Friday, July 1, 2011


The Stark County Political Report has learned from a Stark County elected official in a position to know that negotiations are underway between the county prosecutor's office and legal counsel for reinstated Stark County Treasurer Gary D. Zeigler to secure Zeigler's resignation.

Apparently, the platform for the settlement discussions is the lawsuit filed by prosecutor's pursuant to a demand by then Stark County Auditor Kim Perez pursuant to Ohio Revised Code Section 321.37 that action be taken to recover from Zeigler about $2.96 million in missing county money believed to be stolen by former Chief Deputy Vince Frustaci.  In pleading guilty to an information filed by federal prosecutors filed in June, 2010, Frustaci admitted to stealing $2.46 million.

Zeigler himself was exonerated by county and federal prosecutors of any involvement in the theft.

However, issues remain as to Zeigler's liability for unrecovered portions of the $2.96 million of missing money from the county treasury.  From bonds and insurance and miscellaneous assets of Frustaci, about $1.5 million have been recovered.

So the county is looking to Zeigler to make the treasury whole for the remaining uncovered losses.  His attorneys say that he has done nothing wrong and therefore are fighting the county claim against their client.

The Report's source says that Judge Inderlied (the out-of-county judge assigned to the case by the Ohio Supreme Court) has asked attorneys for the county and Zeigler to resolve their differences.  Apparently, with Zeigler's reinstatement as county treasurer (he only needs a bond to officially resume his office), the settlement discussions have been expanded to secure Zeigler's resignation.

But there is a sticking point on Zeigler agreeing to resign.

The SCPR is told that Zeigler is insisting on being paid not only on back pay and benefits (which The Report is told is undisputed by the county) but also for pay and benefits running through September, 2013.  One county official tells The Report that such (payments for unprovided - in terms of actual service - future services as treasurer) is a killer as far as that official is concerned.  For if the county were to agree to include such in a settlement package to Zeigler, the county would be paying twice for a county treasurer.

It will be interesting to see where these negotiations go, if anywhere.  For the SCPR's part, Zeigler agreeing to resign would be a Godsend for Stark County and the county could finally get on with healing a rift between itself and the Stark County public.  As long as what local attorney and civic activist Craig T. Conley has coined as being "Zeiglergate," festers, The Report believes there is no chance that the commissioners' proposed 1/2 cent sales tax issue that most certainly will be on the November ballot is DOA.

However, if the situation in the county treasury has some finality to it, there just may be a glimmer of hope that Stark Countians will be of a mind to give commissioners a financial fresh start which coupled with the new board of commissioners' clearly improved accountability, transparency, and accessibility might actually get the county on a pathway to a full and complete recovery in the context of a hopefully improving state and national economy.

If Zeigler does resign, then it will be up to the Stark County Democratic Party (SCDP) to appoint an interim treasurer to serve out Zeigler's term.

What the SCDP ought to do if called upon to replace Zeigler is to show that in the public interest it can overcome politics and appoint Republican Alex Zumbar to the post that he was elected to (illegally, according to the Ohio Supreme Court) over Democrat Ken Koher.

Yours truly can hear Stark County Democratic leaders already saying:  "Olson is off his rocker, no way Jose!"  And nobody understands realpoltik better than The Report.  However, it would be nice if political parties could put self-interest aside for the public good. 

Alternatively, the Dems should reappoint Ken Koher as a replacement.

On another front in the myriad of issues/actions surround the Zeigler situation, Crag Conley told The Report "he will not" be spearheading an Ohio Revised Code Section 3.07/3.08 action against Zeigler.  It was reported in area media yesterday that Conley "might" take the matter on.

Conley does dispute Zeigler's attorneys contention that Zeigler has done nothing wrong in the "civil law" context.  Conley (who is an attorney) believes that it is highly plausible that - were a ORC 3.07/3.08 initiated - a civil wrong (e.g. non-feasance) could be proved.

Others who question Zeigler's contention that "I did nothing wrong," (in the context of how he administratively managed the treasurer's office) include Stark County Auditor Alan Harold and the State of Ohio Auditor's office.  No one disputes (including Conley, Harold and the Ohio auditor) the county and federal findings that Zeigler did nothing criminally wrong.

Here is a copy of a communication sent out by Alan Harold yesterday that should shed more light to the Stark County public  on contentions made by Harold, former treasurer Alex Zumbar among others of measures that have been taken in the treasurer's office to cure perceived deficiencies that carried over from the Zeigler administration of the office, to wit:

No comments: