Thursday, July 8, 2010


It was a week ago Friday when "in the public interest" Attorney Craig T. Conley filed a lawsuit (on a pro bono [for the public good] basis) against Stark County Treasurer Gary Zeigler to recover missing funds from the county treasury; mostly at the hand of former Chief Deputy Vince Frustaci who has admitted in open federal court to have taken about $2.46 million of a total missing nearly $3.0 million.

Conley is planning on filing a motion for summary judgment before Zeigler even gets his attorney to file an answer to the lawsuit.  He says that this is a "strict liability" case on the basis of Ohio statutes fixing liability on the treasurer, in particular, and on any public official, in general, to make the public whole for any money that comes up missing during the administration of the office.

Early last week Conley sent a demand letter on behalf of client Tom Marcelli to Stark County Prosecutor Ferrero insisting that Ferrero immediately initiate a civil action against Zeigler to recover any missing money not covered by bonds, insurance and other resources (e.g. Frustaci liquidating his pension fund in favor of Stark County government).

Ferrero (via Civil Prosecutor Deborah Dawson) did not outright refuse the demand, but did claim the time was not ripe for filing suit against Zeigler. 

Initially, Conley said he would file suit on July 7th if Ferrero had not filed by the end of business on July 6th.  However, Conley did not wait until the 7th; he filed on the 2nd.

Conley's reasoning is that waiting hurts the Stark County taxpayer for several reasons.

First, if the suit is delayed until after Frustaci is sentenced (Conley says that Frustaci has already begun serving his time in the Mahonning County Jail pending official sentencing to federal prison) on September 7th and the bond obligations kick in, then the bond company's will file suit against the persons bonded and be first in line for any assets that may be available to cover the bond money paid.  Bonds do not work like insurance.  Those covered by bonds are fully liable for any bond money paid out by the bonding company.

Second, Conley says that Zeigler has recently transferred some realty assets (apparently to relatives) for no consideration (which Conley concedes could be co-incidental and not designed to protect from potential judgment creditors).  However,  Conley plans, if allowed to proceed on the suit he has filed against Zeigler, to ask Judge John Haas (the Stark County Common Pleas Court judge initially assigned to the case) to freeze Zeigler's remaining assets pending outcome of the litigation..  Conley believes that  "time is of the essence" in the case moving forward.

Of interest is information that Judge Haas has called for an in-chamber conference for tomorrow (July 9).

What might that be about?

Could it be a discussion among the Court, Ferrero and Conley as to whether or not Conley will be permitted to proceed?

There may be a question of whether or not Ferrero has had sufficient time to consider Conley's demand to proceed against Treasurer Zeigler.  However, as of yesterday, accordingly to Conley, no motion had been filed by Ferrero to stay or dismiss the Conley-initiated suit.

The SCPR believes Conley is to be commended for pushing the pursuing of Zeigler for liability, if any, for any missing money out of the Stark treasury and for getting the action moving.

We know from a Repository report (Lawsuit seeks Stark County's missing millions from Zeigler, 07/02/10, Shane Hoover) that Ferrero takes a dim view of Conley's action, to wit:  “It’s nothing but grandstanding as far as I’m concerned."

If Ferrero asks for a squelching of the Conley initiative, the Stark County public (via the Stark County commissioners) should be asking him how he will ensure that delay will not jeopardize the public's priority to assess against any Zeigler-held assets, if ultimately there is a judgment of liability against the county treasurer.

Of course, the called for conference could be for other matters and not about delaying/stopping the case from proceeding.

Whatever the Friday confab is about, what Conley terms as being "Zeiglergate" is of the utmost of interest to Stark Countians.

As pointed out in the first paragraph of this blog, Conley tells the SCPR he is not planning on charging legal fees in this case and will not be asking the Court to assess attorney fees he is entitled to as a matter of law unless certain exigencies arise.

Here is a copy of the Conley/Marcelli complaint for SCPR reader perusal.

No comments: