  • One unelected official is empowered by government to make an unreviewed/unpublished decision makes a mockery of our democratic-republican system of government,
  • A realization that in some instances there is no "redress of grievances" in the American system of justice which over time generates skepticism if not cynicism about our basic institutions of government, and 
  • Their schools are out megabucks in financing school operations and citizens are put in the position of either replacing the lost revenues with new taxes or accepting a lesser quality of education for their children,
Kudos to Revoldt, Roll and Osborne for trying to stop the erosion!

Video of legal counsel for North Ridge Place, LLC making rebuttals to the Revoldt, Roll and Osborne complaints:

Video of Housing Officer Gary Fry

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