Monday, July 18, 2016


(at end of blog)



North Canton has one of the weirdest hiring structures in all of Ohio government.

City council hires the law director and the finance director.

Consequently, it is sort of "a no man's land" insofar as supervision of the law director and and finance director in North Canton.

It is the perfect environment, the SCPR thinks, for North Canton's autocratic Tim Fox to run amok in.

It seems like in not being directly accountable to any single North Canton elected official, he has taken it on himself in and of himself to be North Canton government.

Want a public record?

Well, you may or may not get it.

It all depends on the "unelected" Tim Fox as to whether or not you get it.

Only once has Fox been held accountable by any elected official in North Canton government.

Feeling political heat of a controversy, post-November, 2012 election when North Canton voters at a 78% rate agreed with an ordinance referendum to deny part-time councilpersons health care coverage at city expense if they had alternative means of obtaining coverage, Mayor David Held took it upon himself (nearly a year after the fact of the opinion being issued and refused to the public under the guise of attorney/client privilege) to release a Fox's pro-council analysis of the legality of the ordinance.

Otherwise, Fox appears to have had free reign in "ordering the day" of government in North Canton.

All of which, shows how all-important the hiring process in the no-man's land of accountability is in the ridiculous structure of North Canton government administration.

It appears to the SCPR that the hiring of Fox has been devastating to the public confidence in North Canton government.

But, perhaps, with the recent hiring a replacement financial director, the process is improving.

The Report emphasizes "perhaps" because "the jury is still out" in assessing whether or not Finance chair Dan Griffith has taken the process from a seeming dark and obscure "cloak and dagger-esque" model of Councilman Daniel "Jeff" Peters (re: Fox) into light of day.

One needs to remember however that Griffth was on the council committee which selected Fox.


The SCPR thinks and has written frequently that the September, 2012 hiring of Tim Fox as law director has been an absolute disaster in terms of council and the mayor's relationship with any North Canton citizen who dares question the actions of North Canton government.

Fox, from the outset of his hiring,  knowing how forthright, direct and uncompromising the SCPR is in The Report's expectation that public officials treat citizens with regard and respect and welcome their input on the operation of government, adopted a "Cold War" mentality in dealing with this blog.

And the mayor and council has let him get away with being unaccountable to the North Canton public in his obvious hostility to anyone who has not "come to praise Caesar."

Part of the answer is the structure of North Canton government in having the ridiculous "no man's land" as to who controls the likes of Fox.

The present structure worked fine when the last first rate law director of North Canton was serving the citizens of North Canton.

Roy Batista, a top notch "appointed" North Canton official, who passed away last weekend, last served the city on a temporary basis in the summer of 2012 while council selected a successor to Hans Nilges who resigned in July, 2012.

Prior to the temporary service, Batista had been North Canton's law director (then part-time [80 hours per month) from the 1970s through 1980 and again 2000 through 2003.

In the gaps of Batista's service, North Canton had so-so legal counsel.

But that was better than the nose dive that The Report again—in signaling a North Canton Council vis-a-vis inquiring citizens Fox-led  hostility—believes has been the reality with Fox's September, 2012 hire.

Not to exonerate Fox, but The Report's take is that the-then personnel committee chairman Dan "Jeff" Peters (now president of council) led the way for then Ward 3 Councilman Fox to be hired as an "inside job" hiring operation and let it be known to Fox that at least a majority of council wanted him to crack down on any citizen dissent to come before council at its regular meetings.

And Fox has not disappointed at least a majority of North Canton's seven council persons.

He has proved to be a "rules attorney" who is so utterly bound up in a rigidity of interpreting law in an obvious quest to use the law to hamstring and punish any who dare challenge the likes Councilpersons Peters, Kiesling and Werren.

More democratic-republican values friendly Councilpersons Cerreta, Foltz, Fonte and Griffith have stood by and allowed the Fox generated hostility grow.

It seems like he has brought his senior non commissioned officer bearing with him from is days in the United States Air Force.

Fox was not on the original list of applicants to fill the Nilges resignation vacancy.  Sort of duplicated earlier this year when Jeff Wendorf surfaced from out-of-the-blue to become North Canton City Schools superintendent earlier this year.

Must be a uniquely North Canton thing, no?

Here is the list of applicants with no

To say it one more time: out-of-nowhere, Fox, elected as a councilman in Ward 3 in November, 2011, at the behest of Peters, jettisoned to the top the list that he was not originally part of.

In the time before the selection of Fox, the SCPR thought that North Canton Council was among the better councils among Alliance, Canton, Massillon and North Canton being Stark County's major cities.

But the Fox hire presaged a marked change of attitude and approach that now has North Canton being in the assessment of the SCPR the worst Stark County major municipality city council in terms of its relationship with everyday citizens who have the audacity to question North Canton governance.

In North Canton, only those who "come to praise Caesar" are welcome with open arms.


To repeat, because Dan Griffith was part of the committee of council who orchestrated the Fox hire, one had to be just tad nervous that as Finance Committee chair he headed up the hiring of a replacement for retiring finance director Karen Alger.

At first blush, the Laura Brown hiring was done in an environment in which there was "real" competition for the position.

For one thing, Brown actually publicly applied for the position of finance director.

However, there is a reasonable basis to think that maybe the Brown hiring may not be all that different from the Fox hiring.

Reason #1 would be the failure of the Griffith led effort to include Stark County commissioner Budget and Management Director Chris Nichols (eminently qualified as far as the SCPR is concerned by virtue of his outstanding performance on-the-job) as among the three of 19 applicants to get an interview.

Reason #2 would be the fact that Laura Brown had done finance work for North Canton about a year ago and therefore had an insurmountable advantage for landing the job and that the apparent consideration of two others was just that:  "apparent," but not real.

Reason #3 would be Mayor David Held telephoning the SCPR (last week) with a seeming public relations pump on the Brown hiring.

A key difference in comparing the Fox/Brown hirings however was the willingness of Councilman Griffith to talk with the SCPR on Friday for about 20 minutes about the details of the Brown hiring process.

Griffith agreed:
  • that Nichols is a superlative Stark County budget and management director but said that his experience was not in the judgment of the committee screening the finance director hire (Councilpersons Griffith, Peters and Werren along with a Stark County auditor employee [Michael Minor, a CPA] and a former Bruner Cox partner: Ronald Manse now Director of Economic Alliances at Walsh University),
But said that he did not agree with the SCPR insination that Brown's past work gave her an inside track to land the directorship and that the other  two interviewed candidates were merely window dressing for a predetermined hire as The Report thinks was the case in the Fox hire.

A persuasive marker for Griffith's point to counter The Report's suspicions of predetermination is that the committee held a second round of interviews.  Three of the applicants made the first cut.  Brown and Barbara Markland (Tuslaw Schools treasurer) made the final round of the two round interview process.

No such openness has been forthcoming from Peters on the Fox hiring.

Hopefully, Griffith's apparent transparency is a positive omen for more a democratic-republican values consistent evolution on the part of  some North Canton City Council members.  P eters, Kiesling and Werren are not likely to be part of such a trend, if the Griffith interview is at all indicative of a change taking place.

Everybody the SCPR has talked with agrees:  Laura Brown was "top notch" as a candidate.

Moreover, SCPR is familiar with Brown's financial/accounting prowess from her work as a state of Ohio official on the Massillon Financial Planning and Supervision Commission.

Here is a video exceRpt of Brown from one of those meetings.

The SCPR's model is to be skeptical of anyone who is uncritically acclaimed as Brown appears to be.

However, there are a few Stark County political subdivision elected and unelected officials whose performance merits the praise the receive.

Former primer auditor for the city of Canton Gary Young comes to mind.

As do elected officials Thomas Bernabei (mayor of Canton), Alan Harold (Stark County auditor), Alex Zumbar (Stark County treasurer), Edmond Mack (Canton city councilman) and others on the SCPR "Top 10" Stark County Political Subdivision Elected Officials list.

Notwithstanding the aforementioned elected officials excellence, they have from time-to-time been subjects of SCPR critical blogs.

So time will tell with Brown.


A major indicator of her excellence will be how she handles her relationship with Fox.

Undoubtedly, in one fashion or another Fox will try to dominate Brown as "the" key factor in North Canton government.

What the SCPR cannot assess from Brown's work in the Massillon Financial Planning and Supervision Commission is her strength of personality in the face of Fox-like bullying.

Of course, the critical factor in her holding or ground with Fox will be the vibes she gets from council as a whole.

For the betterment of North Canton government/citizen relationship, citizen have to be hoping that she proves to be one person in North Canton administration who is not in thrall to Law Director Tim Fox!



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