Wednesday, October 15, 2014


In hindsight, the Concerned Citizens of North Canton would likely view the following photo with alarm.

Former North Canton Ward 3 councilman Tim Fox making the transition from councilman to law director has turned out to be a nightmare for North Cantonians who want their city council to exercise control over Fox.

As early as September 12, 2012, The Stark County Political Report sensed that there might be "an unholy relationship" between Fox and his former fellow council members.

It is now apparent that there is something about Fox and his relationship to council wherein they are prepared to the last man, the last woman to defend the beleaguered law director from accountability through council (the republican aspect of American government) to citizens (the democratic aspect), whom, of course, (i.e. "the consent of the governed") constitute the authority of any government institution in the United States of America.

But apparently not in North Canton, Ohio.

It has been one fight after another fight after another fight between Law Director Fox and a community political action group which calls itself the North Canton Concerned Citizens (CCNC).

On July 16th of this year, the SCPR "naively," (as it turns out in terms of a continuing effect) wrote that "citizen action works" in assessing the effectiveness of the CCNC in getting North Canton in compliance with the Ohio attorney general's office (OAG) notion of what constitutes compliance with Ohio's Open Records law.

The problem?

Law Director Fox was telling OAG officials how wrong the office was on its interpretation of the law.

Under pressure from the CCNC, North Canton City Council and Mayor David Held (who staunchly defends Fox on any pronouncement he makes as if "it as come down from God Almighty), Fox was "brought to heel" on the public records matter.

The SCPR no longer believes that there is any check on Fox within North Canton government and that the mayor and council have allowed him to become "a virtual law unto himself."

At times, it appears that Fox runs North Canton government in its entirety.

Accordingly, The Report thinks that citizens and groups like the CCNC need to square up with the obvious political reality of Fox's excessive control and to start work now to replace four councilpersons, any four, of the currently sitting councilpersons come November, 2015 with four North Cantonians who are committed to reining Fox in.

On May 28, 2014 long time council clerk Gail Kalpac resigned.

While she never said so herself as a matter of the public record, it is believed that she was a victim "the impossibility" of working for Fox who many think is a "my way or the highway" type of government official.

Last night, CCNC president Jamie McCleaster presented at North Canton Council's "Public Speaks."

The topic?

You've got it!

Out-of-control Law Director Tim Fox.

This time Fox is disputing the Ohio Auditor of State office's take on the legality of how North Canton government (presumably on Fox's advice) has gone about implementing a "comp time" policy for non-exempt North Canton employees who work beyond a 40 hour work week.

The CCNC does not oppose the policy change.

However, the concerned citizens are concerned that the manner in which is not the proper way and that when the Ohio auditor's offices comes to North Canton to do its next annual audit that employee beneficiaries of the comp time policy change will be required to pay money into the North Canton treasury for time off taken pursuant to - according to the state auditor's office - the illegal way the policy change has been handled so far.

Undoubtedly, the SCRP thinks, in digging deeper in the CCNC's protest - of the apparently Fox advised comp time policy change on the basis of questionable legal authority - runs deeper than the change itself.

The Report thinks that there is "a pitched battle" between Fox, the mayor and council on one hand and the CCNC and other citizens on the other hand, and, that it is a matter of political will as to whom is going to prevail.

While the SCPR applauds the CCNC for using "the bully pulpit" of "Public Speaks" to try to get council to assert control over Fox, it is apparent that nothing short of a reconstitution of council with at least four votes committed to controlling Fox will work in getting the law director under control.

Otherwise, the prospects are for persistent, continuing conflicts between Fox and the citizens.

The issues will change, but the underlying dynamic - the CCNC perception of an "out-of-control law director - will remain the same.

It is hard to see how North Canton government can function efficiently and effectively in this environment of chronic strife.

In the graphic at the lead of this blog, the SCPR - by way of example - lined out the names of Councilpersons Foltz, Peters, Werren and Kiesling. Such was not to suggest necessarily that those four be the target come the November, 2015 election.

The CCNC is in the best position in terms of knowing the thinking of existing council members on the matter of reining Fox in and therefore should be the guiding light as to whom should be opposed with vigorous opposition in next year's election.

What follows is a publication of McCleaster's Monday night remarks, to wit:

Statement to North Canton City Council 10/13/14
in regards to comp time for exempt employees

I’m here this evening as the Spokesman of Concerned Citizens of North Canton Political Action Committee. 

Tonight, I’d like to talk about comp time for the city’s exempt employees.

All documents and supporting information that I reference, as well as our recommendations will be provided to you this evening for you to review at your leisure.

In January of this year then Council President Jon Snyder, and the Mayor, without a committee discussion, a passed ordinance, or any public mention took it upon themselves to grant comp time to exempt city employees. 

We have many hard working employees here in North Canton, I’m not here tonight to discuss whether or not they should have comp time, but rather the manner in which this policy, so to speak, was enacted.

Through a public records request from the Ohio Auditor’s office, we have received a chain of emails sent between Finance Director Alger, the Auditor’s Office, Law Director Fox, Administration and all Council members beginning in late March of this year. 

Finance Director Alger asks the Auditor’s office how the city would authorize the comp time “policies.”

On March 24, 2014 Lori Hoffman from the Auditor’s office replied that, and I quote, “in order for the city to follow the [policies], they would have to be approved by council. If they aren’t approved by council at a public meeting, we would not recognize them as being valid ordinances.” 

This response was forwarded by Finance Director Alger to all of council as well as Law Director Fox and the Administration. 

What’s of particular interest is the responses that Mr. Fox gives to the Auditor’s office. 

It’s been well documented and reported that Mr. Fox thinks that the Attorney General’s opinion in regards to Ohio’s Sunshine Laws is “ridiculous,” and judging from his response to the Auditor’s office, he must feel that their opinion is ridiculous too. 

In the end, on April 2, 2014, Mr. Fox, after citing a previous legal case he felt that showed he was still in the right, relented and said that the city will treat this as an ordinance.

That was over six months ago. 

Why has this ordinance not been brought to committee and ultimately passed?

Has Mr. Fox convinced Council that he is right and the Auditor’s office is being ridiculous, and that no ordinance is needed? 

Something needs to be done now to protect our city employees. 

I would hate to see these dedicated, hardworking employees have to repay the city or have their vacation or sick time adjusted for their comp time usage because they were illegally given a benefit by someone who wasn’t able to solely grant said benefit.

Unfortunately the inaction described here is becoming a pattern with this council.

Earlier this year council failed to act when 4 members elected to continue taking health insurance benefits that they weren’t entitled to take, and action only came after public outcry.

This summer, all members of council sat idly by as Law Director Fox failed to follow Ohio’s Sunshine laws, and suppressed citizens requests for electronically transmitted public records. 

Are you receiving bad advice from your Law Director on this and other issues affecting our city? 

Something needs to change. 

The previous inactions were a public embarrassment to the city, and cost three of you financially when repayment of health benefits was necessary. 

Now, I’m afraid your inaction may cost our hard working employees financially. We ask that you bring this issue up for discussion and do right by your constituents and employees at your earliest opportunity.

While you are discussing the subject of comp time we ask that you look into not only what the federal and state governments consider to be an exempt employee and how they can and can’t be compensated based upon hours worked, but also what our peer cities listed in the annual audit do in regards to comp time. 

Wadsworth and Fairview Park offer no comp time to their exempt employees, whereas Perrysburg utilizes flex time which is utilized, quote, “very sparingly, per supervisor approval and according to work load.”

 It’s worth noting that the cities that we contacted that do offer comp time do so through ordinance, not via resolution or memo from the council president.

 Even given that the current exempt ordinance for the City of North Canton specifies that the exempt employees of the city “shall work the necessary hours to properly discharge all duties involved in their respective positions,” the members of Concerned Citizens of North Canton PAC urge you to honor these hard working employees, and to adopt a policy of flex time, such as what is employed in the city of Perrysburg going forward. 

We would recommend that if flex time is issued to an employee, that it be used within the pay period earned, or the period that immediately follows. At the end of the day, whatever your decision, don’t fail to act on yet another important issue!

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