Wednesday, August 10, 2011


When the Ohio Supreme Court (June 23, 2011) ordered Gary Zeigler reinstated as Stark County treasurer it set off a chain of events that eventually took on comedic aspect within Stark County government circles pretty much on the order of an Alphonse and Gaston act.

Alphonse and Gaston is presented thusly in Wikipedia:
Alphonse and Gaston was an American comic strip by Frederick Burr Opper, featuring a bumbling pair of Frenchmen with a penchant for politeness. They first appeared in William Randolph Hearst's newspaper, the New York Journal on September 22, 1901 in a strip titled: "Alphonse a la Carte and His Friend Gaston de Table d'Hote".
First, On Zeigler's reinstatement, he only needed to convince Stark County Alan Harold he had a bond to re-assume his full duties  Harold is not buying that Zeigler's bond before he was removed from office by Stark County commissioners on August 23, 2010 was sufficient.  Accordingly, although Zeigler showed up for work on July 5, 2011, Harold's insistence on the issuance of a new bond stood in his way of being a full fledged treasurer.

Hence Harold (an devoted Zeigler political enemy who is said to believe that Zeigler applied pressure on his then employer Huntington Bank to force him from a planned run against Zeigler in 2008) will not authorize Zeigler to be paid.  Moreover, he limits Zeigler's use of county equipment.

When asked by the SCPR a week or so ago whether or not he thought Zeigler's return would present problems for the commissioners to get a sales levy passed, Harold's response?  "Zeigler needs to be gone!

Second, a question came up between Zeigler's legal counsel and the commissioners as to who was responsible to make sure the required bond is in place (either the current/old bond, depending on one's perspective) or a new one; if you view Zeigler's prior bond as being kaput as does - needless to say, the old bonding company that paid off on the old bond.

Third, after some squabbling between Zeigler's counsel and Stark County Prosecutor Ross Rhodes (representing the commissioners), Rhodes instructed the commissioners that Stark County Personnel Manager Marsha Cimadevilla could go ahead and coordinate the issuance of a bond which included Zeigler completing two applications for a new bond.

She did so July 5th in forwarding Zeigler's applications to local insurance agency Sirack-Moore.

Fourth, Cimadavilla told commissioners on July 6th that it was likely to take months to get a new bond for Zeigler.  She was basing her estimate upon the trouble Zeigler encountered getting his bond renewed after the Frustaci theft of Stark County taxpayer money ($2.46 million admitted; $2.96 million speculated) story broke (April 1, 2009).

Fifth, A week later (July 13th), Stark County Prosecutor Rhodes met with Stark County commissioners in executive session with regard to whether or not it was legally appropriate for them to release the current/old bond (again, depending on one's perspective).  After the meeting, the commissioners passed a conditional release requiring that a new bond be in place first.  Moreover, the bonding company (Western Surety) would be refunding the unused portion of the bond (about $3,900 or so).

Rhodes, then told SCPR, in post-meeting questioning, that the issuance of a new bond would happen within days but that the premium cost would at least double.

Here is a video which show Cimadevilla and Rhodes making their statements.


Sixth, "within days?"  Not really.

What is today's date and still no bond? 

Yes, August 10, 2011.

Prosecutor Rhodes was summoned by Commissioner Bernabei to the regular - more or less - (a number of them have been canceled) work session Monday about three (3) minutes (his estimate) prior to its commencement without prior indication to the media or the public that the Zeigler bond was to be a discussion item.

Until Rhodes was called in, the only topic on the agenda was Stark's sanitary sewer system.

Rhodes informed commissioners (according a Repository report) at the meeting that a Tennessee surety company had withdrawn its willingness to issue a bond but that one more company might be interested in issuing one.

Rhodes also indicated that if the second company would not issue a bond, then Stark County has a legal problem once again with the Stark County treasurer's office. 

Under state law, the inability to get a bond leaves the the office vacant.  Zeigler's legal counsel disputes the current/old bonding company's contention that the prior bond is no longer live. 

Commissioner Bernabei told yours truly that Sirack-Moore (handing negotiations to find a new bond issuer) would be appearing at yesterday's "regular?" Tuesday version of Stark County commissioner work sessions to answer commissioners' questions on the bond company search process.  Also, the commissioners were to call Prosecutor Rhodes into executive session.  But, alas, guess what happened?

The "not so regular" - regular meeting - Tuesday work session got canceled because, according to Bernabei, Sirack-Moore needed more time.  Hmm?  So why was it so urgent to get Rhodes into the commissioners' work session meeting on Monday?

Supposedly, Sirmack-Moore's representative is to appear before commissioners next week some time?  When?  Some time!

All of these machinations have to be diverting the commissioners from their primary task at hand.

What task might that that be?

Put together a campaign effort to get the 1/2 proposed sales/use tax (for criminal justice and administration) passed in November.

Undoubtedly, it is very helpful (sarcasm, of course) to getting the levy passed that they are devoting so much time to getting Treasurer Zeigler on board as a fully functioning as Stark County treasurer.

Although this whole process has taken on a tragic-comedic tone, it is no laughing matter.

As far as the SCPR is concerned, it (the bond snafu) is a second tarnishing of the leadership abilities of the commissioners that raises questions about how much different they are from boards of commissioners that preceded them.

The Report has been favorably impressed, over its eight months of existence, with this board of commissioners.  And they are better in terms of access, accountability, community contact, openness, and transparency over prior boards.  However, they may be on a path of sliding down to down the level of their predecessor boards level.

The Report spoke of a "second tarnishing" which implies a first, which would be?

Scheduling 22 community meetings (February - June of this year) - to discuss the rate and duration of a sales tax issue - across Stark County without having adequately gotten Stark County's village, city and township elected officials behind the effort.

In Canton, not one person showed up.  No city elected officials; no citizens.  In Alliance, only two people showed up.  Overall the attendance was so poor that Commissioner Creighton calls the Stark County public apathetic.

The reality is that citizens need to be prompted to attend meetings for their own edification.  It appears that the commissioners thought people would be eager to attend.  But we now know that they were not.  It is hard to believe that the commissioners (especially Bernabei and Creighton - long time public officials) did not have some glimmer that the public would require prodding to get out to the meetings.

Yours truly has been attending local government meetings since the late 70s/early 80s only to witness lots and lots of empty or near empty township halls, city council chambers and boards of education meeting rooms. 

The point is that if commissioners cannot plan for a series of well attended public meetings by enlisting the active and committed support of their natural allies (councilpersons, trustees, fiscal officers, law directors, mayors, board of education members and the like), what can they plan for?

Another Alfonse and Gaston exercise, perhaps?

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