Tuesday, November 25, 2014



As regular readers of The Stark County Political Report know, The Report has been more critical than not of Canton mayor William J. Healy, II in his "executive" administration of the city of Canton over his nearly seven years in office.

But in this pre-Thanksgiving holiday period, it is time to be thankful to Mayor Healy for his vision and stick-to-it-tive-ness in working towards merging Canton's parks and recreation function into one "more efficient" unit.

Are there those who have resisted Healy's vision?

Indeed, there have been.  

First, an encore of a videotaped interview with Mayor Healy done post-Canton City Council meeting of August 13, 2013

Second, a list of blog links in which the SCPR has dealt with the park/recreation merger issue:

To his credit, His Honor has persisted and it appears that by the end of 2015 or thereabouts there will be no Canton Park Commission and the recreation function of the city under the Canton Joint Recreation District as separate entities.

Most of the resistance has melted away with the passage by Canton voters in November, 2013 of a four mill levy to fund Canton park operations and capital structure.

What resistance remains, the SCPR thinks is coming from entrenched interests (i.e. some of the board members and, perhaps, some of the staff members) from within the Canton Joint Recreation District (CJRD).

The district is described thusly on the CJRD website:


Our Purpose is to develop year-round programs of recreational activities with the City of Canton and Canton City School District.

To maintain and supervise all public recreation programs
and facilities that may be placed at the disposal of the Recreation Board as authorized by the Laws of the State of Ohio, subject to all local rules and regulations of the Board of Education of the City of Canton, and the City Council and Executive branch of the City of Canton.  

Cooperate with all bodies, organizations, groups and individuals in developing, supervising, and maintaining a well-rounded public recreation   program for the citizens of Canton including children, youth and adults.

And here is a listing of the staff:

And here is its funding source:

As noted in the SCPR blog of August 28, 2014, Sharon Fladen, a lawyer who says she is subcontracted with CJRD attorney Sally Henning initiated contact with The Report complaining that she and other opponents/objectors to the proposed merger and aspects of expenditures (i.e. annual payments to the J. Babe Stern Center and the Southeast Community Center) were not being allowed a voice in The Canton Repository.

Unlike The Repository, the SCPR provides space to those who have differences with how units of Stark County government are doing the public's business.

And The Report published Ms. Fladen's (presumably speaking for all those at the CJRD opposing/objecting) point of view.

However, in the August 28th blog, The Report made it clear that The Stark County Political Report applauds the Healy effort to merge the CJRD functions within one department of Canton government dealing with parks and recreation.

What Ms. Fladen apparently did not bank on was that the SCPR does a thoroughgoing analysis of the overall situation when a controversy flares up which The Report takes on.

It turned out that there was a public flap about:
  • the procedures the CJRD used in retaining Ms. Henning to do legal and personnel work for the public agency
  • the scope of her employment,
  • as well as the overall amount of taxpayer provided money that she has been paid for those services.
The SCPR did a public records request to try to get information as to what activities that Ms. Henning was paid for and in what amount.

Here is a sample of what The Report received:

(Reconfigured for Blog viewability)

The Report's take on interacting with:
  • CJRD staff, 
  • Ms. Henning, and
  • an attorney (from Akron) who says he was hired by a third person, not the CJRD board itself, which person the SCPR suspects to be Ms. Henning, 
is that there was a combined effort to throw obstacles in the way of Canton and Plain Township taxpayers (those living in the Canton City School District) - in the form of the CJRD's "like pulling teeth" response to the SCPR's public records request,  for the public via The Report's request to have some sort of narrative understanding of the basis for  Ms. Henning's compensation.

Citing attorney/client privilege, the "private" attorney:
  • that a non-CJRD authorized person [Henning?] retained (i.e. that the hiring of the private attorney was not authorized by a documented resolution by the CJRD board),
provided what the SCPR deems to be "blank documents" as to the narrative information requested.

The SCPR had no problem whatsoever with the CJRD redacting out (presuming that a majority of the board authorized the redaction) reasonably defined attorney/client information.

However, "a pretty much 'blank' document" on requested descriptive information is what The Report received.

The overreach is unacceptable!

A lawyer friend of the SCPR tells The Report that:
  • "a private attorney" hired by "a non-CJRD (the public agency it is) authorized" third party  (by virtue of including such a person [herein, the private attorney)
    • has - in his opinion - in turning over the documents to the private attorney
      •  waived the CJRD attorney/client privilege which could mean that all the redacted material is discoverable.
So the question is:  Should the SCPR file a public records lawsuit against the CJRD so as to obtain the requested information?

Answer:  The SCPR has not yet decided.

Not decided? The Report has to be kidding, no?

The SCPR thinks it is an outrage that the CJRD board is not being transparent (allowing for a reasonable and appropriate attorney/client redaction) in providing the requested information.

It appears to The Report that a few persons within the CJRD scheme of things is driving the engine of obfuscation.

And it certainly would be democracy enhancing for the public to know generally while not intruding on attorney/client material what CJRD taxpayers are paying for.

However, since it seems that it is pretty near certain that the merger and therefore the elimination of the CJRD will take place within the next year of so, a "practical" case is to be made that with Canton city government taking over in the next year or so and the Canton Law Department thereby becoming the legal entity to deal with:  why not wait and obtain copies of the inherited documents when dealing with a legal entity that is more transparent?

To reiterate, the SCPR still may elect to push forward with litigation on what The Report to believes to be a gross overreach on redaction in the name of attorney/client privilege.

When the records do become available, the SCPR can be depended upon to delve very deep into the matter going all the way back to December, 2013.

The SCPR finds that it is more than a touch ironic that perhaps Stark County's most liberal/leftist (most liberals/leftists say they are big on civil rights and the public's right to know and the like) politico (a former Canton City Schools board member [candidate versus fellow CJRD member John Rinaldi in 2013], and a one-time candidate for Congress); namely, CJRD board president Eric Resnick, appears to the SCPR to be part of the resistance to the public's right to know something more than what The Report views in all its essential elements (i.e. some idea of what the work was for) to be in material essence "a blank piece of paper."

A source in a position to know tells the SCPR that Resnick (as one of two appointees o the Canton City Schools) is not likely to be reappointed when his term expires on December 31st of this year.

The SCPR has always thought that it has been a squandering of taxpayer money to have a Canton Park Commission and the CJRD.

With this blog The Report's revealed experience with the CJRD on the transparency issue in the context of the board's scrutiny of CJRD operations (authorizations for hire and providing the public with some documented idea of what they paid for), there is added reason why Cantonians and Plain Township taxpayer participants in CJRD funding should rejoice at the imminent merger of CJRD functions with the "new" Canton Parks and Recreation Department (CPRD).

The SCPR is confident that most of the management of the CPRD will be at the hand of existing CPRD employees and under the able leadership of CPRD director Derek Gordon.

Thanksgiving is in order!

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