Saturday, November 9, 2013






If you buy Attorney Greg Beck's version of the law based on Tuesday's Ohio Supreme Court's decision ousting George T. Maier from occupying the office of Stark County sheriff, then the Stark County Democratic Central Committee (SCDCC) has under the guidance of Chairman Randy Gonzalez virtually no choice but to appoint Lt. Lou Darrow as the sitting Stark County sheriff.

And, the SCPR has learned on good authority (multiple sources) that current sheriff Tim Swanson has placed Darrow in charge of operations as his chief deputy.  Moreover, Vivianne Duffrin (Swanson's chief legal counsel who was summarily dismissed by Maier on October 11th in the midst of contract negotiations with the Stark County deputies union) has been restored to her office at 4500 Atlantic Blvd that Maier had placed Lt. Tim George in.

The Report is being told that Maier has gone to Harrison County to serve as a full-time deputy sheriff.

The SCPR has asked Harrison County sheriff Ronald J. Myers (who testified via deposition in Sheriff Swanson's quo warranto action to have Maier removed from the Stark sheriff's office) to confirm/disaffirm the Maier hiring.

As the SCPR understands it, Maier and Myers are longtime friends from the days when Maier was in the Ohio Highway Patrol and serving the Harrison County area.

If the hiring is confirmed, such combined with Stark County Democratic Party chairman's (as reported in local media) that he intends to pursue Maier's reappointment as Stark's sheriff sets up a gigantic political fight within the Stark County Democratic Party which is reminiscent of the fight that occurred when the Dems "swallowed hard" (especially Gonzalez) and appointed Republican Alex Zumbar to become Stark County treasurer when Gary Zeigler retired/resigned on October 19, 2011.

Just as the local Dems were settling down from all the hubbub attendant the treasurer replacement fight, they now find themselves embroiled in another internal political fight which threatens to bring down the current leadership of the Stark County Democratic Party.

Another unconfirmed report that the SCPR has is that when Democrats meet within the next 45 days to redo the appointment process of a successor to Mike McDonald (sheriff-elect, November, 2012) who was unable due to illness (which regrettably and tragically resulted in his death on Feburary 24, 2013), they will not only be selecting a sheriff but - perhaps, beforehand - a new Dems chairman.

If the latter report is accurate, the SCPR thinks that "stepping down" is the "right thing for Chairman Gonzalez to do" given his out front and vigorous support of Maier to be sheriff.

The Dems demonstrated in their vote (92 Maier, 84 Darrow) on February 5, 2013 that they were then nearly evenly divided on the question between Maier and Darrow who should be the sheriff.

It is amazing to the SCPR that the vote was that close given Gonzalez's highly active effort in support of Maier while serving as moderator and ruling parliamentarian in terms of function.

Critical decisions that Gonzalez (presumably in concert with his fellow executive committee officer corps) made in this - obvious to the SCPR - conflict-in-interest situation included requiring (they say in accordance with Stark County/Ohio Democratic Party rules) that SCDCC members declare their identity in order to have their votes recorded.

Moreover, he made decisions on various motions that were offered up by various members of the SCDCC.

Democrat and Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero (a former chairman himself; hardly a favorite of The Report) "did the right thing" (heroically in the opinion of the SCPR) in bringing to the floor of the February 5th conclave the question of Maier's qualification to be sheriff.

One of the attorneys that Gonzalez cited in his insistence that Maier was qualified under Ohio's statutory law was well-known Canton attorney Steven Okey.  (Also cited was an attorney Michael Thompson whom Gonzalez had retained to defend him in his role as party chairman in Darrow v. Gonzalez, Writ of Prohibition)

It appears to the SCPR that the Maier forces were not banking on one of the eligible Stark County officeholders (which included Ferrero and Sheriff Tim Swanson) to file a lawsuit with the Ohio Supreme Court challenging Maier's qualifications.

The thinking likely was that the appointment fight was "a case of Democrats being Democrats" a la the observation of humorist of yesteryear Will Rogers "I am not part of any organized political party, I am a Democrat" and that "after the smoke cleared" the Darrow supporters would "lick their [political] wounds" but they would not seek to continue their fight.

Well, if that was the thinking of Gonazlez, Maier and their allies; they could not have been more wrong.

Swanson (courageously) on February 12th did file a quo warranto with the Ohio Supreme Court asserting that Maier was unqualified and this past Tuesday as between Ferrero and Okey, Ferrero was correct and "had done the right thing" on the part of Stark Countians as citizens and taxpayers to try to keep the Dems from making a legal mistake.

So the question becomes, is it about to be "deja vu, all over again" (a la one of former New York Yankee catcher Yogi Berra's reputed quotes) with the Stark County Democrats in the light of Gonzalez's statement, Beck's letter and Maier's rumored employment relocation to Harrison County?

A key part of Beck's letter is that, if the Dems proceed as Gonzalez says they are going to and reappoint Maier, he will reopen - on behalf of Swanson - the matter with the Supreme Court with a mandamus action requiring that the Dems appoint either Darrow or Republican Larry Dordea as the only remaining eligibles from the original February 5th list.

And get this:  "at Stark County taxpayer expense."

Back on April 17th, the SCPR wrote about the first billing from Roetzel and Andress.  This is the firm that Maier opted to hire to represent him in Swanson quo warranto action.

Stark County's commissioners (Bernabei, Creighton and Regula) have already paid some $33,671.37 (of which $20,000 is for his legal fees incurred in Swanson v. Maier) in expenses above and beyond the normal operating expenses of the Stark County sheriff's department that are attendant to the Stark Dems having put the "unqualified-by-Ohio Supreme Court ruling" in the sheriff's office.

Here is Commissioner Bernabei from a February, 2013 blog explaining what the arrangement with Roetzel and Andress is:

The SCPR by the way alerted Commissioner Tom Bernabei about the $13,671.37 printing, signage and other "publicize George Maier" material incurred by Maier as a consequence of the Dems' appointive action.

Remember, the SCPR knew and predicted from the get-go that Maier would be ousted by the high court.

What was Bernabei's reaction?

A shudder of the shoulders and a musing that perhaps the Supreme Court would leave Maier in place.

As readers of the SCPR know, I have a high regard for Bernabei and Creighton, in particular, as diligent guardians of the county's finances.

But for them to sit by and allow Maier (unless and until he was confirmed by the Supreme Count) to spend our tax dollars without least "jawboning" him on the matter brings their "due diligence" for the taxpayers into question.

Anyone who has worked for Bernabei over-the-years knows that he is a very demanding "get-employment-values" for the taxpayers type of boss.

But for some odd reason, if he gets enamored with someone - like the SCPR believes he has with George Maier- all of a sudden his critical faculties seem to evaporate.

In defense of Bernabei, when he wants to be and if he deems the person he is dealing with to be "important," George can be quite a "charmer."

However, one does expect a "been-there, done that before" type like Bernabei to be capable of better discernment than he is demonstrating with Maier.

Maier is not the only Stark County official who seemingly can do no wrong in Bernabei's eyes.

Stark County Court of Common Pleas judge Frank Forchione is another one.

But in that case, Forchione actually worked with/for Bernabei in the Canton law department for a number of years.

Oh, well!  We all have our blind spots, no?

So not only are the taxpayers out about $70,000 in direct salary paid to Maier for his nine months sitting in the sheriff's office; they are out payments made for his fringe benefits and who knows what else.

The SCPR asked Brant Luther, the county's chief administrator, whether or not Maier's attorneys had asked for any more money.



How about $4,274.17 for the period through June 30, 2013?


Let's see.

July, August, September, October and six days in November plus all the legal hullabaloo that is underway.

Where will the bill end up?

Will the Stark commissioners pay it?

Luther tells the SCPR that "no" Stark County had an up to $20,000 contract with Roetzel and Andress and that is it!  No more!

Well, let's hope that Luther is right and the commissioners "do the right thing" by Stark County taxpayers and stick to their contract limit.

Which, if they do, one would think, could result in Maier/Roetzel and Andress suing the commissioners for the above $20,000 in legal fees, no?

And, of course, there is the story that the SCPR broke exclusively earlier this week, that local attorney and civic activist Craig T. Conley is entertaining the thought of pursuing Maier (a guy who thinks well of Maier) to pay the county back for Stark County taxpayer compensation (as stated above, about $70,000 plus) because of the Supreme Court ruling that he was never the legal sheriff of Stark County.

There is another "and."

"And" Greg Beck says he is going to ask the commissioners to pay Swanson's legal fees engendered in his fight to have the high court "authenticate" that the Stark Dems erred as a matter of the law of sheriff qualifications in appoint Maier in the first place.

Apparently, an additional reason that the oft-maligned Tim Swanson should be lauded and appreciated by Stark County taxpayers in this instance of fighting for "the rule of law" is that as of last report he does not intend to ask commissioners to be paid that same $70,000 plus that Maier got but which he has not received.

A point that has been missed by area media except, of course, the Stark County Political Report that it may turn out that not only does Sheriff Swanson get vindicated but perhaps also Stark County auditor Alan Harold in his initial decision not to pay Maier when he took office.

On the instruction of state of Ohio auditor David Yost, Harold reversed himself on the matter, to wit: (from a February 15, "update" of the "linked" [above] original blog)
The SCPR talked with Stark County Auditor Alan Harold yesterday about his February 13th letter indicating that he would not be recognizing the Stark County Democratic Party appointment of George Maier as sheriff.  He indicated that he had been is discussion with both the Ohio attorney general's office and the state of Ohio auditor's offices regarding whether or not he should recognize the appointment.  However, he said, neither would put their advice in writing.

Well, that has changed in that the state auditor has communicated with Harold that he believes that the Stark County auditor should recognize Maier.
If Conley does "civilly" go after Maier on behalf of Stark County taxpayers, he tells the SCPR that it will NOT be pro bono ("for the public good - no fee charged) this time around.

So this is a case that Alan Harold "did the right thing" for Stark County taxpayers only to have the bigs down in Columbus lean on him to change his thinking.

So if Conley is compelled to sue Maier to get the Stark County taxpayer money back, it will be the money back less his fees which, I would daresay, could end up being in the thousands of dollars.

On the matter of whether or not the county should pay Gary Zeigler while his case for reinstatement (which he won) was before the Ohio Supreme Court, Harold stood firm.

He even continued beyond the reinstatement because of Zeigler's difficulty of being able to obtain a statutorily required bond.

But he faded fast on Maier.


As the SCPR has written before, I think Gonzalez in his capacity as Stark County Democratic Party chairman and those executive officers of the Stark Dems (including executive vice chairman Johnnie A. Maier, Jr; George Maier's brother) should apologize to Stark County citizens (especially in their taxpayer role) for all they have put through them because of the illegal appointment of George T. Maier as Stark County sheriff.

It is simply unthinkable that the Dems would put the county through another trip to Columbus, isn't it?

Prosecutor John Ferrero has given some indication that he is going to fight Gonzalez "tooth and nail."

The SCDCC should be squarely behind Ferrero and thereby show Stark Countians that they do care about stability returning to Stark County government and equally important, the county's bank account!

The Stark County Dems should "do the right thing" by Stark Countians!!!

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