Monday, September 8, 2014


When former Jackson Township trustee Steven Meeks was a Stark County commissioner, he used to "wring his hands" in frustration and complain as he and his fellow commissioners at the time (Bosley and Ferguson) were unable to jawbone independently elected county officials into showing fiscal self-discipline in the face of an impending county tax receipts crisis.

Local attorney and civic activist Craig T. Conley had led a successful drive to undo an "imposed" sales tax of 1/2 cent put on Stark Countians by Bosley and his, then, fellow commissioners Tom Harmon and Jane Vignos in November, 2009.

One of key proponents of the "imposed" sales tax was the-then sheriff Tim Swanson, to wit:

Why bring that up?

Because Swanson's statement is the leading edge of an ironic twist in which Swanson and Conley (remember? the defeater-in-chief of the tax) are now united in an effort to hold Stark County Democratic Party appointed sheriff George T. Maier liable in some $90,000 in claimed monetary damages on account of Maier (according to the Ohio Supreme Court) having usurped to the position of sheriff for the period February 5, 2013 through November 6, 2013.

The predominant theme in this blog is how things can change in politics, political stances and political relationships.

To the SCPR the Swanson/Conley turnabout is roughly analogous to what the SCPR sees as being a "flip-flop" in fiscal attitude by the current Board of County Commissioners; namely, Republican Janet Creighton, Democrat Thomas Bernabei and Republican Richard Regula.

As readers of the SCPR know, The Report has been Stark County's foremost observer/analyst of county and political subdivision government for going on seven years now.

When Bernabei and Creighton were first elected (November, 2010), the changes they brought to county government were on the stunning side.

The two took office in the later stages of the tenure of Gary D. Zeigler's time in office (resigned/retired October 19, 2011) as Stark County Treasurer.

Negotiating a deal with Zeigler to make him part of Stark County government/political history was likely a key commissioner generated factor in persuading Stark Countians to approve a "new" 1/2 cent sales tax.

Throughout the levy campaign the neophyte commissioners said and did all the right things of a fiscal nature to lure Stark County's voters into supporting the levy.

However, as early as November 30th, the SCPR detected that the commissioners were waivering on their fiscal austerity stance notwithstanding the fact not $1 dollar of the newly passed tax had been collected.

The issue?

The amount that Stark County's employees would pay as their share of healthcare insurance coverage.  Stark County is a self insurer.

The question?

Would county employees continue to pay at 10% or would there be an increase in the range of one to six percent and thereby enable the county to save as much as $217,000 annually in taxpayer supplied revenue.  Moreover, there is a Kaiser Foundation study which shows that on average private sector employees pay 27% of their health care premiums.

The answer?

No change.

The SCPR's problem with the answer?

From the November 30th blog:
But the commissioners did not discuss in public in much detail as to why there should not have been an increase for 2012.  Bernabei did say (is sort of an after thought fashion) as justification for holding the rate at 10% that employees have not had a pay increase in several years.

The question the SCPR has is this:  why didn't the commissioners discuss the matter in a public meeting and provide chapter and verse detail why Stark County employees should maintain their 17% advantage on their health insurance contribution rate over private sector employees?
So in about a year, Bernabei and Creighton were beginning to show signs that either:
  • there was one standard for themselves, contrasted with a more exacting standard for other county officeholders, 
Moreover, it became obvious to the SCPR through 2012, 2013 and so far through 2014 that:
  • they could be more understanding of the needs of some departments of county government but coldly unsympathetic with others
Today's blog is the first a series that the SCPR will be doing over ensuing weeks presenting a detailed analysis which The Report thinks supports the premise that the Stark County commissioners are reverting to "old days, hence old ways" of governing which led to the 2010, 2011 and 2012 financial crisis in county government.

Bernabei ran unopposed in 2012 and now we have Creighton running unopposed in 2014.

Never a good thing for government official accountability!

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