Tuesday, July 9, 2013






It appears to the Stark County Political Report that Massillon Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry had plenty to smile about at Monday's Massillon City County work session.

After Parks and Recreation Committee chairman Larry Slagle (D - at large) made his presentation as to what he thought should be the resolution of the long standing impasse between council and the mayor as to whom should be in charge of Massillon's Parks and Recreation Board (MPRB - Board), Councilman Donnie Peters, Jr. (R - Ward 5) offered that council ought to hear from the mayor on the issue.

Probably most of us present were expecting her to administer a tongue lashing to council as has been the case for most of her 18-1/2 months as mayor on most issues that have arisen the administration and the legislative body.

But lo and behold:  a surprise!

Instead of chastising council for seemingly embarking on a path to take charge of the MPRB (assuming that Slagle's proposal was well received by his fellow council members), she took a much more reasoned and conciliatory tact than yours truly ever remembers her taking in the past.


Councilman Slagle proposes that council repeal Massillon Ordinance 163:03, to wit:
163.03 POWERS.
     The Recreation Board shall possess all the powers and be subject to all the responsibilities of the local authorities under Ohio R.C. 755.12 to 755.18.
(Ord. 201-1995.  Passed 10-16-95.)
And Ordinance 163:04, to wit:
     A City of Massillon Park and Recreation Department is hereby created within the City. The Park and Recreation Board shall determine the positions needed for the operation of the Department.  The necessary staffing, wages and the budget to operate the department shall be submitted by the Recreation Board to the Mayor and then forwarded to Council for approval.
(Ord. 201-1995.  Passed 10-16-95.) 
Beyond the repeal of these original statutes, Slagle is out to reconstruct them along the following lines:
  • Spell out the exact duties of the Board,
  • Indicate the authority that the Board is to follow (answer: city council),
    • Under Slagle's plan, the Board would appoint the parks and recreation director subject to approval by council,
  • Institute guidelines as to:
    • what the position of director will entail,
    • the minimum requirements needed to be director,
    • what the director's authority would be,
  • Provide that the Board submit a budget but approved and administered by council,
  • Set up a Golf Advisory Committee and an Recreation Center Advisory Committee with no power but to make recommendations.
Though he admits his proposal carries his bias, Slagle is not insisting that the loggerheads between council and the administration necessarily be resolved precisely according to his suggestion.

It appears to the SCPR that the main purpose of his proposal is to get the solution to the ongoing controversy concerning the management of Massillon's parks and recreation system out of the political realm as much as possible and into a form that is effective and efficient.

Here is a video of the main body of Slagle's presentation including some reaction from members of council.


All-in-all the mayor made a very persuasive case that the executive branch of government (no matter who happens to be mayor) is the only entity suited to administering any Massillon department of government regardless of what that department's function may be.

In support of her basic argument she brought out:
  • That the main players in the controversy seemed a few months ago to be content with the notion that Law Director Perry Stergios was the appropriate person to look at the law (state statutes and Massillon ordinances) and make a determination out of his analysis whom he thinks the language of the law indicates (between the mayor, council or Board) has the authority to appoint the parks and recreation director,
  • That his reading of the law was that the administration had the authority to appoint,
  • That his take was rebuffed, 
  • That the Parks and Recreation Board has been running things (not the administration) and consequently it has had some major goof ups. 
    • For example: 
      • an employee who is not being properly compensated according to her legal right, and
      • the appointment of a director (Straughn) by the Board who (the mayor says) "lied and cheated and did things he shouldn't have done" and then the Board turns around and prevailed upon the administration to get rid of him,
  • That neither council nor the Board is suited to run Massillon's parks and recreation operations and facilities because one (council) works two hours a week and the other (the Board) works two hours a month,
  • That only the administration with its "hands on" day-to-day administration operations is situated to oversee the day-to-day functioning of the city's parks and recreation facilities and operations,
  • That her team of administrators can and are working with interim director Doug Nist to put him in a position to competently if not expertly perform as permanent director and that they believe they can have him ready by September.
  • That as things would unfold under Slagle's plan, Nist would have five park and recreation board members and nine council members to answer to rather than merely the mayor and interim safety director Jim Johnson,  which is too cumbersome and susceptible of political pressures from many directions,
  • That she has no problem with council approving her appointments on parks and recreation,
  • That she and her administration be permitted a year to work with parks and recreation (with the Board being "advisory" only) to straighten out the department's operations and if the administration cannot make it work, then council can revisit matters in terms of the Slagle plan.
Here the mayor is in action making her case:


Both Councilman Slagle and Mayor Catazaro-Perry are to be commended for their presentations last night.  They did get a little testy with one another but they kept their differences civil.

Slagle is to be lauded for getting the ball rolling with his plan which has the potential (in the ebb and flow of discussion) as never before for getting the parks and recreation problems piece of Massillon city government getting resolved.

Catazaro-Perry for making a compelling case for her administration being the key component in any resolution plan.

The mayor is to be applauded also for what she did not do.

She could have threatened to veto Slagle's proposed legislation should it in its essence pass council.  If she were to do so, it would take a six to three vote to override it.  

Had she threatened a veto, she would have undone all the good that she did for herself vis-a-vis council at last night's meeting.

For the first time in her tenure as mayor, it is beginning to dawn on the SCPR that perhaps she is getting her act together on the leadership front.

All Massillonians should certainly hope so.

The parks and recreation component is a small part of the overwhelming problems facing Massillon.

It is likely that Massillon will soon be designated by the state of Ohio Auditor as being under fiscal watch or fiscal emergency.

If so, council and the mayor and her administration working together is the only pathway to recovery.

Perhaps last night was the beginning of Massillon officials' reaching out to one another and a beginning of the end of finger pointing at one another?

Here is a video featuring Nancy Halter (R - Ward 2), Milan Chovan (R - at large), Michelle Del-Rio Keller (Parks and Recreation Board chairperson) and Slagle with the post meeting assessments.

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