Monday, January 28, 2013


UPDATE:  12:15 PM


This morning the Stark County commissioners held a work session on the upcoming 2013 county budget.

In the original blog today, The Report had understood that Stark County Recorder Rick Campbell was asking for an increase of four employees over 2012 for 2013.


That's how (to be charitable) confusing the department presentation was last week when made.

Apparently, the commissioners were confused themselves inasmuch as they had Campbell's chief deputy (Gonazalez) back in today to provide clarification as to the exact number of employee increase the recorder's office was requesting.

For the recorder's office itself the number is four (4), but when you add in an additional request for three (3) for the department's microfilming operation the grand total is seven (7).

Here is an excerpt from a document provided by Gonzalez today.



What an experience!

Stark County Recorder Rick Campbell and his chief deputy recorder Kody Gonzalez putting the numbers on the Stark County commissioners.

Most people who know Stark County Commissioner Tom Bernabei think that he is "one smart cookie."

But yours truly detected that his eyes were glazing over as Campbell and Gonzalez presented their Powerpoint "fog of numbers" at last Tuesday's commissioner work session on the upcoming 2013 budget.

Alternatively, Bernabei was wrinkling his forehead as one typically does when things don't seem quite right and demand further scrutiny.

So what were Campbell and Gonzalez up to with their kaleidoscope of numbers?

How about "bury them (the commissioners) with carefully contexted numbers?"

The SCPR believes the  presentation was so "over the top" in terms of orchestration that Campbell and Gonzalez and therefore condescending to the commissioner that they will be lucky to get half of what they asked for.

Well, what did they ask for?

They asked for an increase of four (4) new employees to be hired in 2013.

(Update note:  recorder's office only, request includes 3 for the microfilm operation of the recorder's office for a total of 7)

How many recorder's office employees are there now?

Well, it took about 20 minutes for the actual number to come out.

(Update note:  it really wasn't clear until today how many total employees (recording employees and microfilming employees) work for Rick Campbell)

In the Powerpoint, a slide implied that there are four, to wit:

(Update note:  actually there are 7.8 [see update chart above]; as far as the SCPR can determine the chart below showing 4 does not square up with the new chart provided today by Gonzalez).

And its chest thumping time if you are Campbell and Gonzalez, no?

A 73% savings to Stark County! 

Well, the SCPR believes not exactly.

(Update note:  SCPR original skepticism turned out to be well-founded)

Notwithstanding that Campbell said at the beginning of Tuesday's discussion that they (he and Gonzalez) had worked hard to provide "accurate" numbers.

Apparently, the presenters didn't figure that the hearers and readers of their numbers just might have the ability to understand that while a given number (or numbers, as the case might be) may be accurate in a limited sense and certain contexts, when one factors in an out-of-appropriate-context presentation, the accuracy vanishes.

For instance,  in questioning initiated by Commissioner Bernabei (again, some 20 minutes into the presentation - see the video below), it came out that "no," there are more than four in the "total" of the recorder's department employment as one might imply (that is, the four number) from the chart displayed above.

How about 10 or 8 or maybe even 7 (depending on whether or not one counts Campbell and Gonzalez and another unnamed employee)?

So if the four seven requested 2013 hires are added to the existing number of employees (pick your number:  10, 8 or 7), then the total is either 14, 12 or 11 17, 15 or 14 to be compared to the 2010 level (one has to ask is that number accurate?) of 12 13 employees which means:  (see Update chart above)

Hardly a 73% decrease?

(Update note:  how about a 47% decrease [8/15]?)

Nothing like spinning (or burying) the numbers (the real numbers) so as to become incredible?

The SCPR does not see any reason why Campbell and Gonzalez should not be included in the total numbers on the job in the recorder's office.

If, however, one believes Stark County auditor Alan Harold, it would meaningless to count Campbell, in terms of his pitching in and helping out the working class employees of the office when things get dicey with vacations and sick days; inasmuch as Harold says that he estimates that Campbell spends relatively little time at the recorder's office.

How does Harold know that?  He didn't explain.  But knowing Harold, he has his "in a position to know" sources who are feeding him information. 

It does appear that Gonzalez is "the brains behind the operation" in the recorder's office.

As well he should be, no?

A few years ago when the SCPR questioned Campbell on the Gonzalez hire as chief deputy recorder, he responded that it had nothing to do (as did Gonzalez's father) with father Randy being the chairman of the Stark County Democratic Party.  Rather, he said, it had to do with obvious leadership qualities and skills that were apparent to him in the course of his contact with him in the years before the hire.  And when you add in a family tradition of public service, it becomes a "no-brainer," no?

Coming full circle, it makes sense that a person who reeks of talent, skills and other employable qualities should be the brains of the operation, no?

He does appear to have a lot of talent.  Especially in constructing the numbers to support Campbell's insistence that the office needs four  seven more employees:  a 40% (4/10) 87.5% (7/8) jump in numbers of employees.  (see Update above)

For very close to a solid hour (most presentations last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes), Campbell and Gonzalez did a tag-team act playing (in the opinion of the SCPR) "fast" with the numbers in order to "spin" a tale they hoped would be bought by the commissioners.

Moreover, time after time during the work session Campbell deferred to Gonzalez.

Who is the elected Stark County recorder?

One slide they had was "cute," real cute.

In it they tried to show that the department's request for 2013 of $655,590.71 was "in their imaginary world" was really the equivalent of being $472,782.90 which was under the 2011 budget appropriation of $500,856.11 thus saving the commissioners (and, by the way, Stark County taxpayers)  $28,073.21.

All one has to do to get down to the $472,782.90 is to remove from the $655,590.71 is to:
  • deduct $13,460.51 (the 27th pay,  given the 2013 calendar pay cycle,
  • deduct $4,901.31 (a 2% employee pay increase likely to approved),
  • deduct $164,446.98 (cost of 4 new employees Campbell asks for)

    Duh!  duh!  duh! duh! & duh! again.

    Talk about circular reasoning that is like a cat chasing its tail?

    The truth of the matter is not a savings, but rather a whopping! 62.6% increase over 2011 for 2013 if commissioners were to give Campbell his way.

    Noticeably missing from the recorder's presentation was a historical chart showing the historical numbers compared to the requested 2013 appropriation.

    The Report's recollection is that every other 2013 budget work session so included such a chart generated by the presenting Stark County department of government.

    The SCPR is pleased to have put together such a chart which is displayed above.

    Message to Stark County recorder Rick Campbell:  "Don't hire any new employees, just yet!"

    Canton Mayor William J. Healy, II should note the "spin" skill that Campbell and Gonzalez demonstrated in the budget presentation and should seek to hire them immediately.

    The duo demonstrated that Healy really does have something to worry about in terms of being Stark County's foremost spinmeister.

    Commissioner Janet Creighton told the SCPR that she had seven employees and an office budget in a $180,000 or so range when she was Stark County recorder back in 1985.

    And The Report understands that 2013 is not 1985.

    But in Creighton's day as recorder (in the old Stark County Office Building [what used to be the Saint Francis Hotel] there was no technology to speak of and recording the official documents of Stark County was a highly labor intensive enterprise.

    As if the number manipulation were not enough, Campbell went through a litany of reasons why the commissioners should comply with his request for four additional employees.

    The list:
    • [the recorder's office] has saved the county money in doing the microfilming work inasmuch as the alternative is outsourcing which is much more expensive in that the county would have to spend $4.3 dollars for outsourcing compared to $1.0 dollars (according to Campbell's Powerpoint graph) for the recorder's office to do the microfilming (outsource microfilming costs 30 cents a page, so says Campbell err Gonzalez),
    • If the commissioners do not approve the additional employees for microfilming, then they will be costing the county more in the long run because the county will have to outsource for the microfilming overload,
    • the more that is microfilmed reduces the amount to storage that John Runion of the records center has to come up with as well as the expense thereof,
    • the recorder's office is recording/microfilming more documents with less people, (which Commissioner Creighton turned on Campbell)
    • if a recorder's office employee gets sick or goes on vacation or is training other employees, it presents a huge staffing problem to the office,
    • the recorder's office has plans to take on other projects (e.g. the Probate Court, the Stark County clerk of courts) for the county, if the commissioners agree to provide general fund funding for the additional employees,
    • the recorder has to work existing employees through their breaks which puts us in violation of law and the office is vulnerable to being sued,
    • it takes one and one half (1-1/2) years to train new employees and two years before they are as proficient as they are going to be,
    • Stark County is Ohio's seventh largest county and the recorder's office needs to be staffed accordingly,
    • the recorder's office has deferred on capital equipment (i.e. a new duplicator at a cost of $11,000, which, Gonzalez says, will pay for itself within two years in avoiding the need to outsource) purchases for five years and can no longer abide that situation
    The kindest thing one can say about it is that in his zeal to protect his employment base Campbell with his presentation "oversold" his case and likely thereby was his own worst enemy in endeavoring to persuade the commissioners that it is essential that he be permitted to hire four new employees.

    All-in-all, The Report's opinion of this presentation? It one of the most manipulative, intellectually insulting, and disingenuous reports that yours truly has ever witnessed.

    But it is no surprise to the SCPR that Campbell would be behind such an effort.

    In the end, it is likely to be counterproductive to presentation's intended purpose at least in terms of pushing the commissioners into doing his will.

    Here is a highlight of excerpts of the back and forth between the commissioners and the Campbell/Gonzalez tandem.

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