Friday, November 12, 2010


What a spunky, awesome lady! 

Kristen Greathouse had Commissioner Todd Bosley reeling at Wednesday's weekly commissioners meeting.

And you can add veteran journalist (Managing Editor at The Repository for years) turned chief county administrator to the list of thoroughly intimidated public officials at the meeting.

She did not raise her voice, she did not cry, she did not get hysterical and she did not show anger.  Kristen Greathouse did not do any of the things that public officials bank on a citizen doing to undermine themselves in terms of getting answers to questions when a citizen confronts a public official.

Generally, if a citizen goes emotional with a public official, the official bent on not responding will use the citizen's emotional condition as a reason for not doing so.

Commissioner Todd Bosley is one of Stark County's very best public official making people think he is going to do something while realizing that he cannot do what he is implying that he will do.  But he was no match for Greathouse on Wednesday.

On October 13th the Greathouse family dog (Roxy) slipped out of her collar and ran away.  She was found and since she had not identifying information on her, the finder took her to the Stark County Dog Pound (SCDP - Pound) thinking that a caring owner would go there to reclaim their pet.  And that is exactly what the Greathouses did.

Within about 14 hours of Roxy getting away from them, the Greathouses were in contact with the SCDP and ascertained that "Yes, Roxy was at the Pound and that they could claim her there."  However, to their horror, when the Greathouses appeared at the SCDP, they discovered that Roxy had been euthanized despite the finder and the Greathouses being assured that dogs were kept a minimum of 72 hours (in accordance with Ohio law) before euthanization of a dog in Roxy's category could be legally put down.

The Greathouses first appeared at the commissioners meeting on October 20th asking for answers.  Commissioners promised them a full and complete investigation and a full opportunity to inquire of the dog warden (Reagen Tetreault - a relatively new hire) as to the specifics of what Tetreault's investigation revealed.

As a background, Stark Countians should know that the Stark County Dog Pound has been a festering sore which has produced complaint after complaint after complaint but for which the commissioners have not found a remedy.  Earlier this year it appeared that commissioners were going to finally make progress on remedying the problems at the Pound when they fired Evert Gibson (who had been warden since 2004) and set out to hire a new warden.

But a strange thing happened on the commissioners' quest to find a new warden.  After the Stark County Dog Pound Advisory Board (appointed by the commissioners) went through scores of resumes and submitted a short list of job applicants that should be interviewed two things happened:
  1. SCDPAB member Swank (a Canton policemen) thought he was to be a participant in the interview process, but was denied by Chief Administrator Mike Hanke when Hanke thought that he had passed on being an interviewee when - according to Hanke - Swank deferred to Dog Pound employee Fox.  Swank says that Hanke's perception was totally wrong.
  2. Out-of-the-blue, a "leading" candidate for warden surfaced that none of the SCDPAB members had recommended.  Many thought that some kind of political fix was in the works.
Not long before the dog warden appointment, the stepson of a former Stark County commissioner (Tom Harmon - who was not then a commissioner) ended up with a deputy dog warden job.  Again, "out-of-the-blue."  Many SCDP observers suspected a political fix was in and therefore when the "out-of-the-blue" candidate for warden surfaced, suspicions were raised again.

For the record, Tom Harmon denies (as did then Warden Evert Gibson) that there was any Harmon initiative to have his stepson appointed.  Moreover, Commissioner Bosley (who seemed to be the sponsor of the "out-of-the-blue" warden candidate) denies emphatically that the candidate was set for an interview because of political relationship factors.

To understand the current situation with the commissioners and the dog warden situation, the SCPR thinks it is important for the general public to understand some of the background which underlie the current situation.

As soon as the SCDPAB raised an uproar about the "out-of-the-blue" warden candidate, then the commissioners quickly turned to Reagan Tetreault who had experience as dog warden in Holmes County.

When Tetreault was hired, she was put on a probationary period.  Two days before the probationary period passed (September 22nd), the SCPR asked commissioners whether or not she passed probation.  Answer?  Indeed!

So imagine the surprise of yours truly when the Greathouse problem surfaced as well as another one about the same date which had to do with the SCDP's failure to follow up on citations regarding two pit bulls which resulted in the dog's mauling a neighbor's dog to the point that the dog had to be put down.

These two incidents and the many complaints that were aired at the October 22nd monthly meeting of the Stark County Dog Pound Advisory Board leads the SCPR to believe that the commissioners should have known that the volunteers at the SCDP had questions about whether or not Tetreault was getting a grip on the chronic and long-lasting problems at the Pound.

Now back to the Greathouse matter.

Look at the video tape at the end of this blog carefully.

It starts out with Citizen Greathouse asking whether or not a commissioner promised "on the agenda"  public airing of why the family dog was the subject of a Pound error was going to happened this past Wednesday.  Bosley punted to Chief Administrator Hanke.   Being the "good soldier," Hanke offers a "rationale" for a commissioner discussion of the Greathouse incident not being on the agenda.

To her credit, Mrs. Greathouse was not buying the seemingly disingenuous response.  Moreover, she appears to indicate that the report issued by Warden Tetreault was a whitewash of the incident with no "real" answers of how the catastrophic error occurred.

Then she really knuckles down on Bosley by castigating him for putting the word out before the November 2nd meeting of commissioners that there would be no report on the 2nd but that there would be one on the 10th.  So the question on Wednesday from Greathouse:  Where's the report?"

Does Commissioner Bosley squirm.  Wow!!!

Then things really get weird as former Repository editor Hanke stands on "protocol" as being a reason that Tetreault should not be subject to examination on her report in a public setting.  Even Bosley knows this is not right in light of promises made by the commissioners at the October 20th meeting.

The only weakness demonstrated by Kristen Greathouse was her apparently willingness to discuss the matter in private, which, again strangely enough, former journalist Hanke seemed to be steering the matter.

Citizen activists should never allow the public's business to be discussed in private.  The SCPR believes this is nearly always an attempt by public officials to derail the possibility that the public sees their goofups which put them in a bad public light.

But it is understandable that Mrs. Greathouse just wanted answers in any venue.  Hopefully, in the future (let's trust she stays engaged as an involved citizen) she realizes that it is a huge public service to make public officials account for their actions in full public view.

In the end, Tetreault appeared at Wednesday's meeting and answered Mrs. Greathouse's questions.

For their part, the commissioners were clearly playing the part of "lame duck commissioners," Bosley having lost his election to state Rep. Todd Snitchler (R - Lake - the 50th), and Meeks having lost to Janet Creighton in the full term commissioner race.

It appears to the SCPR that there is a great deal of skepticism on the part of the Stark County Dog Pound Advisory Board that Reagan Tetreault is the answer for what ails the SCDP.

If such is the case, then they will have to wait for Janet Creighton and Tom Bernabei (the victors in their respective commissioner races on November 2nd) to come on board to get a resolution of their concerns.

But once again, a SCPR "tip of the hat" to Kristen Greathouse for being a classy citizen activist who demonstrated on Wednesday the attributes that aspiring citizen activists should model themselves after!


MansBestFriend said...

Thank you, Mr. Olson for keeping this story in the public eye!
It seems the Commissioners are all hoping this will just go away.
Kudos to Mrs. Greathouse!
We can only hope that the unfortunate demise of Roxy, can be a beacon of hope for changes at the SCDP.

Colleen said...

I am following this story out of state. Kristin may want to contact some animal rights groups. Many would be willing to sit w/ Kristin in these town meetings and or speak on her behalf. Two minds are better then one and bringing in other allies would surely make the council chew on leather more then they have already.
Kudos to Kristin for being proactive and remaining calm in what I am sure is a whirlwind of emotions.