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News Stories and Events for 2014

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CLAYPOOL VOWS TO UPHOLD OHIO REVISED CODE AND THE OHIO CONSTITUTION
Published December 29, 2014

In the presence of a packed room of observers, Walter “Skip” Claypool was sworn in as one of two Commissioners elected in November 2014. Following a prayer presented by Pastor Sanders of Newbury's Doers of the Word Church, outgoing State Representative, Matthew Lynch, administered the Oath of Office as Claypool rested his right hand upon a Bible belonging to his grandmother. Attendees were quick to voice approval of both the prayer and the completion of the oath by Claypool. In a brief statement following his swearing-in, Claypool emphasized his solemn commitment to upholding the tenets of Ohio Revised Code and the U.S. Constitution. He admonished those elected officials who utter their allegiance to both ORC and the U.S. Constitution but then demonstrate by their actions their disregard for either or both. Claypool concluded by inviting those in attendance to a get-together immediately following the swearing-in at Cleats in Munson.


SPIDALIERI RESPONDS TO SCHOOL SURVEY WITH RENEWED DEMAND FOR OUSTER OF JIM ADAMS
Published December 11, 2014

In a post-meeting epilogue which exceeded the length of the regular Commissioners' meeting, Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri shared the contents of a school survey prepared by a Georgia company slated to be administered to Geauga County students starting Friday, December 12. He vowed to intervene with a court order if necessary to prevent administration of the survey to students and read a letter to be sent to new director of Geauga County Job and Family Services, Craig Swenson, to serve “as an official complaint” to open an official investigation as to why the survey has been administered at least twice to students in such school systems as Chardon and West Geauga.

Having fielded about thirty phone calls from distraught parents yesterday, Spidalieri stated his need to attend the Geauga County Board of Mental Health meeting last evening, accompanied by Commissioner-elect Walter “Skip” Claypool and about ten other individuals who were able to prevail with the members of the Board of Mental Health and postpone the distribution of the test at least until after the January public meeting of the board. Spidalieri and Claypool, also in attendance at the Commissioner meeting, expressed revulsion that members of the Board of Mental Health had not read the survey because its distribution was the direct result of decisions by Board of Mental Health Director, Jim Adams, without the knowledge or the approval of members of the board. Further, Spidalieri asserted that he had been in contact with the survey's creator, who attested that “the worse the results, the more [grant] money can be received.”

Attached you will find the actual survey, as it has been presented to public school students in Geauga County in three-year cycles, this year being the third cycle for some school systems. Please watch the video, as well, and note the level of concern and engagement by those in attendance, including Skip Claypool.

GEAUGA COUNTY COMMISSIONERS UNANIMOUSLY APPOINT CRAIG SWENSON AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF JOB AND FAMILY SERVICES
Published December 4, 2014

Tuesday, November 24, 2014, Geauga Commissioners and Commissioner-Elect Claypool interviewed five well-qualified candidates to succeed Tim Taylor, who resigned earlier in the fall, from Job and Family Services. On Tuesday, December 2, after a very brief executive session, Commissioners Samide, Rear, and Spidalieri unanimously selected Craig Swenson to become the Executive Director of Job and Family Services at a rate of $35.11 per hour.

Mr. Clinton, formerly of the Geauga County Prosecutor's Office, came on board at JFS about one month before Mr. Taylor's retirement. He has been described as a man of passion and integrity, a model family man. His duties as Executive Director began on December 2.

DANGERS OF PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSE: A Program Presented for Geauga County Residents by The United Way, the Geauga County Board of Mental Health and Recovery Services, and Ravenwood Mental Health Center on October 28, 2014
Published November 4, 2014

Robert J. Hill, Executive Assistant at the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration,
spent the entire day October 28 at the Educational Center at Notre Dame in Munson, Ohio. Mr. Hill is a special Drug Enforcement Administration Agent who presented first to area safety forces and then gave another presentation to residents from 7PM until 9:30 PM.

Please view the video to understand why more people die from overdoses of meds prescribed by medical professionals than from heroin/cocaine addiction. You may be shocked.



THE OCTOBER 30, 2014, QUARTERLY NORTHEAST OHIO TOWNSHIP ASSOCIATION MEETING HOSTED BY SAGAMORE HILLS TRUSTEES
Published October 30. 2014

Preceded by a generous social hour to create networking, the presentation began about 7:45 P.M.
Introduced by Sagamore Police Chief/Administrator Hayes, Larry Borodkin, a psychologist from
Pradco, gave a presentation about the importance of offering pre-hire evaluations to measure, for instance, competency, leadership, law enforcement suitability, firefighter suitability, and emotional intelligence: “When there are multiple people in a role the most important behaviors required for success can be identified by testing current employees. By determining what top performers have in common and what differentiates them from less effective performers, you know better what behaviors are most important.”

One of the most important reasons for using a testing format to determine the most suitable candidate for a municipal position is to eliminate selection of candidates that fall into “the good old boy” network, otherwise traditionally known as patronage.

The accompanying video captures the entire presentation of Larry Borodkin, who can be contacted at Pradco at 178 East Washington Street, Chagrin Falls, Ohio 44022, 440-337-4680, or at www.pradco.com/


JUDGE TIM GRENDELL SETS THE RECORD STRAIGHT FOR CRITICS ABOUT 2014 GEAUGA PARK DISTRICT AFFAIRS/ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Published September 18, 2014

Those who arrived at West Woods Park for an announced 6:30 presentation about the GPD by Probate Court Judge Timothy Grendell found the property without electricity amid rumors that hecklers might attempt to prevent the presentation. Not knowing when electricity might be returned to the area, which suffered a fire to a transformer at routes 306 and 87, Geauga TEA Party officials decided to hold the presentation at an open pavilion to take advantage of remaining daylight. The program began about 7 PM with video cameras recording both the presentation and the demeanor of the attendees. Although attendees at the outset appeared to number about 40, there were close to 75 by the time Grendell finished his presentation about 8 PM, as the last rays of the sun faded and the temperature dipped precipitously.

Judge Grendell, who appeared to be having a great deal of fun, had prepared a written outline and worked his way through several issues that have found their way into several letters to the editor intended to discredit both Grendell and the Geauga Park District Commissioners. Grendell, always in the best of form when he has the opportunity to discuss Ohio Revised Code, was able to explain recent GPD actions in terms of ORC 1545.06.1545.07, 1545.11, and 5705. Citing a 1978 Geauga County event wherein the Budget Commission did not certify8 a tax levy, as well as the authority of the Geauga County Budget Commission under ORC 5705.27, Grendell presented actions of the previous Geauga County Park Commission, whose members benefited from lucrative land purchases by the Geauga Park District, thereby interfering with these members' objectivity. One of the former GPD Commissioners, an officer of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, reportedly was influential in causing the GPD to pay administrative fees to the WRLC. In short, a few well connected individuals were able to steer the spending of public tax moneys for their own self-interest.

Judge Grendell cited further improprieties with regard to the administration of property belonging to the late Mr. and Mrs. Felkin. In that case, personal property belonging to the Felkins was improperly distributed, while apparently depriving a legal heir of her portion of the Felkin estate.

Mr. Lou Mucci, a current GPD Commissioner, was on hand to assure those in attendance that the Geauga Park District, in spite of its expenses, would finish out 2015 with a surplus of $5.4 million on December 31, 2015.

Although several individuals from the Democratic Party and from activist groups have advocated passive use of public park land (objecting to children's play equipment), there were no voiced objections, no heckling, and no attempts to disrupt the meeting. Perhaps the necessity of holding the meeting outdoors, the encroaching darkness, and the crisply cool temperatures were able to cool down the recent rash of allegedly irrational anti-Grendell comments. Some have attributed the intensity of these comments to people who dislike the wave of change and egalitarianism that seem to be sweeping through Geauga County government in general and the Geauga Park District in particular.

Watch the video. Let Judge Timothy Grendell explain in his own inimitable style. Be prepared to enjoy the lesson.


CHAIRPERSON OF THE GEAUGA COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS IS PUBLICALLY CHARGED WITH VIOLATION OF FEDERAL COPYRIGHT LAW
Published August 29, 2014

At the August 29, 2014, public meeting of the Geauga County Board of Elections, Chairperson Janet Carson was addressed by two separate entities demanding that copyrighted material unfairly and illegally used by Carson be immediately removed from a website registered to her. Board Vice-Chair Edward Ryder, former head of the Geauga County Republican Party, and a liaison to Ohio Secretary of State. Jon Husted, were witnessed to be taking copious notes in response to oral testimony submitted by the two entities whose personal property has been pirated by Janet Carson.

After an hour-plus executive session the Board of Elections invited both parties to present information during the New Business segment of the public meeting. Patricia J. Rullo, moderator and owner of the nationally-syndicated radio program, Speak Up and Stay Alive, a program dedicated to the medical rights and responsibilities of medical patients, aired locally on WHK 1420 AM, WHKW 1220 am, and WHKZ 1440 AM, addressed the actions of Chairperson Carson as unethical and calling into question the ability of the Geauga County Board of Elections to conduct an unbiased and untarnished election. In a prepared written statement which she read and presented to the Geauga County Board of Elections, she labeled her appearance and request as “the final action” before a legal course of action undertaken by personal counsel. The second party, www.auburntownship.org, a civic entity owned by Thomas and Diane Jones of A Wind in the Woods Farm in Auburn Township, also made the request that Janet Carson remove all reference to a video recording of a May 2013 Geauga County Commissioner meeting in which a Geauga County individual's public comment has been taken out of context with the intent to misrepresent content. Both parties described the lack of response from Carson to the parties when she was contacted. The Joneses stipulated that Carson has been non-responsive to a certified mailing that was delivered to Carson's residence at 8860 Apple Hill Road, Bainbridge, Ohio, on August 20.

Both parties, while courteous and polite, have indicated their willingness to pursue other remedies offered by the Ohio Elections Commission and federal code should the Geauga County Board of Elections be unable or unwilling to effect a proper and ethical course of behavior on the part of Chairperson Carson.


PROBATE COURT JUDGE TIM GRENDELL CONVENES CHESTER PARK BOARD MEETING TO HEAR FINDINGS OF MASTER COMMISSIONER MARY JANE TRAPP
Published August 25, 2014

A meeting tonight in the Chester Fire Department building brought the attendance of present and former Chester Trustees, Chester Park Commission members, political candidate Joe Lanese for the 76th Ohio House of Representatives, as well as sitting judges Timothy Grendell and Terri Stupica, and former Eleventh District Court of Appeals Justice Mary Jane Trapp, appointed as Master Commissioner under Ohio Revised Code 2106 to issue findings on questions that arose earlier in 2014 about the legitimacy of the Chester Park Board Commission.

Ms. Trapp's findings, issued in part as a 93-page summary, included interviews of original members of the Geauga Park Board, authorized under Geauga County Probate Court case number 84PC139. As explained by Judge Grendell, the Probate Court hearing was initiated at 6 PM this evening at Probate Court in Chardon and was transferred to the Chester Fire Department at 7 PM, to be completed at 7 AM tomorrow morning at Chardon Probate Court. Several video cameras simultaneously recorded the events for posterity.

Ms. Trapp reported her gratitude to all the Chester individuals who opened books, offices, and reports so that the documentation could proceed. She explained that the original Chester Park Board was formed with the bequest of Parkside by resident David Hudson to Chester Township so that the township could provide a place for township residents to enjoy recreation. She reported that her findings clearly demonstrate the paramount importance of Parkside to the community and the pride that Chester residents take in the parcel.

In spite of the importance of the parcel to the Chester community, it is clear, according to Ms. Trapp, that there is a lack of understanding about the legal status of the park district. The original park commissioners were appointed by Probate Court under ORC 1545 so that the entity would be totally separate and independent from township politics. Although originally authorized to function on inside township millage, which was increased to ,9 mills in 1992, the Chester Park District was stripped of all financial funding by Chester Trustees in 2002, thereby necessitating financial assistance from the trustees for every project undertaken by the Park Commission.

Ms. Trapp's findings discovered that by-laws enacted early by the Chester Park Commission conflicted with payment procedures. Other problems were the absence of a park commission handbook, no orientation procedure, no minutes for the entire year of 2008, no financial audit for the entire history of the organization, and no fund-based accounting system.

Judge Grendell announced that there will be a 45-day comment period commencing with tonight's findings for elected officials and citizens to digest the results and to issue comments to Geauga County Probate Court. Judge Grendell awarded one copy of the findings to the Chester Trustees, one copy to the Chester Park Board Commission, one copy to the Chester Library for public examination, one copy to be kept in Probate Court for on-site examination.

Judge Grendell announced that he expects 1) park district by-laws to be updated, 2) observance of Sunshine Laws, 3) observance of fiscal accountability, 4) use of Russell Park District as a model for the Chester Park District, 5) the necessity of every financial donation to Chester Park District to be approved by Geauga Probate Court, 6) adequate funding for Chester Park District, 8) demonstration of cooperation between Chester Park District and Chester Trustees.

Per the suggestion of Chardon Municipal Court Judge, Terri Stupica, the contents of Ms. Trapp's findings will be made public and incorporated within the Geauga County Probate Court website as early as the first week in September.

The meeting terminated at approximately 8:15 P.M.

GEAUGA PARK DISTRICT SEEKS TO SUSPEND 1986 TAX LEVY
Published August 12, 2014

A day following a public meeting with so many attendees that there was standing room only at the Meyer Center at Big Creek Park, representatives of the Geauga Park District sat across from the Geauga County Budget Commission composed of Prosecutor Jim Flaiz, Treasurer Chris Hitchcock, and Auditor Frank Gliha. Representing the GPD were Judge Timothy Grendell, Fiscal Officer Michele Pennell, and Park Commissioner Mary Ruth Shumway. As on the previous day, those who came for
the budget hearing packed the small chamber at the rear of Auditor Gliha's office as Deputy Auditor Beverly Sustar went over sets of numbers.

Judge Grendell, who handed out the attached memo, attributed the suspension of the levy to the dedicated efforts of Park Commissioners Mucci, Shumway, and Johnston and Acting Director John Oros following the exit of former Director, Tom Curtin, and the previous Board of Geauga Park Commissioners in December 2013. Judge Grendell opined that the levy brought in $880,000 annually to the GPD. Chris Hitchcock noted that in recent years GPD had been holding cash assets in excess of 400% growth of the original funds, clearly reflecting an inordinate financial cushion on the backs of Geauga taxpayers.

The submitted Geauga Park District Fiscal Budget for 2015 showed an unencumbered cash balance on January 1, 2015, of nearly $6,000,000 in the General Fund, $3,400,000 in the Construction Fund, $82,464 in the Retirement Reserve Fund and $0 of indebtedness.


COMMISSIONERS TO HOLD EVENING MEETING JULY 24 ABOUT Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency(NOACA) AND PROPOSED ADDITIONAL 15 CENT PER GALLON OF GAS FEDERAL TAX
Published July 16, 2014

Geauga County Commissioners have planned an IMPORTANT public meeting for the evening of July 24, 2014, at the Commissioners' Offices at 470 Center Street to begin at 6:30 P.M. Should good attendance create a lack of space at the above mentioned offices, the meeting will take place across the parking lot at the large meeting room in the same complex.

The IMPORTANT topics are recent activities of NOACA and its related organization, North East Ohio Sustainable Cities Consortium (NEOSCC). Many observers have noted that these organizations are using gasoline tax money to fund projects primarily in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, to the detriment of outlying counties like Lorain, Medina, and Geauga. Geauga County only has 3 votes in NOACA, a body with 44 votes. Many voices in Geauga and Summit Counties have voiced objections to Geauga County's membership within NOACA and are advocating that Geauga County leave the organization.

It is possible that there will be a representative of the Ohio Department of Transportation at the meeting. According to Commissioner Samide, U.S. Congressman David Joyce was also to be approached for voicing approval of the upcoming bill on increasing the federal tax per gallon of gasoline by an additional 15 cents.

Congress has, of this writing, created a temporary fix by causing business owners to pay more tax into the Highway Fund as a result of being permitted to contribute less money to employees' retirement plans.

This will be an INFORMATIVE IMPORTANT meeting!

GEAUGA COMMISSIONERS ARE PRESENTED WITH PETITION TO REMOVE THE GEAUGA COUNTY BOARD OF MENTAL HEALTH
Published May 21, 2014

Geauga resident Jeff Kline presented the Geauga County Commissioners with a petition at the May 20, 2014, regular meeting. The petition demands that the Commissioners remove the entire Board of Mental Health, the focus of scrutiny for a month. Mr. Kline stated that since the Commissioners have the authority to appoint a portion of the members (the rest are appointed by the State of Ohio), they have authority to remove the same appointees. He further stated the need to act immediately, since the Commissioners have had a month to determine their action.

Commissioners Spidalieri and Rear responded with statements that the “legal” course of action must be determined before the Commissioners can act. Spidalieri reassured Mr. Kline that the issue of an alleged irresponsible Board of Mental Health has bothered him immensely, even though he emphasized that the revelation of multiple generous pay raises to Board President Jim Adams and four staff members during 2013 came at the appropriate time, about two weeks before the May 6, 2014, vote on a renewal levy for the Board of Mental Health. That levy passed by a small majority.


Geauga shuts down suspected drug house
May 15, 2014
By JOAN DEMIRJIAN

A house in Auburn was boarded up late last week after officials conducted a raid arresting a 21-year-old man and seizing drugs, drug paraphernalia and a 9 mm handgun.

Geauga County Prosecutor James Flaiz said a “high volume of drugs was being sold out of the house,” much of it to high school students and young adults.

The Geauga prosecutor and County sheriff’s deputies raided the house at 17855 Bridge Creek Trail last Thursday and arrested John Goggins. The 21-year-old man lives in the house owned by his father Barteaux Goggins, county officials said.

Christopher Walker, 25, of Burton, who was found in the house, was arrested on an outstanding warrant in Geauga County. Authorities said that a 19-year-old Middlefield man in the house was released.

John Goggins was charged with drug trafficking and with possessing weapons under a disability. The weapons charge carries a possible three-year prison sentence, Mr. Flaiz said.

Mr. Goggins already is under indictment for another drug-related case that is pending with Geauga County Common Pleas Court with Judge Forrest Burt.

After his arrest last week, Mr. Goggins pleaded not guilty in Chardon Municipal Court and is being held in the Geauga County jail.

Mr. Flaiz said the house is considered a nuisance and authorized it boarded up.

During the raid, Geauga County Deputies went through the house, searching for anybody who might be hiding inside. A dog was taken out of the house along with a cat. The animals were transferred to the Geauga Humane Society’s Rescue Village in Russell.

Activity was noticed at the house for several years, and complaints were made to the father about the suspect ed drug activities, according to neighbors. It was a regular stop after high school adjourned and sporting events, one neighbor said.

Auburn Trustee John Eberly was on the scene Friday when the house was boarded up by the road department. “I’m sad this occurred, but I’m pleased with how it was handled,” Mr. Eberly said.

The sheriff’s department acted on the information immediately, he said.

Karen Sweet with the prosecutor’s office, has been investigating the case, according to reports.

She received information in April from a source that a variety of illegal narcotics were being sold out of the house. The source stated that numerous people were going to the house daily and allegedly buying drugs, according to reports.

Mr. Goggins was indicted by the Geauga County Grand Jury for trafficking in LSD in 2013. An informant for the Bainbridge Police Department bought drugs at the house and a court hearing is scheduled on the charges.

Surveillance of the Goggins residence began in April and short-term traffic in and out of the property was observed during that time. Short-term traffic often occurs at drug houses with buyers coming and going, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Two separate undercover purchases of marijuana were made from Mr. Goggins during April and May. One transaction was made from the house and the other at a nearby location in the township, prosecutors said.

In the search last Thursday, the prosecutor’s office said deputies found drugs (including marijuana), criminal tools, cash, scales and drug instruments. Even after the raid, people were seen going to the house, but then leaving when police cars were observed, Mr. Flaiz said. “And it is expected to continue to be a nuisance.”

Ms. Sweet said she believes that a largescale illegal narcotics enterprise has been operating from the residence and the activities observed are consistent with places where illegal drugs and narcotics are sold and used.

Drug abuse and sales have occurred on almost a daily basis in the home, she said in her statement. If the house was not declared a nuisance and boarded up, drug abuse would continue in there and would continue to terrorize the neighborhood, she concluded.

Crumbling Ascot Lane could eat up most of repair budget
May 15, 2014
By JOAN DEMIRJIAN

AUBURN – A subdivision road is crumbling prematurely, and repairing it could eat up a major portion of the township road budget. Officials called Ascot Lane one of the biggest road failures the township has ever seen.

The repairs to Ascot Lane represent 79 percent of the current budget for capital improvements which is funded by road levies.

The cost to repair Ascot and Belmont lanes will add up to about, $600,000, township officials said.

Roads generally last 18 years and often times much longer.

Ascot Lane was built in 2000, but deterioration started soon after it was completed, Trustee John Eberly said. “It’s a premature failure,” he said. “It started to come apart in four years.”

As a formality, a road is generally accepted by the township from the developer after being completed. The township then has ongoing responsibility for maintenance.

Residents of Ascot Lane were invited by township trustees to an informational meeting May 5 on the plans for repairing the road located just off Ravenna Road (Route 44).

Auburn has 54 miles of road.

At just over one mile, Ascot represents less than 3 percent of the township’s road inventory, according to Emerick Gordon, Auburn road superintendent.

Ascot Lane started to show signs of base failure in its first five years after completion, he said. This is a first. “I’ve never seen this before.”

The harsh winter accelerated the failure of Ascot Lane, Mr. Gordon added. Adjoining road, Belmont Lane, is also starting to fall apart.

It is a matter of determining where the costs can fit in the road budget, Mr. Gordon added. There are township roads 20 to 22 years old that also are in need of resurfacing.

The work on Ascot Lane involves digging out where the road became mud and repaving it. Mr. Gordon said the township is doing “full depth repairs” by digging to the base of the road which has been degrading.

The township is digging out the pavement and compacting the base. If moisture is found, drainage must be added, Mr. Gordon said.

In 2005, there were two major blow outs and the road department did full-depth repairs and already added drainage, Mr. Eberly said. Those patches remain intact, but the areas before and after are breaking down. The crown of the road is actually depressed and that’s unusual. Without a crown, the road holds onto water.

“We’ve been working with the Geauga County Engineer for two years,” Mr. Eberly said.

“It’s going to be a huge expense.” They found the least expensive alternative is to stabilize the road and then build on top the existing road, Mr. Eberly said. “The county looked at it and suggested that method.” It’s a much worse scenario than standard repavement, he said. “They have to see if it is maintained, then we’ll go ahead with building a road over this road. It is called a bridge. Our primary goal is to make it safe for the cars to travel on.”

The Auburn road department has already put seven to eight patches on it this year since the asphalt plants opened, he said.

Mr. Eberly praised not only the township road department but the Geauga County Engineer’s office, which has been working with the township. “We couldn’t do this without the engineer. The county engineering staff is an invaluable part of the process.”

Geauga County Engineer Joseph Cattell said the situation is unusual. Soil types have been an issue and ground water is high in the area.

Auburn has a good five-year improvement plan for its roads, Mr. Cattell added. “We’ll continue to work with the township.”


THREE MOTIONS INTRODUCED BY SPIDALIERI TO REMOVE THE GEAUGA COUNTY BOARD OF MENTAL HEALTH
Published April 25, 2014

During one of the shortest agendas ever undertaken by the Geauga County Board of Commissioners and with the absence of Commissioner Mary Samide, Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri introduced three motions at the conclusion of the fifteen-minute meeting. All three motions are directed to seeking opinions by Prosecutor James Flaiz in regards to actions permissible under ORC 340.02.

These motions are summarized as follows:
1) The Commissioners seek a legal opinion from the Prosecutor on the removal process of the Board of Mental Health.

2)The Commissioners seek a legal opinion from the Prosecutor as to whether the Geauga County Board of Developmental Disabilities can assume the responsibilities/duties of the Board of Mental Health

3) The Commissioners seek a legal opinion from the Prosecutor about rescinding all appropriations to the Board of Mental Health that originate from the Geauga County General Fund.

Commissioner Spidalieri requested that these three motions be tabled until the next Commissioners' meeting at 10 A.M on April 29 so that all three Commissioners can act and to give Prosecutor Flaiz an opportunity to study the options available for the county.

County Administrator suggested that funds can probably originate from the Commissioners to another agency, such as Spidalieri's suggestion of Juvenile Court, to administer programs currently undertaken by the Board of Mental Health, without any difficulty. Lair cited an example involving Ravenwood that occurred several years ago.

As an addendum, Spidalieri noted that “every three to four minutes I received a call from someone outside this county. . . . They want action. They do not want one penny assigned to Mental Health until there is a change. . .”


GEAUGA COUNTY BOARD OF MENTAL HEALTH MEETING APRIL 23, 2014
Published May 24, 2014

The appearance of about 20 members of “the public” as well as a video camera from Channel 3 TV
appeared to set Jim Adams and the 13-other members of the Geauga Board of Mental Health on edge as they started their 7 PM meeting. Although various reports were completed easily and quickly, the decision to entertain public comments created the illusion that everyone was in a time warp. Public comments followed Tuesday's public statement by Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri that Director Jim Adams and the Board voluntarily resign after the revelation that Adams had gained five salary raises, some at 10% or greater, in a ten month period of 2013. Raises were awarded on February 3, March 17, April 28, August 1, and December 8, 2013. The raise of April 28 was 10%; that of December 8 was 15% so that Adams' January 1, 2013, salary of $111,741 became $153,734. Four other staff members experienced raises of 20-25%.


Among those who commented were Commissioner candidate, Walter Skip Claypool; Peg Hunt, Mike Petruziello, Cathy Cotman, and a lady from Huntsburg who expressed complete shock and disbelief that taxpayers' money could be so utilized. One commenter expressed her continued support of Jim Adams. When asked how it had been possible to achieve five raises in such a short period of time, Adams explained that the Board of Mental Health uses a fiscal calendar beginning July1 while the Commissioners function on a calendar of January 1-December 31. Board members tried to explain that Jim Adams had asked for nothing in particular and that they, if anyone at all, were culpable for making the considered opinion that Adams' salary, when compared to salaries at Job and Family Services, seemed to merit the raises that were bringing objections from the Commissioners' Office as well as the majority of the public.

Skip Claypool, given a multiple-page handout that allegedly explained the rationale for the raises, concluded that the reasoning involved was faulty, even if Adams himself were not responsible for the Board's actions. Several media publications were represented, including this venue complete with video camera, as well as the owner of a weekly print publication, who wished to provide an opportunity for the Board to explain more clearly in light of the fact that the May 1 publication date would quickly be followed by the Geauga County Primary Election. Up for a vote at this election is an additional .7 mill levy for the Geauga County Board of Mental Health. Mr. Claypool announced that, in light of Board statements that there would be no resignations, the public would likely view the Board in a negative light. The newspaper editor, himself with multiple cameras in tow, expressed the concept that the public would not accept the Board's explanation.

At 8:20 P.M. the Board announced its decision, though it was not presented on the Agenda, to enter Executive Session, “to discuss staff salaries.” The bulk of the attendees drifted off the premises by 9 PM, but seven, all with media credentials, hung tough until a Board member came out to the lobby to announce that the Board was going back into regular session. It was 9:20 PM. The Board announced its action, which was to “defer all previously awarded “ raises between January 1-December 31, 2013. Mr. Adams, announcing that no one had expected the statement made by Commissioner Spidalieri on Tuesday to explode so quickly or so importantly, informed those in attendance that he and the Board would be meeting with the Commissioners and their legal counsel on Thursday, April 24 in an effort to resolve the parties' differences. Adams, though he appeared to laugh easily and frequently, was noted to be on edge by the proceedings.


COMMISSIONER DEMANDS THAT GEAUGA'S DIRECTOR OF MENTAL HEALTH VOLUNTARILY STEP DOWN
Published April 22, 2014

At the conclusion of the April 22, 2014, Commissioner Meeting, Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri read a formal letter addressed to the Geauga County Board of Mental Health and its director, James Adams.

Spidalieri noted that the most recent pay raise that Director Jim Adams requested put his salary at $176,794, in early 2014. This latest pay raise followed five pay raises in 2013 that increased Adams' salary by $41,992. Those pay raises were 1%, 4.4%, 10%, 3%, and 15%, resulting in an increase from $111,741 to $153,734. The latest pay raise, the one that prompted an apparent investigation of Adams, resulted in an increase of $23,062 from late 2013 to early 2014.

Spidalieri chided Adams for giving himself and selected staff members raises after the failure of the Mental Health Levy in 2012. Three staff members received raises of 20%+ and one staff member received a pay increase of 25% at a time when other county employees received raises of a maximum 3%. “You, Mr. Adams,. . . selfishly. . .gave out pay raises,” said Commissioner Spidalieri.
“The levy failed in 2-12 and is on the ballot again. . . I ask commissioners and residents to stand behind me as I ask Jim Adams and those who were responsible for pay raises to step down immediately. . . It [pay raises] takes advantage of the voters.

Commissioner Blake Rear added to the explanation by describing Jim Adams' appearance in commissioners' chambers to ask for more funds from the county. Rear explained that in response to a letter that he had directed to Jim Adams, the latter said he would appear before the commissioners “later.” Additionally, County Administrator David Lair stopped by to see Adams, as well. Spidalieri further added that Adams in a retire-rehire collecting extra salaries.

Per Ohio Revised Code 340.02 (G) (3), Spidalieri indicated a proper action to be taken. “If they don't step down voluntarily, I will take this issue to our prosecutor,” he noted. ORC 340.02(G)(3) reads,
“Any member of the board [of mental health] may be removed from office by the appointing authority for neglect of duty or malfeasance in office and should be removed by the appointing authority if the member is barred by this section for serving as a board member. The member shall be informed in writing of the charges and afforded an opportunity for a hearing.”

The latest Mental Health levy is on the ballot for the primary election to be held May 6, 2014.


PRESENTATION BY WALTER “SKIP” CLAYPOOL EXPLAINING NORTHEASTERN OHIO AREAWIDE PLANNING AGENCY(NOACA) AND ITS AFFILIATE, NORTH EAST OHIO SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES CONSORTIUM (NEOSCC)

Presented at public Commissioners' meeting, Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Published April 16, 2014

Although attendees expected a full board of Commissioners to be present to learn from this presentation, Commissioner Mary Samide was unexplainedly and conspicuously absent. The presentation lasted about 50 minutes and is recorded on the accompanying video. A brief summary of the content follows in text.

Skip Claypool initiated his presentation by noting that he has read and studied the policy of the Northeastern Ohio Areawide Planning Agency (NOACA), a regional entity comprised of 44 votes from both elected and non-elected individuals in a five-county area including Geauga but dominated by the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. He further noted that although NOACA has no authority to establish North Eastern Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium (NEOSCC), NOACA did so anyhow.

One of the NOACA/NEOSCC policy statements read by Mr. Claypool indicated that conditions within the geographic area administered by NOACA “have not led to equal access to opportunity,” leading to the conclusion that NEOSCC is an organization developed to redistribute wealth in northeast Ohio. Moreover, NEOSCC is an unelected board so it is impossible to impact the composition of the board. The Cleveland Museum of Natural History is one of the unelected members of the NEOSCC board. One stated purpose of NEOSCC is to triple the number of parks in northeast Ohio

Mr. Clayp0ool noted that although the Commissioners voted to approve a statement rejecting NOACA's authority to abide by NEOSCC policies, NOACA President, Geauga Commissioner Mary Samide, ultimately read a policy with wording different from that which the Commissioners approved. Mr. Claypool asked why Samide read and ultimately voted on a policy that defeated the one approved at the Commissioner meeting of April 10. He expressed concerns that NEOSCC is all about the transferring of wealth and cost-sharing and expressed concern that Samide approved of such actions, with the result that “we push back on nothing”[events at NOACA/NEOSCC]. Mr. Claypool described NOACA as a “behemoth funded by our tax dollars” and expressed concern that “the people's voices be heard.” “NEOSCC,” he continued,”will determine where people will live, paid for by our tax dollars.” NEOSCC, he continued, gets direct funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Further, he explained that for every ten-million dollars Geauga County forks out in federal gasoline taxes, it receives only two-million dollars back from NOACA.


SENIOR SEEKS HELP THROUGH HEAP PROGRAM; IS REBUFFED BY JOB AND FAMILY SERVICES EMPLOYEE
Published March 12, 2014

Susan Daniels, a Geauga voter who recalled being impressed by Mary Samide back in 2004 when Samide first ran for Commissioner, was patient until the end of the Commissioner's March 11 meeting. Then she calmly raised her hand to recount her harrowing adventure during the past week's frigid temperatures and her inability to get propane for her house. Ms. Daniels said she had two encounters with Melissa Helm at 285- 9141, Extension 1269. Ms. Daniels showed the Commissioners the form that was required in order to qualify for the HEAP heating assistance program handled through Geauga County Job and Family Services Department. She explained how she had paid $900 for 200 gallons of propane that lasted less than one month. The brutal cold resulted in extra fast consumption of the propane. In fact, in one day, her 20% reserve dwindled to 10%, but she could no longer afford to replace the fuel at its high cost.

Ms. Daniels explained that the phone at Job and Family Services is not answered, so it was impossible to reach Ms. Helm. When she finally was able to get an appointment at JFS after a week of trying, she reported that Ms. Helm said she could not complete the fax work. On the second visit, on Friday, March 7, Ms. Daniels begged for assistance. Ms. Helm claimed no memory of Ms. Daniels' situation. In the end, Ms. Daniels had to sit through a weekend in a 40-degree house because of no propane. On Monday, March 10, 2014, Amerigas came to her house with a refill of propane.

County Administrator promised to contact JFS Director, Tim Taylor, so that Taylor could witness Ms. Daniels' report on video. We are grateful to Geauga residents like Ms. Daniels, who are taking the time to report injustice, inefficiency, and crime within Geauga County departments.

RUSSELL TRUSTEES UPHOLD CITIZEN SUGGESTION BY INCLUDING FUTURE MEETING AGENDAS ONLINE
Published March 6, 2014

Russell Trustees have responded to input by including an agenda for the next meeting. At the last meeting (February 19) we suggested that an agenda placed online prior to the actual trustee meeting would be a great benefit to those interested in attending. We have been told by residents that they, too, had made similar suggestions during the past year. We are very pleased to share with the rest of Geauga County that Russell Township now includes the agenda for the next meeting a couple of days before the actual meeting. We think this kind of responsibility and diligence speaks highly for Russell Trustees, who now join at least the Geauga Park District, the Geauga County Commissioners, and the Chester Township Trustees in providing this transparency to the public.

You will find the agenda at www.russelltownship.us. Just click on the Event Calendar and then the date of the Russell Township Trustee Meeting. The next Russell Township Trustee Meeting will be at 5:30 PM at the Russell Fire Station on March 19.

If your community provides this kind of oversight to the voters and the public, please let us know, and we will be happy to acknowledge your efforts to provide/preserve transparency on this website.

Many thanks!


GEAUGA COMMISSIONERS APPOINT REPLACEMENT FOR PROSECUTOR IN INTERPRETATION QUESTION WITH JUDGE GRENDELL
Published January 2, 2014

The December 31, 2013, Geauga Commissioner Meeting promised to be a short agenda with only 11 items. Item 11 read as follows:

“The Commissioners' Office is requesting the Board authorize the President of the Board to execute an Application of Prosecuting Attorney and Geauga County Board of Commissioners for Appointment of Counsel in the Court of Common Please Geauga County Ohio pursuant to R.C. 305.14 in defense of claims advanced by Judge Timothy Grendell relating to Judge Grendell's recommendation for the Portage-Geauga Detention Center Board replacement, and further to direct Geauga County Prosecutor James Flaiz to file such application, appointing an attorney to act as counsel for the Commissioners in this matter.”

R.C. 305.14 (A) states,
“The court of common pleas, upon the application of the prosecuting attorney and the board of county commissioners, may authorize the board to employ legal counsel to assist the prosecuting attorney, the board, or any other county officer in any matter of public business coming before such board or officer, and in the prosecution or defense of any action or proceeding in which such board or officer is a party or has an interest, in its official capacity.

R.C. 305.14(B) states,
“The board of county commissioners may also employ legal counsel, as provided in section 308.08 of the Revised Code, to represent it in any matter of public business coming before such board, and in the prosecution or defense of any action or proceeding in which such board is a party or has an interest, in its official capacity.

Item 11 dealt in part with the recent defeat of Janet Carson as a replacement to the Portage-Geauga Detention Center Board. In the recent vote one of the Portage County Commissioners entitled to vote, along with the Geauga County Commissioners, was absent. Therefore, five of the six individuals entitled to the vote turned down the recommended appointment Mrs. Carson by Judge Grendell.

In the follow-up Judge Grendell has asked that the Geauga Commissioners appear before him in his courtroom to explain/clarify their actions in regard to the vote. Prosecutor Flaiz announced that he would not participate in an action in which different entities in Geauga County Government are not in agreement regarding interpretation of statutes governing the operation of regional detention center boards of trustees. R.C. 305.14 provides the authority for hiring outside counsel when there may be a conflict of interest for the county prosecutor to resolve dilemmas/questions regarding the detention center board of trustees.

Hence, Prosecutor Flaiz has suggested that the Commissioners may utilize the advice of the Portage County Prosecutor, who is familiar with the work of the Portage-Geauga Detention Board or hire independent counsel. It was suggested that the Portage County Prosecutor could offer his services without charge to the county taxpayers. Otherwise, Assistant Prosecutor Laura LaChapelle has determined the availability of both Tim Reed, as counsel for the Commissioners, and Todd Petersen, as Counsel to Juvenile Court Judge Grendell. The services of these individuals would be billed to Geauga County taxpayers.

The need for this action stems from a difference in interpretation of the statute(s) regarding operation of and/or appointments to a regional detention center board of trustees and/or, per Commissioner Rear, an issue about separation of powers within county government. The 17 minute video excerpt provides further details and highlights the apparent need for clarification of legal interpretation/language without any animosity.

The actual date(s) of such interaction between Commissioners and Juvenile Court appears imminent but unspecified.