Thursday, June 15, 2017


UPDATED:  11:50 AM & 2:10 PM




I could not believe what I was hearing.

A source was telling me that on the presumption that North Canton City Council approves two proposed agreements (one with the North Canton Board of Education [NCCS-BOE]; the other with North Ridge Place, LLC [a company owned by North Canton-based developers William Lemmon and Robert DeHoff) that NCCS superintendent Jeff Wendorf would be signing the agreement with North Canton's city government without obtaining school board approval.

As one who writes blogs like I do, I always endeavor to talk with folks who definitely know the answer to a given question.

In this case, the question is will North Canton superintendent of schools sign a North Canton government (i.e. city council) approved agreement without first having obtained NCCS BOE approval.

As seen in the lead graphic in this blog, the answer is an emphatic "no!"

There can be a problem between media and political and governmental figures getting straight answers like that provided by Superintendent Wendorf

Some political figures and public officials (elected and appointed) think they are unaccountable to the public/media and refuse to respond.

And here is the kicker.

They frequently have no basis in law for not answering the questions.

On Wednesday of this week, the American public saw/read an example of the "refuse to respond" modality at the hand of United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions (the nation's premier "rule of law" enforcer) as he testified before the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee without any legal basis for refusing.  No asserting of executive privilege, just "stonewalling."

And before that intelligence officials Coats and Rogers did the same thing.  Coates even admitted that he was without any legal basis for refusing to answer

Such clearly sounds like these officials think that the USA and by implication the states and their political subdivisions are governments conducted according to the standards of men (i.e. which public officials themselves concoct) rather than standards that are in accordance with the rule of law.

At least, Rogers did testify on the matters in a closed session.  But, bottom line on the "closed" session testimony, only a select few know the answers to questions that ought to be in the public domain.

I think North Canton law director Tim Fox operates under the Sessions/Coats/Rogers standard.

In the latest chapter (within the last few days) of giving citizens a hard time getting public records, Fox gave a North Canton citizen a hard time getting a copy of the proposed agreement referred to above as same has to do with North Ridge Place, LLC.  Eventually that citizen had to secure the record from another source.

North Canton City Council bears full responsibility for Fox and his five years, by and large, of antagonistic attitude towards any North Canton citizen who questions his action and/or that of North Canton City Council and the Mayor David Held administration.

Every once in awhile Held will override Fox, but very rarely.

From the get-go of his being appointed law director in September, 2012, Tim Fox has been hostile to The Stark County Political Report.

In my very first exchange with him, he let be known how "tough" he is.

Undoubtedly, the reason for his defensiveness and belligerence in relation to me is my law background as a 41 year professional and his feeling highly insecure having to answer the questions from somebody who is not in awe of "the big bad city attorney."

He is not the only Stark County official/public figure who is wary of this blog and my no-nonsense pursuit of public official accountability.

Former Canton mayor William J. Healy, II once demanded that I turn the SCPR camera off as I questioned him about the-then Stark County commissioners Thomas Bernabei (who went on to unseat Healy in the November, 2015 general election) having filed with the Stark County Board of Elections as an independent candidate for mayor.

 Of course, Hell will freeze over first before anything like that would happen with the SCPR.

The Stark County Board of Elections once refused to allow me to videotape that body's meetings.

Kudos to Stephanie Ujhelyi of the Alliance Review for supporting my right to videotape those meetings.

It was very telling that The Repository reporter covering the board at the time uttered nary a word in protest nor did The Repository editorial board offer any support of my right or any citizen's right to videotape a public meeting and to fully engage public officials.

Consequently, I take The Repository's rhetoric on Sunshine Week, which is celebrated in March of each year, as being just that:  mere "rhetoric" and therefore to be taken as a obligatory "a grain of salt" in terms of "where the rubber meets the road" in supporting citizen/journalist and government official interaction except, of course, when the journalist is a Rep employee.

That is the price Stark Countians pay for living in a community like so many which dot the American landscape as a "one newspaper town."

All I can say on the matter of folks like North Canton law director Fox being unresponsive to inquiry is:  "what does he and his fellow cowardly public officials have to hide?

Apparently, quite a bit.

But in the experience of the SCPR, not the North Canton City Schools.

The SCPR compliments North Canton City Schools Todd Tolson for his quick and thorough response to my inquiry as to the financial impact of the proposed agreements (implemented or ultimately failed) on the NCCS.

Here is of my questions and Tolson's answers:

SCPR questions:
On Tue, Jun 13, 2017 at 11:18 AM, Martin Olson <> wrote 
Treasurer Tolson, 
Please provide me with data on the effect (or an approximation thereof) of North Canton city government's granting of a real property tax abatement on North Ridge Place in the following contexts: 
If there ends up no agreement between the city, schools and North Ridge Place LLC,
If the current proposed agreement on a 50% clawback is agreed to and fully implemented. 
Note:  I understand that there is likely to be appraisal re-evaluation going forward (3/5 year intervals) so I am asking for an approximation. 
Also, I am hearing that there is talk within the North Canton administration/Board of Education of either a tax or bond issue in November, 2017. 
Are these reports accurate? 
If so, what are the alternatives being discussed? 
Thank you, 
Martin Olson
Stark County Political Report
Treasurer Tolson's answers:

Tolson, Todd <>  Jun 14 at 8:15 AM... 
Mr. Olson, 
In the North Ridge Place CRA's current status, the North Canton City School District has foregone $126,296.68 for tax years 2014-2016. If there were to be no change in the CRA, and we use the last year of calculations with no increase over the duration, the total loss would equate to approximately $507,000. If the 50% goes into effect, we would recoup and generate new revenue of approximately $253,500. In the event the CRA is deemed to be illegal, the district would recoup the entire $507,000. 
As you mentioned, these numbers will definitely fluctuate over the years based on county auditor triennial updates and sexennial revaluations. We believe we have positioned ourselves to be in a no lose situation should the CRA stay in place. 
In regards to an upcoming tax issue this November, it is my understanding that a Resolution of Necessity will be on this month's Board of Education agenda. The need would be for a bond/facility and operating issue. 
Todd Tolson  
We all know that the NCCS are first rate as are the schools in my home area of Lake Township.  Lake school officials were not happy campers when they learned Jeff Wendorf was moving on from Lake to North Canton in March, 2016.

From the schools' standpoint, undoubtedly one would think, officials would like to have every dollar voted for in the past by North Cantonians specifically for schools.

For there is talk as the next Ohio biennium budget is nearing finalization that Ohio officials (i.e. the Legislature) are considering removing another $20 million from public education.

But "that horse is out of the barn."

Cities like North Canton have been empowered by that same Legislature who might take $20 million from Ohio public schools in the 2018-19 budget biennium to redirect 50% of previously voted property taxes for schools to abatement of those taxes for commercial enterprises who engage in economic development projects.

That's what North Canton government did to the NCCS  vis-a-vis North Ridge Place, LLC, apparently, with anybody knowing about it in 2012, if one believes past/present council members and the mayor that lack of knowledge was the order of the day.

You have seen what Treasurer Tolson says about the financial impact on the schools.

The SCPR is told that the four North Canton citizens who have filed appeals to the North Canton are not going to be intimidated by North Canton City Council and plan on continuing on their legal remedies in hopes that the abatement will be invalidated by Ohio courts.

As the SCPR sees it, if the four them, or any one of them, succeed, the NCCS will not recover the dollars already lost (nor will North Canton city government) but of course the NCCS will be restored to the full stream of revenue from the effective date of any invalidation order.

However, litigation is always chancy in outcome and sometimes requires multiple appeals which bring sizable legal fees with them.

If the appeals fail, then the agreements will be in full effect and the schools will realize 50% of the abated revenues.

The NCCS have to be thinking that "a bird in hand" is better than hoping for "two in the bushes."

Some have been highly critical of the schools for not carrying the fight to the bitter end.

The quarrel in the opinion of the SCPR should not be with school officials but rather with the lack of effective "check and balance" procedures on the abatement granting processes of North Canton government to ensure that abatements have community support (consent of the governed) and therefore legitimate (in terms of public support) for North Canton's council to enact.

It is quite possible that given the opportunity, the North Canton general public would have clearly signaled council whether or not the North Ridge Place abatements had the support the city's citizenry.

That there was no such opportunity for  accountability/"check and balance" mechanism in place in North Canton in the 2012 grant of a 100% real property tax (70% of which goes to the schools; 12% of which goes to the city).

Now the city is scrambling to cobble together agreements in a salvage operation to undo the harm that is said to have been done to North Canton City Schools finances on account of an alleged illegal 100%  "'new' residential construction" abatement (50% is the maximum by Ohio/North Canton law unless the schools agree to more when the to be abated realty is commercially zoned property, (as I understand same) regarding the North Ridge Place, LLC abatement.

Law Director Fox is reported to have told North Canton City Council members that the abatement as originally formulated by the city is legal.

In September, 2016, Superintendent Wendorf attended a city council meeting and engaged North Canton City Council and specifically members Griffith, Kiesling and Werren on abatements granted by the city under the auspicious of Ohio Community Reinvestment Area (CRA) law.

The SCPR has video of the dialogue.

In tomorrow's installment, I will include video footage of the exchange.

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