Monday, November 25, 2013

Why is the North Canton Law Director Allowed to Intimidate Citizens and Dominate All Dialog at City Council Meetings?


Prepared Comments Made to
November 25, 2013 

            As most everyone in this room is aware, North Canton City Council is made up of seven elected representatives. Members of City Council are elected from each of the City’s four wards and three at-Large council members are elected by the voters citywide. 

            Anyone in attendance at a North Canton City Council meeting of yesteryear would be totally at a loss to explain the transformation of a North Canton City Council meeting of today.  

            As a member of North Canton City Council in the early part of the last decade (2001-2003), I would like to contrast the transformation I have witnessed in how City Council meetings have changed in this short time.  

In the good old days, as I would call them, citizens were allowed to speak at the start and conclusion of all four Monday night council meetings. Citizens were welcomed and their input on any issue they desired was heard without time limits or intimidation. 

            Today, that is not the case as citizens are time-limited and can only speak on alternating Monday night council meetings and only at the outset of a Council meeting. Council members show little interest in what residents have to say and disparage citizens after they have spoken. 

            Many times I have seen citizens attend a City Council meeting hoping to address their Council representatives in an open forum only to discover that their interest in the process of government occurred on the wrong Monday night meeting of Council. This happened to a resident last week when she was denied a chance to speak openly at last week’s public Council meeting on an issue under discussion by Council. 

            And of course, residents of the City who pick the correct Monday night meeting to address North Canton City Council will run headlong into North Canton’s new Law Director, Tim Fox, when their five minutes are up.  

Are we paying Mr. Fox the salary he is paid to be a timekeeper and to intimidate citizens of North Canton? 

            Why is Law Director Fox dominating nearly all the dialog on issues before City Council? 

This is not how North Canton City Council meetings were conducted in the good old days! 

            Mr. Snyder, you are the President of City Council. It is your responsibility to conduct City Council meetings. I am at a loss to explain how or why you have chosen to allow the City’s Law Director to take control of council meetings.  

The same question applies to the rest of the members of City Council. 

Mr. Fox is NOT an elected representative of the voters of North Canton.  

            Law Directors in the good old days only spoke at City Council meetings when their legal expertise was requested. Law Director Fox should not be making policy and dominating discussions that come before Council. Many of you have seen how past Law Directors conducted themselves: Roy Batista, Tom Treadon, Randy McFarren, Paul Pusateri, and Hans Nilges.  

North Canton Law Director Fox is out of control and his interferences during the meeting and domination of dialog on issues needs to come to an end. 

Switching topics, I would like to address two pieces of legislation that are to be voted on tonight.
            In regards to the proposed tax abatement for Insight Realty, LLC:

Mr. Snyder, at the end of last week’s meetings you announced that North Canton needed “revenue enhancement” and that you plan to recommend a Park Levy be placed on the ballot for North Canton taxpayers to consider next year. 

In light of the fact that citizens have heard all year long of the City’s financial plight and now your intention to place a Park Levy on the ballot in 2014, how can you justify a tax abatement for 15 years for Insight Realty, LLC? And to boot, Councilmember Mark Cerreta says that the intended recipients of the real property tax exemption already has a substantial presence in North Canton.  

Knowing the City’s financial plight and now knowing your intentions to ask taxpayers to support a new tax levy for City Parks while at the same time moving ahead with a tax exemption to Insight Reality is insulting to the citizens of North Canton. 

Ordinance No. 70-13 should be voted down.  

Lastly, I would like to address aspects of Ordinance No. 80-13 that propose to retitle the position of Chief Operator – Water Treatment Plant to Superintendent – Drinking Water Plant with a sizable increase in salary for the new position. 

For several years now, one half of the salaries of the City Administrator and the City Engineer have been paid out of the Water Fund. I seriously doubt that Mr. Grimes and Mr. Benekos spend half of their time on water issues. 

Paying general fund expenses out of enterprise water funds I believe is illegal. But assuming that the two highest paid City officials, the City Administrator and City Engineer, do indeed spend one-half of their time on water related issues, as their pay would indicate, why do the City’s taxpayers need to fund yet another high-paid position to deal with water issues, titled Superintendent – Water Treatment Plant? 

Ordinance No. 80-13 needs to be reworked and I would urge that it be tabled. Keep the present title of Chief Operator – Water Treatment Plant. There is no reason to create another high level position in water that will be filled with yet another patronage appointment by the Mayor. 

Thank you,
Chuck Osborne, Resident
City of North Canton





Monday, November 11, 2013

Political Patronage and Cronyism Alive and Thriving as North Canton Searches for Water Superintendent

Prepared Comments Made to
November 11, 2013 

            Since June of this year, the Held Administration has known that its long-time Water Superintendent was going to retire at the end of October leaving a vacancy that cannot be filled by just anyone off the street. Rich Steinhebel, the recently retired water superintendent had all the necessary water certifications to hold the position and many years of experience in the operation of a water treatment plant as well as in water distribution. Mr. Steinhebel was a hands-on working head of the City’s Water Treatment Plant. 

            One would think that over the last four months the Held Administration would be doing a publicized search for an individual with all the necessary qualifications but apparently that has not been the case. 

            Last week, while I was in attendance at a hearing before the Ohio Elections Commission in Columbus, of all places, I learned that Mayor Held had offered the top position, of what I would call North Canton’s Water Czar, to local attorney Warren Price. 

            Mayor Held, how does an attorney, with no certifications or experience in water treatment and water distribution merit consideration, let alone an offer of employment, as North Canton’s Water Czar?
            And Mr. Snyder, I must ask you the same thing as you were the one who broke the news to all of us at the Elections Commission when you approached attorney Warren Price alleging that Mr. Price had a conflict of interest and should recuse himself as the attorney  for Jamie McCleaster and Hillary Mueller. You stated that City Council was writing the job description for the position so Mr. Price could fill the vacancy as Superintendent. 

            Prior to the hearing before the Elections Commission, Mr. Price confirmed to all of us in attendance that he indeed had been approached by Mayor David Held and had been offered the position but that he, Mr. Price, had declined the offer some weeks earlier.  

The ploy to scare off legal representation for Mr. McCleaster and Mrs. Mueller failed. Mr. Price remained as their attorney.  

Sorry to say, but despite the unequivocal denial by Mr. Price that he had declined Mayor Held’s offer of the position, it was disheartening to watch the President of North Canton City Council Snyder continue to insist in the hearing that Warren Price had accepted the position. It appeared to me that the President of North Canton City Council was questioning the veracity of Mr. Price.  

If Mr. Price were indeed about to be confirmed as North Canton’s Water Czar, why would Mr. Price have agreed to represent Mr. McCleaster and Mrs. Mueller against you and Mrs. Kiesling?  

Mr. Snyder, why would you continue to question his integrity?  

Mrs. Kiesling, as Vice-President of City Council, I ask: Are you comfortable that the Administration would offer the Water Superintendent’s position to an individual with no technical expertise in water?  

I was further disheartened to watch Mr. Snyder waffle under oath during the hearing and proclaim he was unable to confirm for the Elections Commission his very own words from a recording of a North Canton City Council meeting.  

If the Held Administration and the highest ranking officials of North Canton City Council are not questioning the process of filling the critically important position of Water Superintendent for the City of North Canton, who is? 

When is North Canton going to implement improved hiring best practices when filling high level positions in the City?  

Why isn’t there a search process written into the city’s personnel procedures that outline the proper way in which high-level leadership positions are to be filled in the city?  

Why aren’t individuals expected to be technically qualified for the position they are offered? 

Why is the employment process in North Canton always cloaked in secrecy? 

Mayor Held, there is no manner of transparency and accountability in cronyism.  

Cronyism should not be the accepted method to finding qualified individuals to fill high-level leadership positions in the City of North Canton.  

Most certainly it is not a way to fill such a critically important position as North Canton’s Water Superintendent. 

North Canton leadership must do better than this!

Thank you,
Chuck Osborne, Resident
City of North Canton