Wednesday, July 19, 2017


UPDATED:  11:16 AM


Canton Law Director
Joe Martuccio
Pleads for $50,000 More in His Budget


Finance Chairman John Mariol
to the


Citizen Pete DiGiacomo
Martuccio Request

One can be sure that Canton mayor Thomas Bernabei would like nothing better than to come out full bore in favor of Law Director Joe Martuccio getting $50,000 added to the law department's annual operating budget.

Watch Martuccio's plea at Monday night's (July 17, 2017) council meeting.

For one thing, Martuccio likely is law director today because he received the blessing or former law director Thomas Bernabei some 17 years ago when he gave up the position.

For another thing, Martuccio was among the first high ranking Canton city officials to come out for Bernabei in 2015 when Bernabei announced that he was abandoning the Stark County Democratic Party to become a political "independent" to take on third-term-seeking-Democrat William J. Healy, II for the mayorship of Canton.

But Bernabei sat back and watched on Monday as Martuccio twisted in the political winds of Canton City Council as members were seemingly at a loss as how to accommodate Canton's long time law director in light of the 2017 projected shortfall expenditures over revenues leaving about Three-Thousand-Dollars to carryover to 2018.

In the video Martuccio's main finances-based justification for council to act on his request was his office's highly successful negotiation with utilities proving utility service to Canton government and a resultant claimed by Martuccio savings to Canton of "hundreds of thousand of dollars, if not a million, in utility costs to Canton over the next several years.

There is a problem with this justification.

Finance director Mark Crouse tells the SCPR that it is likely that whatever revenues show up in Canton financial portfolio will likely be deposits into Canton's enterprise fund (users pay) operations and very little if any into Canton's general fund.

Hence the struggle on the part of council to find funding with which to fund the hiring of a new lawyer in the law department.

Director Martuccio points out to the SCPR that his staff provides legal services to several Canton enterprise fund operations and therefore there is justification from his perspective of tapping those funds as a means of financing the $50,000 he has asked for.

The better argument for saving Canton's stressed finances money was his expressed reluctance to hire out to private legal counsel on a project-by-project basis at $200 per hour which—compared at about $50,000 to support an additional in-house hire—would get Canton only 250 hours of legal work contrasted to about 2,080 added capability for an in-house hire.

Watch finance committee chairman John Mariol (Ward 7 Democrat) as he responds to a Stark County Political Report query on Martuccio's request.

I asked the mayor to weigh in on the matter post-council-work-session.

He declined saying that restoring $50,000 of a 2017 law department reduction of $90,000 was a council matter and not an administration matter.

In all due respect to the mayor whom I have cited as being "far and away" Stark County's most capable most disciplined and most future calculating government leader; I believe that the mayor has likely weighed-in "off-the-record."

I can't get anybody to say it, but I think Bernabei has told council leaders privately that restoring the $50,000 would send a message to the rest of general fund funded departments of government that their respective reductions in budget are "elastic" and one can override the fiscal discipline that the mayor has instituted by in effect going over his head and pleading with council as Martuccio did on Monday.

You can bet your bottom dollar that Martuccio absolutely hated to be doing so on Monday especially in light of Bernabei being his mentor and political benefactor.  However, he does say that he thinks the $90,000 or so cut was disproportional to cuts made to other general fund funded departments of Canton government.

It appears that council under Mariol's finance committee chairmanship will find a way to muster up the $50,000 so that the law department can be better positioned to deal with the massive infusion of legal work that has inundated the department over the past year or so.

Yesterday, the SCPR reported in a third blog on a continuing series on the headache that Canton has on its hand with the recent revelation of a Rover pipeline contaminated (with diesel fuel) drilling mud spill near Canton's most vital financial/economic resource that being its abundant water supply and a concern that the contamination could potentially leach into that supply.

The law department is devoting hours and hours of its in-short-supply "time" resources to ensure in a legal monitoring context that Canton is protected by state (OhoEPA) and federal (FERC) regulators and, alternatively, to set Canton up to recover from the perpetrator of the spill losses that Canton might incur as a consequence of the spill.

Beside the Rover pipeline matter, there are other more or less unexpected matters that require large time expenditures in legal analysis.

One such major item is the complexity of working with Pro Football Hall of Fame officials in working out financial (i.e. special sales tax district) and property matters for the $700/$800 million dollars "Village" project that was announced a couple of years ago.

And then there are items like the desire of council to weigh in on the president's announced intention to withdraw America from the Paris Climate Accords.

Martuccio says that because of the influx of work generally he has had putting together a legally appropriate resolution/ordinance on the backburner.

It appears that council will at its July 31st meeting come up with a way to finance a new lawyer position in the Canton law department.

Sometimes citizens do not see the ramifications of deficit budgets in concrete terms.

Here is a video of Citizen Pete DiGiacomo at Monday's meeting.

He seems to think that it is relatively easy for Mariol et al to find a mere $50,000 out of a $50,000 million plus annual budget.

But it isn't

Lurking in the background of this is the stir caused by Stark County clerk of courts Louis Giavasis in a recent Facebook post that he has been encouraged by dozens of Cantonians to challenge Bernabei's continuation beyond 2019, should he decide to run.

While I think Giavasis is doing a Donald Trump in terms of engaging excessive, braggadocio talk, Cantonians who care about the long term welfare of Canton government should take the Giavasis threat seriously.

Ward 9 councilman Frank Morris (majority leader [only Democrats hold council positions in Canton]) has come out of the political closet to endorse Giavasis more than two years before the election.

Giavasis said he would provide the SCPR other names.

To-date, nothing.  Hmmm?  Why is Giavais hiding those names?

Just as it appears that Trump is plunging America into the dark ages of politics and government, I think Louis Giavasis as mayor would be a complete reversal of all the very, very,very difficult fiscal discipline and responsibility work that Mayor Bernabei has instituted.

Louis Giavasis as mayor of Canton would be a return to the days of William J. Healy, II, if not worse.

Of course, it was on Phil Giavasis watch as Dems' Stark County chair that Bernabei bolted to "independent" status in order to take on Healy.

Maybe a little revenge factor at play with Louis' threat to run against Bernabei?

Maybe, just maybe, no?

One of the touchstones of effective fiscal work is sustainability of whatever financial obligations a government takes on.

"Sustainability, " in a word, is the most significant factor of John Mariol's uttered words in the above-presented video.

The SCPR applauds Canton council under Mariol's leadership in vetting the continuing financial viability of granting Law Director Martuccio's work.

When council acts to approve Martuccio's request, members should make it clear that council fully support the Bernabei instituted fiscal austerity and that the law department deviation is merited by an infusion of unforeseen legal work into the law department's operations.

This blog is the first in a series in which the SCPR will be taking a detailed look at Canton's financial picture.

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