Thursday, February 21, 2013



The Stark County Political Report is convinced that Canton mayor William J. Healy, II has been plotting a takeover (in terms of his power as chief executive) of the Canton-Stark County Crime Lab.

In the opinion of the SCPR, Mayor William J. Healy, II has an insatiable appetite to be "the-man-in-charge."

For other Stark County political entities attempting to work collaboratively with the Healy administration on:
  • 9-1-1 emergency call receiving/dispatch, 
  • building code enforcement or 
  • health services, 
the bottom line is always going to be - for the mayor -  focused on this question:  Is he going to being in charge at the end of the day?

As naive as it was for him to think that his administration could revise the job description of the director of the lab and appoint former chief deputy Rick Perez (a long term personal/political pal of Healy safety director Tom Ream) to the post, the mayor does have the all consuming ambition and arrogance of imagined political heft to have thought he could get away with it.

Healy and Ream not only adulterated the qualifications to crime lab director job description; they also removed (as authorized by Ohio law) civil service protection for the position.

In an interesting twist, Healy then threw Ream under the bus when there was a public outcry against the Perez appointment. One can't be sympathetic with Ream.  He had to go into the safety director position knowing who he was dealing with.

In taking civil service protection away from the crime lab directorship, you have a scientific person and her management of a scientific operation subject to the whims of a politician?

And not just any politician, but one named William J. Healy, II?

Wow!  Watch out, no?

The SCPR has written often and LOUDLY that Healy is Stark County's quintessential political power monger.

And he is exceptionally ambitious.  The Report believes he is biding his time for something more powerful and prestigious than being mayor of Canton provides.

Yours truly has learned that Healy recently met with local McDonald's entrepreneur and franchise holder Guy Cucchini (among other well-heeled local businessmen) in an effort to get their support for his prospective run for Ohio secretary of state.

Healy's pitch to Cucchini et al?

"I am one of the finalists that the Ohio Democratic Party is considering for the race?"

Anyone who knows the mayor, surely understands that the mayor is looking forward to the next political gig as a step upward on the stairway to political stardom.

Moving on will put the Canton's troubles behind him leaving the clean up to others.

The Rep's Matt Rink recently wrote and insightful article that documents Healy's philosophically based drive to power (Mayor has power to hire, fire declassified workers, February 17, 2013).

His compulsion to power has never been more manifest and obvious than in the Perez caper.

In secretly (the change appeared out of nowhere during the last week of January of this year) working with Ream to change the director job description to one that Perez (otherwise unqualified because he lacking a science-based college degree) became qualified, Healy may have opened a can of political worms that he may come to regret having opened.

The question now becomes:  can he conjure up a bit more of political Houdini to escape a self-generated problem unscathed?

Healy has been in one political scrape after another after another after another in his five years as mayor.  But because of his obvious rather accomplished "sleight-of-hand" political maneuvering skills, he, like the grand magical master Houdini, escapes as disaster is about to overtake him.

While he appears to avoid personal political disaster, the city of Canton continues its spiral downward.

Not content to limiting his being a drag on Canton, his actions in relation to the crime lab has the potential to adversely affect outside-of-Canton Stark County-based law enforcement capability and, by extension, the safety of all Stark Countians.

But one wouldn't know Canton is in a downward spiral due in large part to his deficient leadership from Healy's continuous spinning of the state of the city to whomever will listen.

In another two to three weeks, "His Magic" will be front and center with his annual State of the City sideshow (reportedly to be held at the Pro Football Hall of Fame facilities).

This year will it feature showing off a "Hail, Mary!" in a quest to divert public attention away from his botched crime lab operation?

While he continues to survive, he does leave wreckage in his wake.

This time could it be the continued existence of the Canton-Stark County Crime Lab (CSCCL)?

For years the SCPR has been hearing about the excellence of the CSCCL.  Nary a critic in sight.  And thought to be a crown jewel in Stark County law enforcement's arsenal of weapons to bring the county's criminals to justice.

But with the revelation of the Healy/Ream political power play and the concomitant scrutiny of the internal workings of the lab that the power grab has brought on, is the lab in jeopardy of becoming history?

Stephanie Ujhelyi of The Alliance Review (February 15th edition) wrote an prize-winning-esque article (in the view of the SCPR) which The Report recently brought to the attention of Stark County Councils of Government (SCOG) executive committee chairman Tom Bernabei.

Bernabei is also president of the Stark County Board of Commissioners.

The Ujhelyi piece appears to have raised his interest in perhaps pursuing a thorough review as to the continued viability of the CSCCL as a SCOG project in the light of marked improvement of the effectiveness, efficiency and the expedition of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) crime lab work an outline of which was sketched out in her report:
  • A turnaround time of 20 days on DNA processing, despite a marked increase in volume of testing done,
  • forensic biology and DNA combined tests improved from 125.5 to 19.75 days; 
  • chemistry from 42.85 to 10.49 days; CODIS [DNA indexing] from 23.86 to 7.83 days; and 
  • firearms from 35.33 to 15.73 days.
How was Attorney General Mike DeWine able to dramatically improve the performance of the BCI laboratory division?

Again, according to Ujhelyi:
  • DeWine implemented a “three-pronged” approach to improving turnaround: 
    • [a]dding 21 scientists to the BCI staff; 
    • doubling BCI’s number of DNA testing and combined DNA index systems (CODIS) robots, and 
    • establishing a continuous quality improvement process.
Currently, Stark Countians, through state of Ohio local government fund funding of Canton; the Stark County commissioners and Stark County's remaining cities, villages and townships ante up about $1.2 million annually to fund operations of the crime lab.

As mentioned earlier in this blog, the CSCCL has been a point of pride of Stark County law enforcement for its excellence in enhancing the ability of local police departments to quickly obtain highly competent scientific analysis of collected crime scene evidence utilizing the lab's equipment (95% owned by Stark County) and facilities to process the evidence through:
  • chemical,
  • biological,
  • DNA,
  • firearms,
  • fingerprint,
  • polygraph,
  • document, and
  • trace analysis 
About 33% of SCOG's crime lab funds come from Canton, 33% of them from the Stark County general fund and 33% from the remaining cities, villages and townships that make up the county.

To boot, more than half of the crime lab's work is done for non-Canton Stark County cities, villages and townships.

Ujhelyi interest got piqued because of an Alliance case, to wit (from her piece):
Alliance city Safety-Service Director W. John Gross had pointed to a 14-month-old “theft by deception” case that remains unresolved, as city police continue to await results from the Canton-Stark County Crime Lab.

According to the report, officers responded in the morning of Nov. 16, 2011 to a downtown antique shop, where the owner reported purchasing coins for $1,800 that turned out to be counterfeit.

Taken into evidence were 80 counterfeit U.S. dollars, a three-ring binder and a handwritten receipt, according to the property report.

Additional supplements stated that Detective Donald Wensel made contact with the crime lab on June 4, 2012; Aug. 30, 2012, and Monday, suspending the investigation earlier this week pending receipt of the fingerprint analysis results.

Bernabei told The Review on Thursday that Foster informed him the silver dollar evidence was processed, and Alliance police should expect a report next week with the findings.

This kind of result from Stark County's prized crime lab?

Well, the SCPR is learning that at least going back to a Canton Safety Director Tom Ream's firing of former director Robert Budgake in January, 2012 (in a Canton city government fiasco in which some 30 or so city retire/rehire employees were fired because of allegations that the rehiring was not lawfully done) and perhaps going back as far as eighteen months, the quality of CSCCL work has been slipping in terms of its backlog.

Moreover, Ujhelyi reports that lab criminalist Michael Short was fired five months after the Budgake firing on allegations that "he had processed multiple gunshot residue cases at the same time" which, of course, raises questions of the quality of work.

On top of all of this, coming full cycle, you have the Healy/Ream political machinations (i.e. revising the job description in bringing Ream pal Perez on board) and thereby possibly jeopardizing the accreditation of the city-county lab in their having eliminated an existing lab director scientific degree requirement so that Perez could qualify.

Like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar, Healy was apparently contrite at the quarterly SCOG executive committee meeting of February 13th (LINK to prior SCPR blog) at having caused all the furor in the Perez hiring effective February 5th (which he undid by gaining Perez's resignation on February 12th).

If Bernabei and SCOG follows through with a complete and thorough review of the CSCCL structure and operations (with special emphasis on its effectiveness, efficiencies and expeditiousness), there may be a silver lining to the Healy machiavellian operation.

SCOG did take the immediate step hiring a qualified person to run the lab.  In an impressive but studied reaction to the Healy generated fiasco, SCOG reached out to CSCCL quality control manager Michele Foster to take over the directorship of the lab.

It appears that she will continue under civil service protection at least for 120 days.

It is the SCPR's position that in view of "the Perez affair," SCOG should insist that so long as Healy is mayor of Canton that if the Canton-Stark County Crime Lab is going to continue to exist that the director have civil service protection.

Moreover, the relationship between SCOG and the city of Canton on management of the lab be structured so that there is in place a unanimity between the two entities on any decisions on the hiring, firing, job descriptions and compensation of crime lab employees.

Lastly, the SCPR strongly urges SCOG to pursue a complete and thorough evaluation of the relative merits of the Canton-Stark County Crime Lab compared to the Ohio BCI laboratory division (i.e. an "apples to apples comparison).

Doing so will enable Stark's leadership to make a totally informed decision on which provides the very best in crime scene evidence analysis so that Stark County's citizens have state-of-the-art and first-rate competent support for the prosecution of Stark County-sited criminals.

A big plus about going BCI (which is used by 90% of Ohio's police jurisdictions) is that it is "free" of cost to its local government users.

But as one police official tells the SCPR, the CSCCL has been a very comfortable fit for local police agencies and going to BCI should only be done if there are clear advantages to doing so which outweigh the monetary savings.

The SCPR endorses this point of view.

Most important of all, SCOG owes it to we Stark Countians to give the utmost attention and priority and urgency to ensuring our safety by having a crime lab support system in place that equips the Stark County law enforcement team to put the bad guys and gals away.

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