Friday, February 10, 2012


Update:  1:00 PM

A lingering question is whether or not the theft by former Deputy Chief Treasurer Vince Frustaci of an admitted $2.46 million (2003 through 2009) of Stark County taxpayer money and questions of attendant hiring criteria by elected officials (in filling staff positions) has changed the basis upon which Stark's organized Republicans and Democrats select/encourage/support candidates to run for seek to be appointed to office?

The SCPR has doubts that it has.

It appears that running for office in Stark from a political party standpoint has, in bygone days, been factored more on whether or not a prospective candidate is in favor with the ruling circles of both the Stark County Republican Party and the Stark County Democratic Party; not on the capability of a candidate to properly manage the office he/she is running for or is in line to be appointed to.

Both parties proved in 2010 - if motivated by an aroused electorate - that they can recruit and get behind very able and qualified candidates as evidenced in the selection of Alex Zumbar (Republican) and Ken Koher (Democrat) to replace Gary Zeigler when he was unconstitutionally removed (via ORC 321.38) as Stark County treasurer by the then commissioners Bosley, Meeks and Ferguson in August, 2010.

Zeigler (who steadfastly maintained he did nothing wrong in the management of the Stark treasury and was not implicated in the Frustaci theft by law enforcement officials) was subsequently reinstated to office (by the Ohio Supreme Courth - June 23, 2011) only to negotiate his departure (resignation/retirement) on October 19, 2011.

The original (August, 2010) "replace Zeigler phenomenon" was an anomaly and Stark Countians should not expect either the Chairman Randy Gonzalez-led Democrats nor the Chairman Jeff Matthews-led Republicans to reach those heights again anytime soon.

The SCPR's position is that BUT FOR the Frustaci matter for a variety of reasons Alex Zumbar would not today be Stark County treasurer, nor Alan Harold (Republican) Stark County auditor, nor Janet Creighton (Republican) Stark County commissioner and nor Thomas Bernabei (Democrat) Stark County commissioner.

Canton Councilman Jimmy Babcock (Democrat, at-large), who worked for former Stark County Auditor Kim Perez until Perez was defeated by Harold in November, 2010, in a SCPR conversation with him this past Monday seemed to lamenting the turn of events (i.e. the Frustaci matter) which he said resulted in his old boss losing his job.

Rightly or wrongly; Perez has been perceived by the Stark County general public as being part of a Stark County Democratic Party "good ole boys" network which is thought to go back at least into the 1990s and to have also included Zeigler, Ferrero (Stark County prosecutor and Stark Dems chairman when Zeigler was selected to replace Mark Roach [forced from office because of a failure to meet continuing education requirements]) and Sheriff Tim Swanson and a number of other presently publicly employed persons.

Swanson (whom, The Report believes, could not have been re-elected because of his "good ole boy" political ties) is not running for re-election and it remains to be seen as to whether or not Ferrero can weather the political storm which has enveloped a certain segment of Stark County Democrat officeholders post-Frustaci.

By all accounts, Democrat Mike McDonald (current Chief Deputy - the Jail Division) of the Stark County sheriff's department is generally thought not to be a part of any Stark Dems "good ole boys" network.  He could be the odds-on-favorite to defeat the equally well thought of Republican Larry Dordea (former Alliance police chief and currently the Hartville chief).

However, McDonald was not Swanson's first choice to succeed him. Swanson had all but elected his other chief deputy - Rick Perez - (Kim's brother) as evidenced by his telling a visiting group (to the jail) of Rick's Leadership Stark County classmates that Perez would be his successor.  But again, a perception of Perez being part of the Stark Dems "good ole boys network" squelched Swanson's effort to have him as his successor.

Jeff Matthews should not be credited with the emergence of Zumbar, Harold and Creighton as quality candidates and officeholders.

Matthews just happened to be Stark GOP chairman when the Frustaci matter broke.

As of January 1, 2009 (Republican Jane Vignos having retired as commissioner as of December 31st, 2008), Stark County Republicans held exactly - 0 - countywide offices.  So rather than orchestrating a Stark County Republican resurgence, Matthews got extremely lucky.

The Report sees him as an opportunist who worries more about his personal place/stake in local politics and government (soon to be director of the Stark County Board of Elections (BOE); now deputy director) than the public interest.

Recently, it appears he brought former Stark County GOP Executive Director Travis Secrest into employment at the BOE.  Moreover, in 2010 worked to get Wadsworth car dealer Jim Renacci nominated/elected as 16th district congressman.  Guess who works for Congressman Renacci post-election?  Jeff's wife Heidi.  She formerly worked on the staff of former Congressman Ralph Regula. In 2008, Alliance Democrat John Boccieri wrestled the seat from the Republicans.

Who knows how many such trails might lead to the chairman's office located at 2727 Fulton NW, Canton, Ohio?

Stark Dems Chairman Randy Gonzalez has not had an answer to the political catastrophe that the Frustaci matter visited upon a certain type of Stark elected official Democrat, at least from a public perception standpoint.

Tom Bernabei is the long time Canton law director, former Canton city councilman and chief-of-staff/service director to Mayor William J. Healy, II.  He is thought to be his own person and not beholden to any political party machine nor, as Mayor Healy can tell one and all, to any single politician.

While he gets along with the party establishment types, he thinks for himself.

The SCPR read on Gonzalez is that, as a staunch ally of former Stark County Democratic Party chairman Johnnie A. Maier, Jr (who appears to have the city of Massillon under his political domination), former Stark County commissioner Gayle Jackson and their likes,  he is the titular personification of a political wheeler dealerism which seems to look out for primarily for political insiders and only secondarily/incidentally for the Stark County or political subdivision public interest.

Gonzalez appeared to do something magnanimous for the public good on October 31, 2011 when he steered the Stark County Democratic Central Committee into endorsing Republican Zumbar to fill out Zeigler's terms.

But as a practical political matter he had no choice.  No Democrat (including Koher who lost to Zumbar in 2010) was stepping forward to assume the office on what surely would have for a temporary period of time.

A while back, yours truly had a back and forth with Gonzalez about his contention that the Gonzalez family prolific involvement in local politics and/or government is a matter of public service going back years.

The Report listens but is unconvinced that such is the case.  Yours truly takes such a claim to be insulting to the intellect of everyday people. 

Assuming arguendo that those who work for Stark County government or a political subdivision do good work, they do get paid and in the mind of non-government folks, rather well -  when one includes the benefits.

But doing what one gets paid for is NOT public service.

What is public service is the thousands of hours (cumulatively) that volunteers (the unpaid) for the political parties and their candidates dish out.  The Report believes that they do so in the hope that the general public will benefit from having public officials elected who have the public interest as their first priority.

To the degree that political party chairmen and their consorts slice off part of the public action for political party and individual benefit, they profane the notion of public service.

And in brooking the same, the political leadership is NOT highly effective for the public benefit.

It is a sad, sad day in American politics from the White House to the courthouse that it takes a political crisis like the Frustaci matter to get out of the rut of self-serving "politics as usual."

At the end of the day, it seems as if the only thing we can hope for is for a "silver lining" peaking out from a dark political cloud of political crisis.

Highly effective politics/government of the people, for the people and by the people appears to be a mere pipe dream given the leadership model of the likes of Jeff Matthews and Randy Gonzalez.

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