Monday, February 6, 2012


The SCPR could not believe what Sheriff Tim Swanson was saying in an exclusive interview with yours truly on January 19th (this year) after he had just concluded his remarks to Stark County commissioners in his session with them on the question of general fund budget allocations for 2012.

Swanson says he agrees with Republican Stark County commissioner candidate Craig T. Conley that the deputies' benefit costs to the county general fund need to be reduced.

Why disbelief?

Because historically the two have been at great odds.  One wouldn't think Swanson would have the grace a political maturity to agree with Conley on anything.

Back in November, 2009 after the Conley-led "Vote No Increased Taxes Committee" had successfully - by a wide margin - repealed a commissioner (Bosley, Harmon and Vignos) imposed 0.5% sales tax (ardently supported by Sheriff Swanson), he - Conley - appeared before the next after the election result meeting of commissioners to lambaste them as well as Sheriff Swanson.

Here's the segment:  Conley on Swanson.

Currently, the deputies pay:
  • 4% of health insurance costs as compared to 10% by the county's non-union workforce and about 30% (more or less) by private sector employees, and
  • 10% (or 11.8% for some employees) of annual wages towards pension (that is, for new hire deputies, whereas other Stark County deputies employees pay only 5.5%) and the county pays 14% (plus 4.5% for a total of 18.5% for eligible employees' pick up or 18% [plus pick up] for a total of 22.5% for some employees) against the annual payroll.
    • In the private sector, employers pay about 5% of the annual payroll for a defined "contribution" plan, if offered, and/or
    • 6.2% of payroll for Social Security.
      • Public pensions currently are defined "benefit" plan which guarantees a set monthly pension as determined by a combination of length of service and income in final three years of employment.
      • Private pensions currently are defined "contribution" plans the payout on which is dependent on the loss/gain of the underlying investment (e.g. bonds, stocks et cetera) over the life of the plan as set at the time distribution begins and continues until depletion.
As readers can see/hear in the following video, it appears that Conley has had an impact on Sheriff Swanson.

Conley, a local attorney, has been probably the most effective citizen activist in Stark County.   As seen in the first video, he rode herd on the commissioners from December, 2008 through November, 2009 and was all over Swanson.

He has been a most vocal critic of Swanson's negotiation of contracts (he has been sheriff since 1999) with the union who represent the department deputies especially in terms of the contracts' generous provisions on the proportions paid by the employee versus the county general fund on health insurance and pension benefits.

In Swanson's defense, one needs to keep in mind that the mindset of some of the negotiations both pre-Swanson and during Swanson's term has been to step-up benefits for employees in lieu of wage increases.

You can bet that Conley as county commissioner, if elected county in November, will be putting pressure on Swanson's successor, either Democrat Mike McDonald, (who, by the way, tells the SCPR his health is dramatically improved and he is "full bore ahead" in running for office) or Larry Dordea (projected by the SCPR to win the Stark GOP March 6 primary contest) to negotiate reductions in the county share of deputy benefits.

The SCPR has heaped high praise on Conley for his work from April, 2009 through a good part of 2011 to force the hand of Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero to obtain financial recovery for Stark County taxpayers on the loss of upwards of 3 million (in the opinion of many, $2.46 million admitted to) Stark County taxpayer dollars at the hand of former Stark County Deputy Treasurer Vince Frustaci.

However, his chances to become a Stark County commissioner is believed by The Report to be significantly less than 50/50.

Incumbent Democrat Commissioner Tom Bernabei did not come into office until the election of November, 2010 (to fill out the term of former Commissioner Steve Meeks) and therefore is not vulnerable to the criticisms that Republican Conley has made about Stark County's deficient county commissioner governance because the problems occurred during the time of former Commissioners Bosley, Harmon, Ferguson and Meeks (2006 - 2010).

Most observers credit Bernabei and fellow commissioner Janet Creighton with having turned around their part of Stark County government on the issues of openness, transparency, communicativeness, accountability and hence in an overall sense trust.

Conley opposed the recently (November 8, 2011) passed 0.5% sales tax largely on his belief (in the analysis of the SCPR) that Stark County was not yet in enough of a fiscal crisis and that major changes (such as dramatic reductions in sheriff deputy benefit reductions) would not occur until the county was completely down and out.

Nevertheless, because of Conley's "civic" hard work over most of the past four years, Stark County government is much more attentive to frugality and efficiency than in former days.

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