Thursday, April 12, 2012


No one mentioned local attorney and civic activist Craig T. Conley yesterday at the regular weekly meeting of Stark County commissioners.

But in the estimation of the SCPR, he should have been in a highly laudatory way.

It was Conley who, more than any other Stark Countian, public official or private citizen, is responsible for bulldoggedly pushing Stark County Prosecutor John D. Ferrero to get moving on recovering for Stark County taxpayers - as much possible, as quickly as possible - the $2.96 million (he admitted to taking $2.46 million) that many believed former Stark County Deputy Treasurer Vince Frustaci stole from the county treasury.

Conley is also the person who coined the set of Zeigler-constructed administrative circumstances and lack of controls surrounding the Frustaci matter as being Zeiglergate.

The initial revelation of the theft itself was made on April 1, 2009.

The then treasurer Gary D. Zeigler was not implicated in the theft.

However, many (including former Ohio Auditor of State Mary Taylor, Alan Harold [now Stark County auditor] and Alex Zumbar [now Stark County treasurer] alleged that Zeigler had inadequate and deficient processes, procedures, safeguards and physical infrastructure in place to be a deterrent to the apparent ease with which Frustaci made off with taxpayer money.

Hence, the Conley coined the label: Zeiglergate.

From the filing of a federal information filed against Frustaci on June 25, 2010 specifying the $2.4 million, it was puzzling to The Report why Stark County Prosecutor Ferrero was not pursuing a remedy provided under ORC Sections 321.37 and 38 to hold Zeigler liable for the loss.

Of course, the bonding companies for Zeigler and the insurance company covering county employees (Frustaci) needed to be pursued as well as Frustaci himself.

The answer of the Ferrero administration was that it would be premature to file a civil action for recovery until Frustaci was actually sentenced (September, 9, 2010).

Yours truly thought that Ferrero's delayed response was nonsense, as did Craig Conley.

It was Conley who forced Ferrero's hand by filing a civil action (July 2, 2010) in the name of Bethlehem Township resident Tom Marcelli.

Conley had a number of concerns which the SCPR blogged about on July 9, 2010.

Ferrero did not take kindly to Conley's move, but in the end it got the prosecutor motivated to take the suit over.

John Ferrero and Ross Rhodes (Ferrero's chief civil litigator) were at the commissioners' meeting yesterday.

Ferrero and Rhodes explained to commissioners why they should approve a settlement with the bonding company covering the first period of time span that Frustaci began stealing from the county.

Commissioners Bernabei said that the county has recovered about $1.76 million ($1,760,674.30) of the $2.96 million ($2,964,560.00) that is missing which rounds off to about a 60% recovery.

The SCPR does a "tip of the hat" to Craig Conley and bestows upon him a SCPR Unsung Hero Award.

Conley has spent many, many hours without recompense looking out for the taxpayers of Stark County.

He is a model of civic involvement and engagement for all of Stark County's citizens!

Prosecutor Ferrero?

He was merely doing his job and is well compensated ($120,000 per annum) for his work as is the rest of his staff.

He and the commissioners should have publicly singled out and thanked Conley for his "in the public interest - pro bono work.

Had he not filed the Marcelli lawsuit on July 2, 2010, it is likely that the county would still be months away from finally having a resolution to the recovery question.

But such would have taken a magnanimity that seems to be lacking by many public officials, especially Mr. Ferrero.

The Report trusts that Ferrero's 2012 Republican opponent Michael J. Grady will thoroughly scrutinize not only his "less than impressive" performance on this matter but also a rather large list (in the opinion of the SCPR as specifically delineated in previous blogs) of administrative deficiencies demonstrated over the span of the prosecutor's last four years in office.

Here is a video of the commissioners dialogue with Ferrero and Rhodes.

No comments: