Monday, October 7, 2013



So far in the Stark County Political Report's comprehensive series of analyzing county officeholders' success/failure in responsibly "holding the line" in the management of "new monies" provided to county government by Stark County taxpayers in their passage of a 0.5% county sales tax in November, 20011, The Report has given the following grades:

Today, I deal with the Stark County auditor.

In my estimate, Alan Harold is one of the bright up and coming leaders in Stark County government.

Though he clearly wears his Republicanism "on his sleeve," I think he is one of those "make no bones about it" partisans who can work through their bias and in the end be fair and responsive to all; notwithstanding any partisan difference they may have with him.

However, though he denies it, the SCPR thinks that there must have been a political advantage factor at play in his hiring of past Canton Republican 2011 mayoral candidate A.R. "Chip" Conde as property tax supervisor in February of this year.

I have indication that when Republican Party decisions are being made, that along with Stark GOP chairman and Stark Board of Elections chief Jeff Matthews and Republican Stark County commissioner Janet Creighton; Harold is right "in the thick" of the decision making and probably is "neck-and-neck" with Creighton in terms of intra-party respected political acumen.

Jeff Matthews gets very little regard.

So how do I assess his management of his office?

The SCPR gives Stark County auditor Alan Harold a:

Contrary to what the name of this county department of government might suggest, the formal job of the county auditor's office is not to keep tabs on other Stark County departments of government.

As put by Harold himself on the auditor website, the mission of his office is:

dedicated to providing efficient and courteous service to the public while ensuring the highest possible standards for accountability, accuracy, and attention to detail in support of Stark County’s financial systems.

But you can be sure that Harold, in view of points made by him in his successful 2010 campaign to unseat Democrat Kim Perez, will "unofficially" be looking at his peers' operations (except maybe the Republicans [only kidding]) throughout county government and if he sees anything he thinks might not be "according to Hoyle," he will react in terms of the powers he has as county auditor or, alternatively, bringing the questions his has  - persistently and loudly - to the attention of federal, state/county government that he thinks has a say in what he perceives may be amiss.

He loudly and vigorously accused Perez of not being diligent and persistent enough in asking questions and making public issues out of numbers coming out of the Stark County treasurer's office (provided by Vince Frustaci) that were not matching up with the auditor's internal numbers.

Frustaci, as we all are too painfully aware of, for acts committed over the space of about a six-year span, when he was Stark's chief deputy treasurer was convicted in 2009 of having stolen upwards of $3 million of Stark County taxpayer money.

While there has never been any implication whatsoever that the-then treasurer Gary Zeigler had anything to do with the theft; Zeigler was criticized by Harold, the state of Ohio auditor, and others for not "running a tight enough ship" in terms of policies, practices, and oversight mechanisms either to deal with the possibility that an employee might try to make off with taxpayer money.

Some of Harold's county-level peers might think is he somewhat of a "busybody," I think that Stark County taxpayers should be comforted by the fact that Harold appears to be and acts in an vigilant "protect the taxpayers" manner.

However, notwithstanding my "in-general" being well-taken with Harold, I am not all that impressed with his management of his office in terms of employee turnover (eleven (11) employee departures; sixteen (16) "new" employees [in a timeframe of December 19, 2012 through September 11, 2013]).

Nor am I well taken with my suspicion that fellow Republican Conde was put "at the head of the line" at the expense, perhaps, of other "non-politically-connected Stark Countians who are entitled to an opportunity at publicly funded jobs.

The SCPR has some anecdotal indication that Harold is a highly demanding boss who can be difficult to work for.

But that might not be a bad thing from the taxpayers' standpoint.  Taxpayers want county bosses who get the "most bang for the 'wages' buck" from county employees.

That may or may not be the case for Harold.

In terms of accessibility, ability to take criticism (i.e. his political maturity), transparency and other democracy enhancing characteristics, Harold does well.

He stands "heads and shoulders" over the likes of Stark County prosecutor John Ferrero and Rick Campbell in on the political maturity factor.

On the day-to-day management of his office, according to my computations from records provided by Harold himself, he is up a net of five (5) employees in 2013 over 2012 and his payroll is up about $300,000.

My computation indicates that Harold went from 92 employees to 97 employees.

Moreover, he has more that doubled the commissioners' guideline for giving raises from revenues generated out of the 2011 sales tax passage monies.

They recommended 2% which, by and large, they met for their office.

Harold's mathematical "mean" pay raises was five percent (5 %); again, more than double what the commissioners' thought would be indicative of "holding the line" on county finances.

In all the SCPR's analyses, I think that next year's (2014) will present a clearer picture of how prudent Stark County's bosses are managing funds provided courtesy of the Stark County taxpayers.

What follows is a detailed listing of personnel factors in the auditor's office for the December, 2012 through September, 2013 time period.

Readers need to keep in mind that the wages indicated are only for that (i.e. wages).  Harold has told me that he - in general - agrees with fringe benefits (health insurance, workers' compensation, unemployment compensation and pensions) cost government employers about 35% of the wage base.

The December, 2012 payroll:

As compared to the September, 2013 payroll:

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