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