Saturday, July 3, 2010


In resisting the pressure to resign, Stark County Treasurer Gary D. Zeigler is either demonstrating great "mettle" or he is being "bullheaded."  Which is it?

Before being elected Stark County treasurer, Zeigler tried numerous times to be elected as a Stark County public official.

In hindsight, Zeigler might be saying to himself:  "Be careful what you wish for, it just might come true."

In trying many times to be elected to public office, it is obvious that becoming an elected official was Zeigler's number one wish.  As anyone who has run for office knows, campaign is no fun.  And, raising money for a campaign is even less fun.

But the arduousness of the campaign enterprise did not stop Zeigler.

Finally, he struck gold in the spring of 1999.

When former Treasurer Mark Roach ran into problems in meeting the qualifications to be treasurer in Stark, county commissioners ousted him and the Stark Democratic Party Central Committee appointed the persistent, seemly perennial candidate Zeigler.

Another Zeigler characteristic seems to be that "he tries to be everybody's friend."  Yours truly recalls that by 2002, former Stark County Democratic Party chairman Johnnie A. Maier, Jr., was openly speculating that Zeigler was the source of "inside the Democratic Party information" to Stark Republicans.

Such was the first indication that not all within Stark Democraticdom were enthralled with Zeigler.

By 2008, it appeared that Zeigler was "on top of the world."  All of a sudden, a man who ran and ran and ran - had no one to run against.  Indeed, Zeigler was a "to be feared" political candidate that nobody wanted to run against.

This year's auditor candidate against Kim Perez (Republican Alan Harold) was all set to file his petition to run against Zeigler, but at the last moment pulled back.  Hmm?

When asked by yours truly, what happened.  All Harold would say is:  "no comment."  Hmm?

From Zeigler's perspective, he was now "in the catbird's seat."

And in November, 2008 Zeigler garnered enough "uncontested seat" votes (impressive, no?) to be re-elected.

But as we who know who have been in politics, political life is a fickle thing.

On November 9, 2008 Ziegler was undoubtedly being glad-handed by many, if not all, area politicians.  Especially, the office holding countywide Democrats.  Zeigler's unopposed victory seemed to be a validation of countywide Democratic Party leadership.

What is the saying?  "Pride goeth before a fall."

And a fall for the Democrats was coming.  If only they knew how soon.

Fast forward to April 1, 2009.  Headlines galore!  in the like of:  Zeigler accuses Chief Deputy Vince Frustaci of theft of county funds.  Zeigler fires Frustaci.

Now the congratulators of November 9, 2008 were all running for political cover.

From April 1, 2009 on,  Zeigler's political pals have been watching Zeigler twist in the wind.  Keeping the distance.  Whispering among themselves:  "What shall we do?"

No calls for resignation yet. For now, there was just watching and waiting.

All that came to an end on June 25, 2010:  The day that the United States Attorney (Dettelbach) held his press conference and announced the "bill of information" being filed in federal court against Frustaci charging him with having stolen $2.46 million in county funds.

Fellow Zeigler Democratic pal (former pal?) Commissioner Todd Bosley, of course, was at the front of the line to officially and publicly separate from the treasurer.  "[I]t is my view that that there must be an immediate change of leadership at the Treasurer's office," he said.

Meeks, Ferguson, Perez and Gonzalez follow, tripping over Bosley in the rush to get their statements out to the press.

Now the Democrats are in a frenzy to flee from Zeigler.  Commissioner Todd Bosley has told The Report that there is no communication to speak of between Stark Democrat officeholders and Zeigler except for the efforts of Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero's continuing efforts to get Zeigler to step down.

The fear (Stark County Democratic Party Chairman Randy Gonzalez told the SCPR on July 1st) is that the there will be political reverberations in the immediate sense to the effect that Alan Harold (a political novice) is now a legitimate threat to defeat, perhaps the strongest Democratic vote getter,  in Stark County; namely Stark County Auditor Kim Perez.

Gonzalez agreed with The Report that Harold's lack of political sophistication could be a big plus for Harold.

Notwithstanding all the calls for Zeigler to resign, do not look for him to quit.  On that score there is only one possibility,   according to Commissioner Bosley.  Bosley says he believes that only Zeigler's immediate family could prevail on him to resign.

Otherwise, Bosley says the county commissioners are looking at the viability of the commissioners taking action to force Zeigler to the sidelines.  But that will only happen, after the Frustaci sentencing.

The SCPC believes that Zeigler is being both admirably tough and obstinately bullheaded.

Dare say that most of his Democratic colleague officeholders would long ago resigned in the face the Stark County public's and media's (including the SCPR) hue and cry.

That Zeigler hangs tough in the face of public outcry is a rare commodity among politicians these days.  The public is not always right.

On the other hand, it is clear that the Stark County public has lost confidence in the way he has managed his office.  By hanging in there, Zeigler is exhibiting a bullheadedness that could cost some of his fellow Democrats at the polls.  Such could begin with the fall from power by Kim Perez this fall.

Moreover, his remaining in place at the displeasure of the public could cost the Stark County commissioners any chance they might have had getting a renewal of a 1/4th of one percent sales tax issue coming up this November or in May, 2011.

Undoubtedly, these are unintended potential consequences from Zeigler's perspective in staying put.

Long term, as the SCPR sees it, Zeigler staying in office is not in the picture.  If he can remain stout in his determination to stay in office until its normal end, you can bet that if he chooses to run again; the organized Democratic Party leadership will find and support an alternative candidate in the 2012 Democratic primary.

In this scenario, there could be ramifications over what local attorney Craig T. Conley terms as "Zeiglergate," for the numerous Democrats who have to run countywide in 2012.

Even is Zeigler stays in office to fill out his term but chooses not to run for re-election, the SCPR believes there could residuals affecting the 2012 election.

The main question is this.  Can Republicans take advantage of the opportunity?  The SCPR believes that Stark Republican Party Chairman Jeff Matthews (and his predecessor Curt Braden) have bankrupted the Stark County Republican Party of a candidate base that can effectively challenge.

In light of all of the foregoing, the question is:  Will Zeigler see his term through to the end?

And this question filters out the possibility that the commissioners will act to try to remove him involuntarily or that Stark Republican Party sponsored petition drive to bring the question of his removal before the Stark County Common Pleas Court.

The SCPR believes it is unlikely.

However, it is still an interesting question to mull over.  Is Treasurer Zeigler a courageously tough-minded political figure who "can stand the heat in the kitchen" or is merely being bullheaded for now and "will cut and run" when he perceives that his bulliers have the upper hand.

But there is a third way out.

He could always, as suggested by Commissioner Todd Bosley, quit citing personal and family considerations.

But will he?

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