Thursday, May 27, 2010


It has been almost two years ago now that the SCPR first learned from the lips of Massillon Mayor Frank Cicchinelli that a Massillon government official was comparing Hizzoner to the Devil.

Well, that official may have company. 

Who might that be?

While not naming the Mayor, Trustee Craig Chessler (Democrat - Perry Township), does refer to the Massillon attempt to annex the Perry Township located R.G. Drage Technical Career Center as being "diabolical."  (see video below for Chessler's actual description of the Massillon annexation initiative)

Chessler had just sat through a highly contentious Stark County commissioners meeting in which a "hearing" (if that is what you want to call it) was held on Massillon's petition to annex Drage into Tigerland.

It was obvious that commissioners are looking for a way to deny the petition.

So why don't they just deny it?

Because legal counsel Debbie Dawson (assistant to the chief of the Civil Division of the Stark County Prosecutor's office) told them that they would be violation annexation law if they did.

Not a good situation.  Public officials who are sworn to uphold the law defying the "advice of counsel" and put themselves in the position of having to defend themselves in court on what their lawyer thinks is an indefensible position.

The SCPR believes that the commissioners will in fact follow the advice of counsel next Wednesday and vote to approve the annexation.

If they don't, they probably are going to have to go out and hire alternative counsel.

Why?  In the opinion of The Report, Dawson is committed to the advice she is giving and would likely ask the commissioners to find alternative counsel if they elect not to follow her advice. 

Of course, given the County's financial crisis, how can the commissioners afford to do that?  

One thing that yesterday's hearing established is that the Ohio General Assembly bungled the re-work of annexation laws when it took on the task about five years ago.

The Report will show video in later reports on yesterday's meeting which manifests the commissioners' complete frustration with the process (or in the opinion of the SCPR - lack of process) of considering the annexation petition. 

As Prosecutor Dawson repeatedly pointed out to commissioners, once the seven criteria as provided in Ohio Revised Code Section 709.023 have been met (as confirmed by county administration officials and Dawson herself - which was done in yesterday's hearing) all the commissioners can do is vote yes in approving the petition.

As mentioned above, the SCPR will be presenting addition video of the annexation aspect of yesterday's commissioners' meeting to show the Stark County public how "undemocratic" the annexation process in Ohio is.

Stark Countians who believe in the right of citizens and even governments themselves (i.e. political subdivisions - e.g Townships) to due process of law (notice and the opportunity to be heard) should be contacting members of the Stark County delegation to the Legislature (Oelslager, Okey, Schiavoni, Schuring, Slesnick and Snitchler) with demands that the undemocratic structure of annexation processes be changed.

It seems clear to the SCPR that the Ohio Municipal League held far too much sway with the Legislature when the recent changes to annexation law were made.

Here is the video of Trustee Craig Chessler speaking about yesterday's "hearing" and annexation law in general.


Kurt said...

It never ceases to amaze me at how many annexation issues Debbie Dawson is involved with. It would be interesting to see the SCPR do an article on her as to the amount of conflicts of interest there are with the issues that she is involved with. There is no doubt that the annexation laws of the State of Ohio are flawed to a certain extent. It just seems like Debbie Dawson is working on both sides of the fence and she cannot provide an unbiased opinion on alot of these issues.

Stark said...
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