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News Stories and Events for 2018

News stories from years 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013

Last update on March 15, 2018

Published Wednesday, March 15, 2018

As long ago as 2006 many Ohio farmers observed the taxes on their farmland increase by as much as 200%. Known as the Current Agricultural Use Value (CAUV), real-estate taxes on farmland are calculated annually by the Ohio Tax Commissioner and based on five factors, including the acreage and prices of corn, soybeans, and wheat. From about 2007 Ohio, along with its farmers, was experiencing a serious recession while facing immensely expensive grain costs for livestock. According to former Ohio Farm Bureau officer, lawyer, and Ohio State University professor, Larry Gearhardt, the biggest reason for increased CAUV taxes was the increased prices for selective crops. (Gearhardt, The Ohio State University, Monday, April 27, 2015; https://u.osu.edu/ohioagmanager/2015/04/28/lower-crop-prices-and-changes-to-formula-point-to-lower-cauv-values-in-the-future-2/). Farmers’ and foresters’ plights were also well documented in The Columbus Dispatch (Narciso Dean, “Farmers Face Shocking Tax Jolt,” Feb 8, 2015; http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2015/02/08/shocking-tax-jolt.html)

By 2015, two separate pieces of litigation were filed by forestland and farmland owners to protest the rapid increase in CAUV values. The first, captioned Kenneth Adams, et al, v. Joseph W. Testa, Tax Commissioner of Ohio (BTA Case No. 2015-1090 ) and Supreme Court Case No. 2016-0256, resolved on December 7, 2017, when the Supreme Court of Ohio decided that owners of forestland can appeal CAUV tax values perceived to be too high with the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals, which formerly rejected all such tax issues. The plaintiffs were forestland owners from Miami, Morrow, Sandusky, Seneca, Richland, Medina, Hancock, Champaign, Adams, Athens, Gallia, Highland, Hocking, Jackson, Meigs, Pike, Ross, Scioto, Vinton, and Washington Counties.

The second piece of litigation in which owners of CAUV-registered parcels are represented actually originated in Ashtabula County under the auspices of Geauga County agricultural attorney, Benjamin Calkins and the Calkins Law Firm of Chagrin Falls in 2015. The two original plaintiffs were Bruce Vance, a producer of vegetables and timber on about 148 acres, and G. Frederick Pierce-Ruhland, owner of 171 acres in Ashtabula County. Plaintiffs in the class-action suit now include farmland owners in Geauga, Franklin, Clinton, Highland, Logan, Licking, Union, Cuernsey, and Athens County. Attorneys for the Plaintiffs besides the Calkins Legal Firm include the Roberts Law Firm of Olmsted Falls, Cohen Rosenthal and Kramer LLP of Cleveland, Mansour Gavin LPA of Cleveland; and Murray and Murray Company of Sandusky.

This case, captioned Bruce A. Vance, et al, v. The Tax Commissioner of Ohio, is now in Franklin County Common Pleas Court before Judge Jenifer French after being transferred to that venue on April 6, 2016. It is known as Case No. 16CV003295. As a result of the Adams decision mentioned above, the office of Ohio Attorney General Michael DeWine, submitted an amended answer to the Court on December 22, 2017. The Franklin Court has set a Final Pretrial Conference on April 12, 2018, at 1:30 PM and Jury Trial on June 4, 2018, at 9 AM.

Plaintiffs in the class action assert that the Ohio Tax Commissioner illegally imposed inflated CAUV values upon owners of some 16,000,000 parcels of farmland in the State of Ohio and ask for financial restitution for over-payment of CAUV taxes from 2006 on. The Calkins Law Firm has advised that there is room for addition of a limited number of farmland owners as members of the class. Contact information is 440-796-4592, or email bcalkins@calkinslawfirm.com.

Published Monday, March 12, 2018

On February 28, 2018, Geauga County Prosecutor filed criminal charges against a Texas information technologies privately-held company and two of its chief officers. ITERSource Corporation , located in The Woodlands, Texas, and its CEO. Eugene Krus, and its Vice President, William E. Kelly, were charged with four counts of felony ranging from fourth to first degree. The three criminal cases are identified as 18C000021, 18C000022, and 18C000023. Preceding the indictments, records and equipment were seized from the office of Geauga County Auditor Frank Gliha on the basis of dereliction of duty. Records in 18C000021, the criminal case against ITERSource Corporation, show that the Montgomery County Sheriff in Texas signed for the certified letter announcing the indictments on March 6, 2018, and the Geauga County Clerk of Courts filed the return receipt on March 12, 2018.

Evidence demonstrates that ITERSource and its corporate leadership were recipients of payments from the Geauga County Auditor’s Office since 2009. The suggestion is that ITERSource returned a portion of the payments generated by the Geauga County Auditor to both Stephen Decatur and Stephanie Stewart, both indicted on 334 counts of aggravated theft and money laundering, for about an eight-year period, apparently without the knowledge or suspicion of the County Auditor’s Office until late 2017.

In the face of mounting evidence from the office of the County Prosecutor, Auditor Frank Gliha turned in his letter of resignation, effective April 3, 2017, seeking to end his long-term tenure, He also submitted a letter to the Board of Elections, seeking removal of his name from the May 8, 2018, Geauga County Primary Election. This action means that the only Republican candidate declaring for the position of Geauga County Auditor is Russell Fiscal Officer, Charles “Chuck” Walder, who announced his candidacy about January 28, 2018. Given the set of circumstances, it is likely that the Geauga County Commissioners will appoint Mr. Walder to fill the vacancy caused by Mr. Gliha’s letters of resignation until the outcome of the general election for auditor on the first Tuesday in November.

Rumors from unconfirmed sources point to the Geauga County Republican Central Committee, chaired by Chardon councilwoman, Nancy McArthur, will seek to appoint a Republican, not necessarily Mr. Walder, to fill the vacancy created by Gliha’s dual resignation. In fact, the rumors stipulate that Mrs. McArthur, has expressed interest in filling the vacancy herself, although there is no indication that she has the financial training prerequisite for the position. In the last several years McArthur has been an unsuccessful candidate for the state legislature and for county commissioner. In January she was replaced as Chardon Mayor by a fellow Chardon councilman after there were allegations of her ridicule of that individual.

By Tom Meyer, Published Thursday March 8, 2018

The former fiscal coordinator for the Geauga County Health District says she was retaliated against after raising concerns of potential improprieties involving her boss.

Rebecca Buddenberg makes the allegations in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in US District Court in Cleveland. She’s seeking back and front pay and other unspecified damages from the health district board and Commissioner Robert Weisdack, the target of her whistleblowing allegations.

Buddenberg was hired in February 2015. The suit alleges Weisdack “spearheaded a vindictive and retaliatory conspiracy to drive [Buddenberg] out of her position, creating such intolerable conditions that she had no choice but to resign.”

Weisdack has not commented on the lawsuit.

County Prosecutor James Flaiz, whose office will defend the lawsuit, said the allegations have never been brought to his attention. However, he said, the claims are “very serious” and he intends to have an investigator from the office’s criminal division review the allegations lodged in the lawsuit.

Among the allegations Buddenberg alleged were Weisdack’s paying a male worker more than a female worker doing to same job and his “self-dealing” of a county contract in which he and other county workers performed a tire cleanup for extra pay.

"Her concern was [Weisdack’s] self-dealing. He wasn't following proper procedure and he hadn't got proper authorization," said Subodh Chandra, a Cleveland attorney representing Buddenberg.
She also alleged Weisdack “yelled, threatened, intimidated and ignored” the staff. He also ignored, the suit alleges, a recommendation to use GPS to track staff to ensure they were working. The idea, suggested by Buddenberg, was eventually deployed to nab two workers who went to parks instead of inspection sites. The workers were indicted for theft in office.

In addition, the suit alleged Weisdack retaliated against Buddenberg and a co-worker who was fired for also “bringing this wrongdoing to light.”

After learning of the pay disparity and questionable contract, Buddenberg contacted board members in the fall of 2016 and expressed concern of potential retaliation for coming forward, the lawsuit says. However, board members assured Buddenberg that they would protect her.

That protection failed to materialize, the suit alleges. Instead, the board sided with Weisdack, later renewing his contract and essentially empowering him to retaliate.

"She repeatedly complained about retaliation in emails over and over and over but the board members blew it off," Chandra said.
After complaining to the health board, Weisdack within two days changed Buddenberg’s work schedule, forcing her to drop her college classes and make other arrangements for providing care for her cancer-stricken grandchild, the suit alleges.

Weisdack also aligned other workers to shun Buddenberg. When she complained to the board of retaliation, and filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, she was suspended for three days, demoted to a clerical position and her $19.75-an-hour pay was cut nearly in half, the suit alleges.

“Rather than discipline Mr. Weisdack for his discriminatory and retaliatory conduct, the [health board] rewarded him,” the suit alleges. “In doing so, the board made it clear it was siding with [Weisdack] despite his extensive and documented misconduct.”

Published Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Geauga Commissioners unanimously approved the hiring of current Water Resources Director, Gerard Morgan, as Assistant Geauga County Administrator under current Administrator, David Lair. In his new position Mr. Morgan will earn $40 per hour. During discussions over the past year regarding US Geological Survey’s contract to monitor several water wells for water depth, Mr. Morgan performed significant research for the Geauga Commissioners. He has both an engineering and legal degree.

By Evan MacDonald, cleveland.com
Published Tuesday, March 6, 2018

CHESTER TOWNSHIP, Ohio - A Chester Township man surrendered peacefully at the end of a 13-and-a-half hour standoff that began Monday night, police said.
The armed man barricaded himself in the house just before 7 pm and did not come outside until Tuesday morning, the Chester Township Police Department said in a news release.

No one was hurt, police said.

The Geauga County Prosecutor's Office is reviewing the incident to determine if the 47-year-old man will face charges, police said.

The standoff began when police officers went to the house on Sperry Road near Sherman Road to perform a welfare check. The man showed officers a gun and refused to come out of the house, police said.

Geauga County and Lake County sheriff's deputies assisted at the scene and provided negotiators who spoke to the man during the standoff, police said.
The man surrendered about 8:30 am. Tuesday, police said.

The State Highway Patrol, Geauga County Park Rangers, the Chester Township Fire Department and police officers from Russell Township, Bainbridge Township, Kirtland and Mentor also assisted, police said.

Published Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The attorneys for the two alleged defendants in the Geauga Information Technology theft charges had their first telephone conference with Visiting Judge Robert Brown on Monday, March 5, 2018, at 10 AM. The next telephone conference is currently scheduled for Monday, April 16, 2016, at 10:30 AM.

Thus far, the court record for Geauga Criminal Case 18C000206 and 18C000003 shows that both defendants have waived their rights to a speedy trial. In communications filed by their attorneys, defendants have requested the State, represented by Geauga Assistant Prosecutors Nicholas Burling and Christopher Joyce, of notice of the State’s “intention to use specific evidence,” as well as specific documentation regarding statutes violated; dates, times, and locations of said violations; methods of violation; and among other demands, identification of all witnesses to be used in the State’s prosecution.

The electronic monitoring in the form of ankle bracelets is noted in the docket as a charge of $180 on February 5, 2018, and an additional $180 on March 5, 2018, thereby implying a daily rate of $6 per day for the duration of the court proceedings.

Published Monday, February 26, 2018

With shock and disbelief we learned about the passing of Auburn resident, James Jimison, on Friday, February 23, 2018. Long known far and wide as Bainbridge’s Police Chief, Mr. Jimison also was active in the Kenston Board of Education and homeowner associations. Born in December 1941, Mr. Jimison had just celebrated his 76th birthday. Learning about Mr. Jimison’s demise today has been one of those times when we just keep shaking our heads and struggle to believe what we know is the truth.

We wish the family peace and comfort in the knowledge that their husband, brother, father, and grandfather served his community so selflessly and well.

Published Friday, February 23, 2018

Representing the office of Geauga Engineer Joe Cattell at the February 23rd Commissioners’ meeting, Shane Heijer noted that county roads have been appreciably weakened by winter’s ravages. As a result, planned work to correct drainage issues on Washington Street will be delayed until 2019 in order to resolve more immediate problems with other county roads.

In response to a question about availability of federal funds for road projects, Heijer noted that federal funds for federal roads have been reduced. He added that the roads that get the most traffic are on the western end of the county. Nevertheless, he assured commissioners of the availability of federal funding to resolve issues on roads heavily utilized by Amish buggies. In fact, there are large numbers of rural roads that are eligible for federal funding in spite of the fact that most township roads don’t qualify for federal funding because they are not in the national highway system.

Commissioner Walter “Skip” Claypool thought out loud about the possibility of using moneys for bicycle trails for the Amish community, expressing concern that funding that could benefit Amish roads might be spent entirely by northeast Ohio MPO NOACA on its current infatuation with the Hyperloop experiment.

With mention of the problems faced by the Amish Community, Commissioner Spidalieri seemed uncharacteristically to come alive, referencing a public workshop with the Ohio Department of Transportation during a public commissioner meeting in early 2017 to deal with the area from Burton-Windsor Road to Route 88. Heijer elaborated that the availability of funding for Amish roads became effective about a month ago during a session of NOACA in downtown Cleveland. He explained that the project cited by Spidalieri is moving forward.

Spidalieri questioned how the county might be in a position to offer assistance to Middlefield to facilitate completion of the project. He specifically queried whether the county could offer a financial match for Middlefield in order to prevent more injuries and/or deaths in the Amish community.

In response, Commissioner Claypool acknowledged the value of Spidalieri’s concerns. “You’re right on, Ralph.” He noted that financial resources exist, particularly in the form of a $400 million fund in Ohio. He bemoaned the length of time in the planning cycle required to bring projects to fruition. “I asked ODOT (Ohio Department of Transportation) to accelerate the process” because Middlefield residents were willing to give up portions of their land to speed up the plan.

Spidalieri’s final comment was, “Do you recommend I get ahold of Joe [County Engineer Cattell]?” That could be a next step.

Posted Wednesday February 21, 2018

Hello everyone,
In 2017, Chagrin River Watershed Partners (CRWP) was awarded a $198,505 grant by the Great Lakes Commission (https://www.glc.org/basin-program-awards-more-than-2-million-in-grants/) for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control. The funding provides technical assistance and cost-share dollars for private property owners in eligible subwatersheds of the Chagrin River to participate in this program. This will include approximately five to seven projects for a total of 2,000 linear feet of streambank stabilization using bioengineering techniques and three all-weather paddocks (heavy use pads) for equine properties, helping protect Lake Erie by reducing phosphorous runoff and sedimentation.

CRWP, in partnership with Cuyahoga, Geauga, Portage and Lake County Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Ohio Department of Agriculture, are holding public kickoff meetings for our project Monday, March 5 at 6 pm at Lake Metroparks Farmpark and Monday, March 19 at 6 pm at the West Woods Nature Center. Representative Dave Joyce and Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman will be invited along with local elected officials, County Commissioners from Cuyahoga, Lake, Geauga, and Portage Counties, the local print media, and Ohio Commissioners to the Great Lakes Commission.

Eligible properties must be located in the East Branch, Beaver Creek-Chagrin River, Silver Creek, or Headwater Aurora Branches of the Chagrin River. These subwatersheds include portions of the following communities: Auburn Township, Aurora, Bainbridge Township, Bentleyville Village, Chagrin Falls Village, Chardon, Chardon Township, Kirtland, Kirtland Hills Village, Mantua Township, Mentor, Moreland Hills Village, Munson Township, Newbury Township, Russell Township, Solon, South Russell Village, Waite Hill Village, and Willoughby. Maps of the eligible areas and additional information are available on CRWP’s website: http://crwp.org/index.php/projects/restoration-projects-current/chagrin-river-cost-share-program-to-reduce-erosion.

Can you please share this information with any landowners that may be interested in this cost-share program?

Please feel free to give me a call at (440) 975-3870 if you have any questions about this program.

Alicia Beattie
Senior Project Manager
Chagrin River Watershed Partners, Inc.
Also serving Central Lake Erie Basin Collaborative

P.O. Box 229
Willoughby, OH 44096-0229
(440) 975-3870

Published Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Once again the Geauga County Commissioners are taking the time to recognize two local Girl Scout troops and two individual Girl Scouts for achievements during 2017. The award ceremony will take place at Timmons Elementary Gymnasium on February 25 at 1 PM.

Today the Geauga County Commissioners honored Cadette Troop #71150 for receiving the Silver Award , recognized as the Highest Honor a Cadette troop can receive, for providing indoor and outdoor activities at Timmons Elementary School . Additionally, Junior Girl Scout Troop #71490 is receiving recognition for achieving the Bronze Award, the Highest Honor for a Junior Girl Scout troop as a result of the troop organizing a Kindness Campaign, including a video, at the elementary school level.

Katherine Blazek and Savana Fee, both of Ambassador Girl Scout Troop #71394 are being recognized individually for their 2017 projects. Katherine received the Girl Scout Gold Award for her installation of rain barrels at Auburn Township Maple Shade Cemetery and demonstrated great pride and responsibility by asking Auburn Township Trustees at their public meeting who would take responsibility for the upkeep of the rain barrels after their installation. She learned that the Auburn Township Road Department would be responsible for that upkeep. Ambassador Troop’s second 2017 Gold Medal recipient is Savana Fee for her installation of sustainable backyard farms at a selected location at Lake Farmpark in Lake County. With these two outstanding achievements, Ambassador Troop #71394 deserves to feel proud that its members are strong role models for Geauga County girls.

Congratulations, to all three troops and to two special Girl Scouts.

Published Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Making a personal appearance before the Geauga County Commissioners on Tuesday, February 6, 2018, Prosecutor James Flaiz explained a motion to join federal litigation over which Federal Judge Dan Polster will preside in the Northern Ohio District Court. The motion, unanimously approved by Commissioners Spidalieri, Lennon, and Claypool, reads:
“The Prosecutor’s Office is requesting the Board of Commissioners to approve and execute the Application for Appointment of Outside Counsel . . . and the Engagement to Represent regarding Geauga County’s civil suit against those legally responsible for the wrongful distribution of prescription opiates and damages caused thereby.”

Upon signature of the order by Judge Forrest Burt, the application will be filed with the Cleveland law firm of Spangenberg Shibley and Lib. Peter Weinberger. Esq., a legal practitioner specializing in complex injury and wrongful death, will represent Geauga Counties damage claims. Attorney Weinberger has been appointed Plaintiffs’ Co-Liaison Counsel in the above-cited National Prescription Opiate Multidistrict Litigation, which represents claims against the manufacturers and distributors of opiate medications including but not limited to OxyContin and fentanyl. Spangenberg Shibley has noted that it expects to file the actual damage suit within two weeks after it receives the application.

The Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) was assigned to the Northern District of Ohio as MDL No. 2804 on Tuesday, December 5, 2017, in response to requests by plaintiffs nationwide to consolidate the actions to a limited number of federal courts. At the time of the order. The City of Lorain and the City of Parma were the initial plaintiffs, both filing damage lawsuits against Purdue Pharma. More than fourteen counties and cities in southern Ohio filed similar litigation in the Southern Federal District of Ohio. Currently, there are more than 64
governmental subdivisions which have filed litigation against Big Pharma as a result of the number of drug overdose deaths increasing from 1914 in 2012 to 4050 in 2016, as noted by Andrew Welsh Higgins for The Associated Press (reported in The Lake County News-Herald, January 8, 2018).

The action will be pursued without cost to Geauga County because Spangenberg Shibley has agreed to charge a 30-50% commission against the financial recovery awarded to Geauga County. Flaiz reported that the law firm has already invested in excess of $1,000,000 over several years in the issues. Recovery will be based on the Damages Matrix, a formula to compute the amount of recovery due to each litigant in the class action litigation. Although Flaiz verbalized his optimistic hope that legal action will be vigorous before the end of 2018, it is important to remember that similar litigation, i.e., that filed against tobacco companies decades ago, as well as that filed against Wyeth Laboratories (purchased by Pfizer in 2009), the manufacturer of the drug PremPro, which was judged to have been a cause of breast cancer in the early 2000s; each took up to five years to litigate and distribute funds to plaintiffs.

Published Monday, February 5, 2018

The meeting set up in the courtroom of Judge Carolyn Paschke for 11 AM was delayed by fifteen minutes. Both defendants Stephen Decatur and Stephanie Stewart, and their attorneys made appearances. Decatur is represented by Cleveland attorney, Lawrence Turbow; Ms. Stewart is represented by Kimberly Kendall Corral. The judge for the two cases is visiting judge, Robert W. Brown, whom Mrs. Corral corrected when he mispronounced her name. There were six observers in the courtroom, including Mrs. Stephen Decatur. Representing the State of Ohio in Cases 17C000206 and 18C000003 are Geauga Assistant Prosecutors Nick DeLuca and Christopher Joyce. A lady deputy sheriff was present the whole time.

An interesting thought on these two cases is that Prosecutor James Flaiz, represented by his two assistant prosecutors, sits on the Geauga County Automated Data Processing Board, as stipulated by Ohio Revised Code. It appears that the Geauga Prosecutor’s Office is representing the State of Ohio, although Flaiz appears to be in a role of conflict of interest.

In the eight-minute hearing, Judge Brown provided clarification. He noted that both fingerprints and DNA samples and bond arrangements had already taken place for both defendants. Further, he stated that both defendants have waived their right to a speedy trial. Inasmuch as there is a mass amount of discovery involved with sorting through e-mails and financial records, there will be at least one pre-trial hearing, in fact, probably several.

The proceedings were efficient and brief with no further court hearings announced at this time.

Published Thursday, February 1, 2018

The two defendants in the Geauga County IT embezzlement scandal will both be arraigned before visiting judge Robert J. Brown on Monday, February 5, 2018, in Common Pleas Court in the courthouse on Chardon Square at 11 AM.

Released on $25,000 bond secured with a $25 payment by Quentin Stewart, Stephanie Stewart, like her father Stephen Decatur, must wear a GPS ankle monitor costing $61 per day. According to documents available on her case, she must report in to a court officer once a week. Cleveland attorney, Kimberly Kendall Corrall, is representing her in Case 18C000003.

Her father, Stephen Decatur, the IT Chief for Geauga County for over thirteen years, will appear in the same courtroom at the same time before Judge Brown to face arraignment, as well in Case 17C000206. Decatur has been free on $25,000 bond for several months. He is represented by Cleveland attorney, Lawrence Turbow.

Readers will recall that indictments were returned against father and daughter on January 26. Stewart was sent to the Geauga County Jail on January 29. Questions regarding the lack of oversight of the Automated Data Processing Board continue to surface, particularly with reference to sums of money paid to the pair in excess of $50,000, without the use of competitive bidding or apparent contracts. Auditor Frank Gliha is listed as the head and CFO of the ADP board, with other members consisting of Prosecutor Jim Flaiz, Sheriff Scott Hildenbrand, Clerk of Courts Denise Kaminski, Recorder Sharon Gingrich, Treasurer Christopher Hitchcock, Board of Elections Director Debra Reiter.

At this juncture, indictments allege that Decatur and Stewart stole at least $1.8 million over a period of nearly eight years. There may be other indictments as a result of a third entity, a software company.

In addition, there have been recent reports of glitches in case information on the Clerk of Courts website, as well as questions regarding the lack of criminal investigating experience of the Flaiz appointed investigator, Brian Kostura. Another apparent consequence of the perceived shortcomings of the ADP oversight board is the announcement this week from Russell fiscal officer, Charles Walder, that he will challenge Gliha for the Republican nomination of Auditor in the May primary.

There will be further updates on these cases as they become available.

Published Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Russell Township Fiscal Officer, Chuck Walder, announced this morning that he will challenge incumbent Auditor, Frank Gliha, in the Republican Primary for County Auditor. Prior to being unsuccessfully challenged in the 2014 Republican primary, Gliha has been unchallenged for that position. Walder identified himself as a thirty-year resident of Russell, an officer in the Geauga County Township Association, a member of the Ohio Association of Public Treasurers. In addition, he serves on the Board of Rescue Village and is a past member of the Kent State Geauga Advisory Board.

Walder’s announcement coincides with the recent indictments of former Geauga IT Chief Technician, Stephen Decatur and his daughter Stephanie Stewart, in connection with the loss of over $1.5 million dollars of Geauga funds and the discovery of Geauga County property within the Decatur household. Mr. Gliha is the administrative head of the Geauga County Automated Data Processing Committee, which until very recently was unaware of any irregularities within the IT department under the committee’s authority.

Walder has identified strategies to restore confidence in the Geauga County Auditor’s Office, to safeguard Geauga County assets, and to make certain that tax monies are properly collected and dispersed.

The 2018 Primary Election will occur on Tuesday, May 8, 2018.

Published Monday, January 29, 2018

The IT debacle in Geauga County continues to spiral amid reports that computer records and equipment were seized on January 19, 2018, for examination on the charges of dereliction of duty by Special Investigator, Brian Kostura. Additionally, two very similar indictments, one 57 pages and the other 59 pages, were handed down by the Grand Jury. Former County IT chief, Stephen Decatur, remains free on bond, but his daughter, Stephanie Elaine Decatur Stewart, was arrested at her Akron residence and escorted to the county jail. Neither docket indicates the next court appearance date for either individual. Decatur is the defendant in Common Pleas Court case 17C000206; Stewart is the defendant in 18C000003.

Both indictments state in the opening paragraph:

“THE JURORS OF THE GRAND JURY of the State of Ohio, within and for the body of the County aforesaid, on their oaths, in the name and by the authority of the State of Ohio, do find and present that on or between February 1, 2010-October 25, 2017, in a continuing course of criminal conduct, at Geauga County, Ohio,”

Stephen T. Decatur
Stephanie E. Stewart

“. . .did conduct or participate . . . through a pattern of corrupt activity or the collection of an an unlawful debt. . .contrary to and in violation of RC 2923.32(A)(1). . . The predicate acts constituting the pattern of activity” are “as alleged in counts two through three hundred thirty-four of this indictment.”

Decatur’s indictment further alleges violations of RC 2913.02. 2921.41, 2913.05, 2921.42. and 1315.55. Stewart’s indictment alleges violations of RC 2913.02, 2923.03, 2913.51, and 1315.55.
Each defendant was charged with 322 counts of money laundering, which is the subject of RC 1315.55. Additionally, the indictments each included two counts of aggravated theft of at least $1,500,000, a first degree felony. Stewart’s indictment also alleged complicity.

Since there is another company involved in the transactions alleged between February 1, 2010 and October 25, 2017, there is the possibility that more indictments could result before the investigation is declared over.

No charges or investigations appear to be yet underway against the Geauga County Automatic Data Processing Board. The members of this entity, which are supposed to have exercised oversight over the activities, services, and purchases of the IT Department, are identified on the Geauga County Website as Auditor and Chief Administrator, Frank J. Gliha; County Engineer, Joe Cattell; County Prosecutor, Jim Flaiz; County Recorder, Sharon Gingerich; County Treasurer, Christopher Hitchcock; County Clerk of Courts, Denise Kaminski; County Sheriff. Scott Hildenbrand; and Board of Elections Director, Deborah Reiter. All of the foregoing individuals are elected to four-year terms by the voters of Geauga County.

The monumental depth of this scandal raises several questions. First of all, we remain incredulous that “the pattern of corrupt activity” alleged in the period of February 1, 2010, to October 25, 2017, could have occurred right under the noses of the above individuals, especially Sheriff Hildenbrand and Prosecutor Flaiz. Secondly, we question how Prosecutor Flaiz can possibly be the prosecutor in any criminal cases connected with the many IT issues raised. Most importantly, however, we are outraged that meetings of the Automated Data Processing committee, which have been noted multiple times on County Commissioner agendas, have been changed at the last minute in terms of time and/or date, making it difficult if not impossible for members of the public to attend sessions, which are indeed public, since the ADP Committee has apparently been funding the alleged aggravated thefts with public funds.

Where will the ax fall? We hope that all elected officials who bear culpability for this heinous deception of Geauga County residents will own up to their responsibilities. Better yet, we insist that the voters of Geauga County are entitled to witness the unfolding events during sessions that should be and are public. If these elected officials are so fearful of public transparency, what other wrongdoings have they been concealing, perhaps for years, until another piece of the aging dam finally breaks, and the flood rightfully deluges them?

Stay tuned. There is more to be written on these topics.

Published Thursday, January 25, 2018

As a result of alleged procedural abuses, the Portage County Republican Central Committee, represented by Cuyahoga County attorney, Nancy Schuster, finds itself the subject of vigorous litigation with several motions filed in the Ohio Supreme Court. Portage County Central Committee member, Brian M. Ames, has filed three mandamus cases pro se, regarding procedures utilized by Judge Richard Reinbold. The story appeared in today’s Ravenna Record-Courier.

Cases 2017-1295 (9/15/17) and 2017-1483 (10/23/2017) are both filed In Procedendo. The latest action In Prohibition against the Honorable Richard Reinbold. was filed with the Ohio Supreme Court on January 10, 2018. It is styled 2018-0045.

Attorney Schuster represents the Geauga County Republican Central Committee in other litigation currently under consideration by the Ohio Supreme Court.

See full story from the Record Courier below.

Portage man files complaint with Supreme Court
By Matthew Merchant / Reporter
Posted Jan 24, 2018

A Randolph man is taking a retired Stark County judge to the Supreme Court of Ohio in a case involving the Portage County Republican Party.

Brian Ames, who has filed more than 10 cases against Portage County officials in the past two years, filed a complaint with the Supreme Court against Judge Richard Reinbold Jr., who has overseen other cases in Portage court as well.

Ames claims in a case filed in April that the Party’s main committee is not operating according to Ohio law. He claims that the Party should have both a Central Committee and an Executive Committee, and that the current combined committee acts in violation of Ohio law.

The Jan. 10 complaint claims that Reinbold dismissed the case Jan. 3 against the Central-Executive Committee of the Portage Republican Party without any motion for dismissal filed.

Portage court records do not list a motion for dismissal being filed by the party’s attorneys.

The claim is based on an email sent from Reinbold to Ames and the committee on Dec. 27, notifying both parties of the pending dismissal.

Ames, who is named as the relator in both cases, is a registered Republican in Portage County. He appealed the dismissal on Jan. 4; it is still pending in the 11th District Court of Appeals.

Ames also claims in his Jan. 10 complaint that Reinbold issued sanctions in the case without any motion for sanctions being filed by the Party. In the complaint, Ames said Reinbold scheduled a hearing for Jan. 19 on the sanctions, a date after the case was already dismissed.

Republican Party Chairman Jonathan Jennings and other members of the Party were named in the original case. Jennings allegedly paid for outside legal counsel, something Ames objected to.

Most all of the cases Ames has filed against Portage County officials have related to the Ohio Open Meetings laws.

Last year he successfully argued a case against Brimfield Township Trustees, who subsequently changed their meeting procedures to align with Ohio law.

His cases against the Portage County Board of Commissioners have either been dismissed or have been appealed to the 11th District Court of Appeals for further opinion.

In court documents, Ames’s legal track record has been described by other attorneys as “frivolous.”

Published Wednesday, January 24, 2018

NOACA, which is the coordinating agency for Cuyahoga County,Geauga County, Lake County, Lorain County, and Medina County, held its first quarterly full meeting on Friday, January 12, 2018. As many readers may be aware, there are 43 voting members and two non-voting representatives from the State of Ohio, Ohio Department of Transportation and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Currently, as many are also aware, the counties outlying Cuyahoga County have a total of 19 of the total 45 votes. Lorain County vasts 7 votes, Lake County has 5 votes, Medina County controls 4 votes, and Geauga County has the least amount of representation with 3 votes out of 45. Meanwhile, Cuyahoga County controls 7 votes, the inner-ring Cleveland suburbs cast a total of 11 votes, and the City of Cleveland itself controls 6 votes for a total of 24 votes. As a result Cuyahoga County exercises the majority of control over any and all issues and projects which come before NOACA.

The purpose of the January 12 meeting was to identify membership on NOCA’s five committees, to approve the meeting minutes from the December 8, 2017, meeting, and among other issues, to approve Resolution 2018-006 to authorize “the Executive Director [Grace Gallucci] to form a Public-Private-Partnership (P3) through the execution of an agreement with Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, Inc. (HTT) for the purposes of conducting a feasibility study for a multi-regional Hyperloop transportation corridor.

This motion succeeds Resolution 2017-049, “Hyperloop Feasibility.” As per the minutes of the December 8, 2017, meeting, Valarie McCall, the Chief of Governmental and International Affairs for the City of Cleveland, expressed her reservations at that meeting over the feasibility study and asked for confirmation of NASA participants. At that time Gallucci stated that NOACA “has not identified the names of all the partners because HTT is in charge of the consortium.” In addition, Mayor Holly Brinda of Elyria, asked the NOACA board to receive and presumably report back any information on potential partners in the consortium headed by HTT “before NOACA commits” to spending the $600,000. According to the minutes, Gallucci agreed. Although Cuyahoga County Executive, Armond Budish, expressed support for the Hyperlink Study, NOACA member Walter Claypool expressed concern that the feasibility study would require NOACA to spend $600,000 “with no matrix in place.”

Readers of this website will recall that the Hyperloop issue was covered shortly after the December 8, 2017 meeting. At that time NOACA leadership composed the above-noted motion for the purpose of carrying out a vote to pursue/not pursue the Feasibility Study. Readers will recall the discussion that NOACA will spend $600,000 of federal gas-tax dollars, with a match of $600,000, on this study.

As the vote on Resolution 2018-006 was conducted by voice vote, several participants were heard to vote no on the issue. There are allegations that Director Gallucci was heard to utter implications that funds received by those who voted negatively could be negatively impacted by NOACA. Inquiries to NOACA requesting the procedure to obtain an audiotape of the proceedings have gone unanswered for over a week by NOACA.

Although there will be committee meetings of NOACA on February 9, the next meeting of the Board of Directors in full session will occur at the NOACA office in downtown Cleveland on Friday, March 9.

Published Sunday, January 14, 2018

Unlike many other municipalities where voters directly elect their mayor, in Chardon, Ohio, the mayor is chosen from as a result of a vote taken among the city’s seven councilmen. Having announced in December 2017 his intentions of being chosen Chardon mayor over two-year incumbent, Nancy McArthur, Councilman Jeffrey Smock won that position by a vote of 4-3 during Chardon’s city council meeting on Thursday, January 11.

Both McArthur and Smock presented prepared statements in support of their respective candidacies. Smock, a longtime city finance manager employee( finance man. McArthur, who spoke first, referred to the vote as a “coup” to overthrow her. She intimated that her position as Chairman of the Republican Central Committee was a rationale used to label her as non-supportive of Democratic councilmen. She denied that charge. Nevertheless, she chose to criticize two individuals she identified by name for accepting “partisan moneys.” She also identified fellow councilmen David Lelko and Andrew Blackley as more motivated to promote their own interests than those of Chardon City Council and of the Chardon Mayor’s office. She noted that an elected title “does not make you a leader.” In contrast, she said, she would “continue to do the good work that I have always done for our great city.”

Smock in his prepared speech noted his intention not to “tarnish her [McArthur’s] reputation or past accomplishments,” but to speak up in his own defense. He cited McArthur’s recent “derogatory claims regarding my performance and that of fellow Councilman Dave Lelko. He noted that evaluation techniques of the current city manager, which McArthur had characterized as “a witch hunt,” had been approved by all members of City
Council, including McArthur. He also noted that the “so-called witch hunt resulted in the manager getting a 2.5% raise. . . Mrs. McArthur thinks there is a division on council if everyone does not vote the way she wants you to.

Ms. McArthur continued to speak after both sets of prepared remarks had concluded. When Smock said, “I will put my experience up against yours any day of the week,” McArthur responded, “I think you and Dave [Lelko] think you have superior experience to the rest of us. . .I don’t think it’s true.”

When the oral vote was completed in an election of not more than two minutes, Smock had won 4-3 to become council president/city mayor. In the election for vice-president, Lelko also won 4-3.

Watch the brief video recording of Nancy McArthur’s response to the election.

Published on Sunday, January 14, 2018

Present for the 9 AM January 11 meeting were personnel from the Department of Aging, the Prosecutor’s Office, several officials excluding Nancy McArthur from the City of Chardon, the Department of Health, the Planning Commission, the Maintenance Department, and Archives. In addition to the three Commissioner, County Administrator David Lair, Commissioners’ Clerk Christine Blair, Probate/Juvenile Court Liaison Kimberly Laurie, and Acting County Administrator Linda Burhenne, as well as Bowen employees Ken Emmeling and Robin Wolf were present.

Commissioner Spidalieri opened up the meeting to advise that issues involving security in the various county buildings would not be discussed in public as a result of opinions expressed by Prosecutor Flaiz. Executive session would be called, he said, if it became necessary to discuss those issues.

Mr. Emmeling summarized Phase 1 of Bowen’s investigation. He noted a needs assessment, a building assessment, and meetings with county personnel to obtain their opinions about department space requirements. If, as a result of today’s discussion, the county wished to go further, Phase 2 would be initiated.

A common theme was the need for more space from 180,000 square feet to 209,000 square feet. Most of the buildings scored D’s and F’s with the Department of Aging getting the highest score at C-. Scoring of individual buildings considered exterior facade condition, interior condition, furniture, security, accessibility, functionality, and ease and availability of parking. Although departments are utilizing their space well, their organization is poor. In addition, thin walls contribute to a lack of privacy when dealing with issues and individuals; in order to complete county business it is often necessary to walk or travel from building to building, even in inclement weather. Further, there is much duplication in equipment throughout the county offices. Many employees report a sense of isolation. The problem departments were the courthouse, the court annex/opera house, the prosecutor’s office, The planning department is one of the few areas with too much space in one building. The maintenance department has many buildings in many different locations of Chardon City.

One of the most significant conclusions was that county buildings need a lot of help, particularly in regard to usage of shared space, like vestibules, meeting rooms, restrooms, and storage spaces. It is important to follow a step-by-step procedure. Although with renovation the buildings could last a few more years, it is necessary to understand the best solution to provide the longest continuous trouble-free operation of buildings.

Phase 2, should the County Commissioners decide to engage Bowen to complete it, will involve a written statement of intention.

Published Saturday, January 13, 2018

President Charlie Stevens called the meeting to order at 7:30 AM, reading a note from Commissioner Spidalieri. Spidalieri had written that he would be late for the meeting, but the annual election of officers was to be postponed until his arrival. Mr. Spidalieri arrived at 7:50 AM, with annual election of officers commencing thereafter, about 8:25 AM. Mr. Stevens was reelected as Chairman, with Caterina Cocca-Fulton elected Vice-Chairman and Gary Neola elected as Secretary.

Director Dietrich provided information about lot splits in Geauga County in 2017. Based on the trends in lot splits, he expects many more lot splits in 2018. He announced that there were 34 new homes completed in 2017 in Bainbridge, 19 in Munson, 15 in Parkman, and 10 in Auburn. Mr. Dietrich explained that the numbers are rebounding. He expects 200 such splits in 2018. 2008 was the year with the smallest number of lot splits. Prior to that time frame there were typically 300 lot splits annually in Geauga County.

The first order of business was the submitted Munson zoning amendment, which stipulated that permitted signs be no larger than 2.25 square feet. Temporary signs, including those of a political nature, need to be removed by the third day aft er the event. Any sign larger than 2.25 square feet would require a zoning permit. No real estate sign larger than six square feet is allowed without a zoning permit. Any temporary signs may be posted for a maximum of fourteen days. Electronic signs must have a visible message of at least seven seconds.

Commissioner Claypool asked why these constraints were necessary for fences. Mr. Dietrich noted that building codes do not address nor apply to fences.

Tom Jones noted bothersome text and cited text that appeared to dictate a fence height of at least four feet but 54 inches where a gate that high exists. Mr. Spidalieri disagreed with the interpretation. Mr. Claypool observed the presence of duplication of other rules. Caterina Cocca-Fulton expressed concern that stipulated numbers are inconsistent and being changed arbitrarily. She questioned the legality of Munson being able to restrict code more than necessary, citing Supreme Court cases over similar excessive restrictions. She opined that in the case of a private building, the owner takes responsibility for any deficiency or liability.

Commissioner Claypool cited Commissioner Spidalieri’s construction of a swimming pool at a residential property in Munson purchased in 2016. Mr. Claypool inquired how Mr. Spidalieri had dealt with swimming pool requirements in Munson zoning code. Mr. Spidalieri responded that the contractor did all the work with regard to zoning. He specifically discussed an electric swimming pool cover costing $16,000. He noted the irony of not needing a fence around his fourteen foot deep lake but needing a fence around his nine foot deep pool. When member Gary Neola asked Spidalieri why he had decided to put on the pool cover, Spidalieri responded that the cover was for cleanliness, and that in the end he had not installed any fence around his permitted pool.

Chairman Stevens questioned the language in the Munson amendment regarding the permitted time of 14 or 30 days for temporary signs. He referenced the US Supreme Court case styled Reed vs. The Town of Gilbert [Arizona] (2015). Are signs up between 15 and 30 days even subject to zoning regulation? He cited the Supreme Court decision (ruled 9-0) that signs that require reading (content-based) are subject to First Amendment. Political, real estate, directional or identification, instructional, construction, price, and/or home occupation are NOT subject to township/municipality zoning.
Ms. Cocca-Fulton added that if one must read the sign or look at content of the sign to understand its message, any attempt by governmental officials to remove such sign is a violation of free speech rights. Further, she noted that the Supreme Court decision does not limit the time for signs exempt from zoning to 30 days.

Mr. Spidalieri questioned where one “draws the line” with regard to freedom from regulation on signs. “How do you get a trustee to deal with deteriorating appearance [of signage]?”

Mr. Claypool asked, “Are all the rules in zoning even enforceable?”

When Ms. Cocca-Fulton asked whether the Prosecutor’s Office had reviewed the Munson amendment, Director Dietrich responded that Assistant Prosecutor Susan Wieland had reviewed it without any comments.

Chairman Stevens noted further that putting a sign in the right-of-way is an example of redundancy that will result in the sign being removed.

Ms. Cocca-Fulton stated her wish that Assistant Prosecutor Wieland give an opinion in regard to private owners’ rights about fencing and signs. “She needs to opine about the free speech provision.”

Mr. Stevens noted that once a township zoning commission presents an amendment, the prosecutor will automatically review so it was clear that the Munson amendment had already gone through legal review. “Are there any recommendations that we can give to Munson to improve this amendment?” His conclusion was that there were two items for review by Munson Township: 1) In regard to swimming pools, is there any duplication of language that is already found in county building code?
2)What should Munson do regarding signage? At 8:25 Mr. Stevens asked for an approval with modifications to be given to the Munson amendment. That suggestion won unanimous approval by voice vote.

Commissioner Lennon noted the availability of one Planning Commission seat. Mr. Stevens elaborated that Cathy Cotman had decided not to renew her seat but to focus on her role on the Chester Township Zoning Commission, instead. Mr. Lennon asserted that there had been no responses in regard to the vacancy.

Mr. Stevens brought up the topic of time of meetings, noting that the 9 AM termination time of planning commission meetings has created problems for the Board of Commissioners. Mr. Neola suggested the need for meetings more often than once a month. Mr. Stevens agreed that the board has the right to set more meetings. For the time being at least, future meetings will be continued at 7:30 AM on the second Tuesday of the month, with termination at 9:30 AM, per unanimous approval.

Mr. Stevens updated information on formation of a groundwater committee. He indicated need for a committee with two zoning commission members and two township trustees. He noted that he already had one zoning commission member and one trustee to attend three meetings during the year.

At 8:45 AM the commission voted to go into executive session to discuss employment issues and returned to public session at approximately 9:25 with no action taken to adjourn the meeting of the Planning Commission.

Published Saturday, January 13, 2018

The highlights of this meeting deal with recent issues of a request to vacate a road in Parkman Township by that community’s trustees and issues relating to several new county hirees.

Back in December, after at least one public hearing and one public viewing of the road in question, Commissioners voted unanimously to approve vacation of a portion of Doty Road, During the meeting under discussion, Parkman trustee, Dennis Ikeler, and resident Mr. Gates appeared regarding Agenda Items 5, 6, and 7 concerning that issue. Item 5 was a motion from the Parkman Trustees to consider an amendment to the earlier-approved vacation. Item 6 regarded the Engineer’s response and report submitted in response to Item 5 with several language variations of the current state of affairs. Item 8 concerned a notarized letter received from Parkman property owner Kyle Wagamon. All three motions were approved by commissioners, who then gave Trustee Ikeler and resident Gates the opportunity to talk. Ultimately, an executive session among the three Commissioners and Assistant Prosecutor Laura Lachapelle resulted in a decision and multiple comments by the commissioners.

Noted Commissioner Spidalieri: “If we had to take a vote, we would vote to vacate the whole thing. I would ask to deny the request. I want the decision to be right.”

Commissioner Lennon added, “Now the landholders are negotiating. You need to go back to the drawing board.” The Parkman trustee agreed to submit another request to vacate.”

In other highlights, three hirees were the subject of motions. The Transit Department hired Sam Misseri as a part-time driver effective January 8 at the rate of $13.97 subject to a one-year probationary period. The County Home hired David Wicks as full-time attendant effective January 16 at the rate of $11.58 with a one-year probationary period. Finally, the Maintenance Department hired Aaron Boalt effective February 5 at the rate of $13.97 per hour with a one-year probationary period. A public records search indicates that he is the husband of Department of Aging Director, Jessica Boalt.

Published Saturday, January 13, 2018

In an organizational meeting that adjourned about 8:45 on an evening with temperatures well into the 50’s, the Auburn Township Trustees established membership on zoning commission and board of zoning appeal, along with salaries incorporating 2% raises for most township employees. Mileage reimbursement for township business increased from 53.5 to 54.5 cents per mile per the IRS.

All employees in township employment (perhaps with the exception of Matthew Blowers, who was not discussed) were reemployed. Frank Kitko, who has held office open to residents for a couple of hours on Friday afternoons for the last several years, was rehired by the Board of Trustees His monthly income increased from $1800.47 to $2000 per month.

Fire Chief/EMS Head, John Phillips will earn $38,000 per year on salary.

Michael Ludwing received two pay increases. For his position as cemetery sexton, his income increased from $331.19 to $337.82 per month. His rate of pay on the road department service team increased from $21.79 to $22.23 per hour straight time, with overtime dependent on road conditions during winter months.

BZA/Zoning Secretary Jane Hardy received two income increases. For her role as BZA Secretary, her rate of pay increased from $18.21 to $18.58 hourly, while her income as zoning secretary under Frank Kitko increased from $18.21 to $18.58 per hour.

Zoning Commission Secretary Dee Ballew’s reimbursement will increase from $18.47 to $18.58 per hour.

Nancy Dolezal, whose job title is Office Administrator, saw her rate of pay increase from $19.22 to $19.61.

Highway Superintendent Emerick Gordon, who was not present at the organizational meeting after reporting a long day that included a phone call at approximately 3:30 AM regarding the closing of Kenston Schools for Tuesday, January 9, per Trustee John Eberly, received an increase from $25.27 to $25.78 per hour.

Road department employee Mark Sturm’s rate of pay increased from 21.79 to $22.23 per hour.

Road department employee John Szoka’ s rate of pay increased from $21.79 to $22.23 per hour.

Road department employee with the least seniority,Mr. Fenstermaker, had his rate of pay increased from $18 per hour to a total of $19.98, which includes an additional $1 per hour raise.

Zoning Commission members, who regularly meet the second and fourth Thursdays of the month at the Administration Building at 7:30 PM, will continue to receive $45 per meeting. Members are Todd Asnavorian, Dee Ballew, Scott Kamineer, Albert Tien, Don Simpson, and Beth Liff.

Board of Zoning Commission members will continue to receive $45 per meeting. They meet the second Tuesday of each month at 7 P.M. at the Administration Building. Members are David Parker, Frances Gibbons, Doug Hogan, Scott Brockman, Brian Steward, Lew Tomsic, and Rob Pealer.

Published Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The opening 2018 meeting of the Geauga County Commissioners lasted about an hour with Ralph Spidalieri continuing in the role of President and Timothy Lennon assuming the position of Vice President. Twice during the meeting Commissioner Lennon joked over his new “seat.” About twenty minutes into the meeting, Mt. Lennon asked if he could stay in the same location relative to Commissioners Spidalieri and Claypool that he occupied during 2017 and then very near the end of the meeting he noted that he “may need a helmet,” an apparent reference to being in the middle of a verbal melee between the other two.

In the midst of a routine list of housekeeping motions, the Commissioners early in the meeting referenced the upcoming January 8 ADP Committee meeting. This was also listed on the agenda, and the meeting time of 11 AM was noted. In addition, a motion before the Commissioners to approve the action of the Joint Auditor/ADP Board to utilize Visa card use was tabled until the January 9 Commissioner meeting, when Commissioner Claypool would report back to the Board about the outcomes of the January 8 meeting. Commissioner Clerk, Christine Blair, noted that she had asked Deputy Auditor, Ron Leyde, for more information and was supplied with a list of applicants for the credit card use, including Frank Gliha and Ron Leyde. Ms. Blair also noted that under ORC, credit card use is allowed for the purchase of “technical” items. Ms. Blair clarified that the list of applicants might not necessarily correspond to those individuals who would be authorized to use the credit card for relevant purchases. In addition, no spending limits have been communicated at this point.

As a follow-up, the same motion appeared as number at the January 9, 2018 meeting. Commissioner Claypool shared that per the 11AM ADP meeting on Monday, January 8, the four individuals mentioned last week, he understood that the Visa card in question would/could be used to purchase URL’s to develop websites. The four names on the credit card application, including Auditor Frank Gliha and Deputy Auditor Ron Leyde, will be the only individuals with the authority to spend funds-- in this case, a maximum of $1500 each per month. The motion passed unanimously.

Published Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Northfield Center Trustee Paul Buescher regularly publishes a newsletter for constituents and friends. We extend our thanks to Trustee Buescher for this timely and relevant information. We have taken the liberty to quote him for his remarks about a former fiscal officer from the Northfield Center-Sagamore Hills Fire District.

“Former Northfield Center-Sagamore Hills Fire District Fiscal officer, Rosemary Barrett, plead GUILTY today to the charge of theft in office. She made the plea before Judge Alison Breaux [in Summit County Common Pleas Court]. The 4th degree felony charge resulted from the misuse of a Fire District issued credit card.

“Barrett was sentenced to 36 months of ‘Community Control’ (Community Service) and will pay restitution amounting to $10,172.12. Details are included in court documents in case number CR-2017-08-3061.”

“Barrett was originally charged last August by the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, when Northfield Center Township received a suspicious bill from Huntington Bank (formerly First Merit). The Sheriff’s Office was immediately contacted and conducted a subsequent investigation, which immediately implicated Mrs. Barrett. The Summit County Sheriff’s investigation, led by Detective Ann Manuel, is now complete and the case is closed.”

The criminal case judgment was released at 6:37 AM this morning to close the case known as The State of Ohio vs Rosemary D. Barrett. The press release noted that the court relied on “using the minimum sanctions that the Court determines accomplish those purposes without imposing an unnecessary burden on state or local government resources.”

The defendant shall “make full and complete restitution in the amount of $10,172.12, less any payments already made, to the victim in this matter, Northfield Center-Sagamore Hills Joint Fire District.” Among the conditions imposed on Barrett are testing for substance abuse and observed urinalysis testing.

The press release was copied to Summit County Assistance Prosecutor Jay Cole, Defendant’s Attorney and former Summit County Assistant Prosecutor Jose Feliciano; and the Summit County Adult Probation Department.

Finally, it is important to note that in this case the Office of the State Auditor, Dave Yost, apparently found no irregularities in any of the reports filed by Mrs. Barrett to that entity. Instead, the office of the Summit County Sheriff was responsible for uncovering the crime. Geauga County readers are reminded of the activities of Chester Township Clerk (now known as Fiscal Officer), who stole millions from that township in the early 2000s. Although Spellman served a prison term, he was paroled a few years ago without having paid back the Geauga County township.

Readers are reminded that fiscal officers, if found guilty of theft, are now required by virtue of recent Ohio Revised Code enactments, to pay back all missing funds.