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Commentary from 2014

Commentary from other years 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013

Published December 9, 2014

At his first Geauga Park District meeting as a Commissioner, Hambden farmer Bill Gertz was asked by sometime militant Parkman resident, John Augustine, to explain his “interest in natural areas.” Gertz happily recounted the purchase of his 135 acres in 1953, when there were fewer than 2000 residents in Hambden. There is nothing I would do to injure that gem [the Geauga Park System],” asserted Gertz. When pushed by Augustine and Katherine Malmquist “to make a motion to make it [Geauga Park District by-laws] the way it was before July,” and to wait until the results of a county-wide survey before following through on measures approved by GPD earlier in the year, Gertz was frank and direct. “I think fracking is a dead issue,” he stated in response to Augustine's demand that fracking could rear its head on GPD property. Unruffled by what appeared to be pushy requests by both Augustine and Malmquist, Gertz almost chuckled. “I was expecting a riot and I was ready for you.” Then he added, “We live in a democracy... The minority comes in. . . I can handle constructive criticism. . . [but] political jargon, forget it. Leave it in the parking lot.”

Our hat is off to Bill Gertz. In a quiet, unruffled manner, he has made it clear to the individuals who return to GPD meetings with the same jaded demands to return to the policies of former Executive Director Tom Curtin that he will be polite, but he will be no pushover to their bullying tactics.

For the complete video of the Park Board meetint click this link

Published November 30, 2014

In a legal notice printed Thursday, November 27, 2014, (see side box) Eclipse Companies, LLC, through its attorney, Gregory O'Brien, announced that Geauga County Common Pleas Court Case Number 14M000484, before Judge David Fuhry, was being settled to grant Eclipse the variance that it sought before the Auburn Township BZA in May. The article indicates the willingness of Auburn Township Trustees to effect a joint judgment entry after only 5 ½ months on the docket. Research shows that Eclipse is the defendant in numerous legal actions in both Cuyahoga and Geauga County; these actions, brought variously by Pepco of Eastlake, Ohio; the Illuminating Company of Cleveland, Ohio; Xtreme Elements; Ontario Stone Corporation; Cincinnati Wholesale Supply; and Stoncor Group, Inc. In each case the plaintiff alleges that Eclipse has not paid an outstanding bill. Eclipse, formerly located on Miles Avenue in Warrensville Heights, has been doing business in Auburn for about a year. Why are the Auburn Town
Please take notice that it is the intention of the Appellant, Eclipse Cos. LLC and the Auburn Township Board of Trustees and the Auburn Township Board of Zoning Appeals, Appellees, in Case No. 14-A-000484 in the Court of Common Pleas of Geauga County, Ohio, known as Eclipse Cos. LLC v. Auburn Township Board of Trustees, et al., to file a settlement agreement with said Court in order to grant a variance to Eclipse Cos. LLC to temporarily stockpile concrete and topsoil at 17940 Ravenna Road (office/light industry) in conjunction with the State of Ohio, Department of Transportation highway project along State Route 422 between State Routes 306 and 44 in Auburn Township, Ohio, which variance was previously denied by the Auburn Township Board of Zoning Appeals.

By Gregory J. O’Brien, Attorney for Appellant, Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, 200 Public Square, Suite 3500, Cleveland, Ohio  44114. (216) 241-2838
Nov27, 2014
ship Trustees appearing to negotiate a settlement with Eclipse at the expense and embarrassment of the BZA?

Many Auburn Township and Geauga County residents well remember the years 2010-2014, when the Auburn Township Board of Zoning Appeals ruled that grape-crushing equipment necessary to the operation of a winery and a 10-kilowatt wind turbine for a horse farm were not “strictly” agricultural, as per the judgment of the zoning inspector. In those cases the Auburn Township Trustees, as well as the BZA, refused to discuss any part of the denials, forcing the two farms to file administrative appeals attesting zoning inspector error in Geauga County Common Pleas. As many Auburn residents are now aware, farms in a township are not subject to any dictates of zoning in a township. In spite of advice from the Prosecutor's Office about the lack of township zoning jurisdiction over farms, Auburn Township Trustees fought each case with the aid of its Ohio Township Association Risk Management Authority counsel ( fees paid with Auburn Township residents' dollars).

Both farms timely appealed their Geauga County Common Pleas Court defeats under Judge Fuhry to the Eleventh District Court of Appeals, which ruled in favor of the farms each time by soundly ridiculing Auburn Township's broken zoning. The Appeals justices who rendered these outcomes were Mr. Wright and Mr. Cannon and Ms. Grendell and Ms. Trapp. Both farms, forced to endure significant financial losses. Especially when Auburn Township sought unsuccessfully to be heard by the Ohio Supreme Court in an effort to reverse a judgment, filed mandamus at the Geauga County Common Pleas level.

Based on Auburn Township's virulent and uncooperative history with its own residents, most notably farmers, why are the Trustees now willing to tromp over the BZA and Zoning Inspector Frank Kitko in an attempt to appease a company with significant outstanding bills in two counties?

Stay tuned. . .

Published November 19, 2014

Dear Prosecutor Flaiz:

Many months ago you indicated that your office was publishing a guide book for townships in regard to Open Meetings and Sunshine Law. Although we requested a copy of said procedure several times and you said you would provide us a copy as civic-minded citizens, we have never received it.

Tonight was the regular meeting of the Auburn Township Trustees. Several citizens reported passing the Auburn Township Administration Building and seeing all three Trustees inside in a lighted room around 6:15 P.M. Regular Trustee meetings occur the first and third Mondays of the month at 7:30P.M. We checked the latest issues of The News Herald and the Maple Leaf but could not find any legal announcement of a special meeting at Auburn Township.

When we arrived for the Auburn Trustee meeting at 7:15 P.M., we found all the lights on, and we could clearly see all three Trustees inside. When we found the front door open, we walked in to see Auburn Board of Zoning Appeals member, Brian Stewart, addressing the Trustees. In the second row was Maple Leaf reporter and wife of Ed Ryder, Diane Ryder. The room immediately grew silent, one Trustee adjourned the executive session, and Brian Stewart immediately walked out.

What is the official policy regarding attendance at Executive Session? Is Media, i.e., the Geauga County Maple Leaf, entitled to be present during Executive Session? When I asked why Media had been present during Executive Session, Fiscal Officer Fred May said, "She showed up and we couldn't turn her away." If that is the case, then why can't anyone attend Executive Session?

Mrs. Ryder's attendance during an Executive Session is a clear breach of Executive Session and should be reported to you as ethical misconduct. The Ohio Ethics Commission will be interested in this episode as well.

I look forward to your response and your solution of this disgusting and arrogant example of breach of the public trust in elected officials in Geauga County.

Diane J. Jones
Auburn Township

Published October 24, 2014

There are large signs promoting a “sneak peak” at the “improvements” made to “ Auburn Township Community Park” on November 1, 2014, from 10 A.M to 2 P.M.

Why is it that more than 7 ½ years after the purchase of the 68 acre parcel formerly known as Cathan Farm the project is still not open to Auburn taxpayers unless the gates are open? Presently, the gates are frequently open during weekday afternoons and weekends. According to the Auburn Trustees, the park is being utilized by youngsters in the Kenston Community Education program. The park, though paid for by Auburn Township taxpayers, is not yet open for them to enjoy.

The original deed was signed on January 29, 2007, by Edward F Meyers for the Western Reserve Land Conservancy.

Note the following irregularities with regard to the 68-acre “public” parcel”:

1) No resolution from the Auburn Township Trustees for the organization of the Park exists, per response by then Fiscal Officer Susan Plavcan on December 3, 2012, to public information request.

2) No trustee resolution authorizing the renaming of Cathan Farm to Auburn Township Community Park exists, per written response from then Fiscal Officer Susan Plavcan on December 3, 2012, to public information request.

3) No trustee resolution authorizing the establishment of any board of park commissioners to administer Auburn Township Community Park exists. Further, there is no record of any past or present board of park commissioners of the Auburn Township Community Park, as noted in writing on December 3, 2012, by then Fiscal Officer, Susan Plavcan.

Who renamed Cathan Park? When was Cathan Park renamed? If there is no public record of any of the three previous conditions, have the Auburn Township Trustees acted within protocol established by Ohio Revised Code? Have the Auburn Township Trustees committed malfeasance, misfeasance, and/or nonfeasance?

Further, in an affidavit signed by Assistant Prosecutor Susan Wieland on September 3, 2009, Auburn Township received a $99,000 grant authorized by House Bill 562, to be released on or about September 8, 2009. Item Number 8 of the agreement states, “The Grantee [Auburn Township Trustees] agrees that the Project will be completed, and open and available for use, not later than June 30, 2010.”

Two amendments, signed by Auburn Township Trustee, Patrick J. Cavanagh, and David Payne, Designee for the Director of Ohio State Parks, amended the completion of the Project to June 30, 2011, and then to December 31, 2011.

“Auburn Township Community Park” is still not open for public use in late October 2014, Township On November 1, 2014, when Auburn Township residents eat their token hot dog and drink their token soda during their “sneak peak,” will they realize that the park is three years past the deadlines established by the grant? Just when do Auburn Trustees intend to permit the residents of Auburn Township to have open and full use of the property they paid for? Sneak Peak or just more plain old baloney from the Auburn Trustees?

Published October 21, 2014

At the October 13, 2014, League of Women Voters Candidates Night at Kenston High School, the organization included coverage of Geauga County township issues as well as candidates for elected positions. Both Bainbridge and Auburn have two mill road levies on the November 4 ballot.

According to a State of Ohio report that we were able to access at the Geauga County Auditor's Office back in August, 2014, Bainbridge has a total operating budget of 25.6, ostensibly because of fire and safety expenses. Before passage of any additional road levy, Bainbridge has a Road and Bridge operating budget of 6.7 mills, so that current Road and Bridge funds account for 26.17% of total Bainbridge millage. Should the 2 mill road levy pass on November 4, road expenses will incorporate 8.7 mills out of a total millage of 27.6. At this point the Road and Bridge millage will account for 31.1% of the total Bainbridge operating levy.

According to the same report in the Auditor's Office, the Auburn Township total current operating budget is 9.5 mills so that the Road and Bridge 4.6 mills accounts for 48.42% of total millage. When the Auburn road levy of 2 mills passes, the total operation of roads will account for 6.6 mills out of a total of 11.5 mills. The road portion of the total budget will account for 57.39% of the total Auburn budget.

Auburn residents know that they do not pay for their own safety forces, although they do pay dearly for a new fire station and the ongoing maintenance that this facility demands. Passage of this 2 mill levy will insure the existence ad nauseum of 5 mills in levies. There were a number of “glory” years, during which Auburn Township collected very healthy returns as a result of Estate Tax distributions. Sadly, as soon as those Estate Tax funds were received, Trustees placed them into the “Land Acquisition Fund.” In recent years, since the purchase and “development” of old Mr. Cathan's farm into the so-called “Auburn Community Park,” the fund in question has become known as “Land Acquisition and DEVELOPMENT.” As soon as folks kicked the bucket so that Auburn Township could receive Death Taxes, the money was quickly spent, often at the hands of contractors who were not morally or ethically committed to the well-being of Auburn residents. In one case, the contractor boasted that as a “neighbor in Bainbridge,” he would not shortchange Auburn Township. In fact, the contractor's workmanship was shoddy, with the result that dollars granted to Auburn Township because they dared to die, were wasted. Nevertheless, the funding was quickly spent so that now Auburn Township has no funding as a result of Estate Tax, though it has significant funding still left in “Land Acquisition and Improvement.” So why not show some gratitude toward those Auburn residents, living and dead, who have footed all the bills? Why not use the funds quickly swooped into the “Land Acquisition and Improvement Fund” to help pay for roads?

For several years County Treasurer Chris Hitchcock has been highly critical of Bainbridge Township for “saving” funds that came to the township because it dared to save funds generated from estate taxes for rainy day expenditures. Regardless of the criticism that Bainbridge Township incurred from Hitchcock, Bainbridge Township is now able to save its residents some money by utilizing Estate Tax monies to help offset the cost of new roads. Bainbridge Trustee Lorie Sass Benza explained at the Kenston Candidates Night that her township, as a result of saving estate tax reimbursements and depositing them into the General Fund, has been able to pay down most of the costs of road maintenance and improvement. Thank you, Bainbridge Township, for prudent fiscal planning.

As taxpayers should know, the benefits derived from Estate Tax windfalls are gone forever. Which option do you prefer? Do you prefer to pay for increased road payments by Auburn Township officials, who now claim that their road maintenance/improvement program exceeds $1million per year or do you prefer the actions of Bainbridge Township, which is now able to save its residents funds because of “horded” Estate Tax monies?

Trust in elected township officials is a critical factor in the passage of renewal and additional road levies. Keep your eye on the spending policies of your Trustees. Know which contractors are being paid for “roadwork.” Keep your eye on the observance or lack thereof of awards of road-oriented contracts. Are these contracts subject to bidding? Are these contracts often being awarded to the same entities? Are your Trustees looking to spend “windfalls” on anything that comes along so that their residents will have to pay out the wazoo for projects that could have been completed with Death Tax money?

Estate Taxes were manna from heaven for townships for quite awhile,l but the “good times” are over and the windfalls are “gone with the wind.” Bainbridge taxpayers are the beneficiaries of wise fiscal use of those dollars. Without the benefits of Estate Taxes, they would be paying more than 2 mills for roads. Auburn taxpayers cannot claim to be so fortunate because that township's Trustees have seemed to revel in playing fast and loose with death tax money. It appears in hindsight that as soon as estates were settled in Probate Court, there was money to spend in Auburn Township... and boy, were the Trustees big spenders! Auburn's Adam Hall, a multi-year project made possible with Death Tax dollars, soaked up at least $1.6 million of dead people's money. Alas and alack, the Death Tax itself is dead: “Ding Dong, the tax is dead...the wicked tax is dead!” In Auburn the living will have to fork out the funds so that the Trustees can continue to SPEND, SPEND, SPEND1

This homily is a tale of two road levies in two contiguous Geauga County townships. Please vote WISELY on November 4, 2014, on the road issues that will determine the futures and fortunes, good or bad, of Auburn and Bainbridge Townships.

Published October 14, 2014

This is again the weird season, the month-long home stretch until the November 4, 2014, election. There are a lot of important races out there, including the state offices of Governor, Auditor, Treasurer, Attorney General. Those candidates did not bother to attend the Geauga County League of Women Voters Candidates Nights, the last of which took place at Kenston High School, Bainbridge, Ohio, last evening. Probably the most important local race this season is that for Representative to the U. S. House of Representatives for the Fourteenth District. The winner of this race will represent Ashtabula, Geauga, Portage, and Lake Counties, as well as southeastern portions of Cuyahoga, Summit, and Trumbull Counties.

Watch the videos of the two candidates who chose to present their views and ask for the questions of those in attendance. Michael Wager, the Democratic candidate, is a career corporate attorney who made the decision to run in the 2014 election for the Fourteenth Congressional District back in December 2012, when David Joyce was appointed to fill the seat of the retiring Steven LaTourette. David Macko, the Libertarian Candidate, is a perennial candidate for this position. The most important thing to remember is that the incumbent, David Joyce, has not chosen to show up for League of Women Voters Candidates Nights.

Having been refused the opportunity by the Joyce staff to meet with David Joyce this summer during his Congressional leave because “he is booked solid,” we started to notice that David Joyce does not provide many opportunities to engage with the public. When he does arrive, he appears to be accompanied by “handlers” who screen his questions and guide his course of conversation. Among those “handlers” is the Republican Chairman of the Lake County Republican Party, Dale Fellows, along with a lot of holdover handlers that Joyce apparently “inherited” from Steve LaTourette, who has his hands tightly on the golden sovereigns being handed out to Good Old Boys.

At any rate, we must conclude that David Joyce is just “booked solid,” too solid to make his appearance before Geauga voters of the Fourteenth District.

What is Little Dave Joyce afraid of? Is he “Just Dave” after all? Watch the video and gauge who is the most conscientious and best prepared candidate. Obviously, David Joyce does not care to be exposed for his true self.

Perhaps Just Dave is only just dave, minus the kingly title granted to him without the test of election,

just dave...
just d...

Published September 23, 2014

As an Auburn Township resident/taxpayer, do you perchance remember the name, “Cathan Farm”? Do you remember when this parcel belonged to Auburn Township's Cathan Family?

Several years ago, without any discussion at public meetings by the Trustees, we learned that Auburn Township owned the property formerly known as Cathan Farm. Auburn Township Trustees, instead of purchasing the property from the Cathan Family, purchased it from the Western Reserve Land Conservancy with Auburn Township taxpayer funds.

The next thing we learned about Cathan Farm was that its name had evolved to Cathan Park when the Auburn Township Trustees received a $100,000 grant from then State Representative Tim Grendell to make improvements to the parcel so that it could be used publicly. One of the stipulations of the grant was that, after two extensions of time, the park be open for public use by December 31, 2012. The plan submitted by Auburn Trustees to qualify for the grant offered sketches of several gazebos and picnic facilities. Auburn Township subsequently received this grant even though Trustee Cavanagh asserted on September 5, 2014, at a public meeting that the facility is “still a construction site,” an apparent work in progress.

Nevertheless, at the same Trustee meeting, after observations from several residents that the gates to the park were open frequently, that underage individuals were observed swinging on these open gates, that vehicles were entering the facility, and that music was emanating from the facility, Trustees observed that the grounds were being used exclusively by Kenston Community Education. Trustee Cavanagh expressed the “fact” that a schedule of usage was posted on the building constructed by Blue Pines at Auburn Township expense. What he failed to explain was how Auburn taxpayers could view this schedule of use when locked gates prohibited them access to the facility their tax dollars had financed.

On September 22, 2014, in the short attached video, Trustee Eberly stated with an apparent sense of pride that Auburn Community Park was experiencing “parking lot jams,” “a lot of games,” “speeding,” and “hundreds of kids.” So what has happened to the name Cathan Farm and Cathan Park? Did Auburn taxpayers have the opportunity to determine if THEY approved of the name of Auburn Community Park? As usual in Auburn Township, the answer is NO because apparently the Auburn Trustees ( Cavanagh, Eberly, and Troyan) make the decisions without regard to either ORC or to the rights of taxpayers.

So what is wrong with Auburn Community Park being open to Kenston Community Park for implementation of KCE programs when taxpayers are not permitted within the park unless they observe the gates open? So what is wrong with the idea that an Auburn taxpayer could enter the park when the gates are open, only to find out that the road superintendent has closed the gates and walked off with the key to the gate because he did not know that Auburn Township residents were inside?

The problem appears to be the manner in which the park was established. That is, it was established under ORC 505.261. ORC 505.261 does not speak to the authorized use of a township park by a community education entity. Did this happen because it was the pleasure of the Trustees to grant exclusive use of “Auburn Community Park” to Kenston Community Education, while shutting out the use by Auburn Township taxpayers, whose funds financed its quiet purchase by the Trustees and its bestowal upon Kenston Community Education? Oh, and where are the gazebos and the picnic groves? Is Kenston Community Education going to finance these projects for the benefit of Auburn Township residents, families, and taxpayers?

Why weren't the taxpayers of Auburn Township given the privilege of establishing an INDEPENDENT park facility under ORC 1545.041?

Are you happy with the current arrangement? Does it satisfy you that Auburn Community Park is being made available to participants who do not even live in Auburn Township or pay taxes here? Is it a good use of Auburn Township taxpayer funds to permit, in the words of Trustee Eberly, “ parking lot jams, “ “speeding,” “lots of games,” and “hundreds of kids,” many of whom are not children of Auburn Township taxpayers? Will Auburn Township taxpayers be liable when “hundreds of kids,” many of whom are not children of Auburn Township taxpayers, get hurt on Auburn Township property funded by Auburn Township taxpayers?

What are YOU going to do about this apparent abuse of Auburn Township taxpayer money? Is this misuse of public taxpayer money an example of malfeasance, misfeasance, and nonfeasance by elected officials? Back in 1980 Bainbridge Trustee, Terry Carson, now in a leadership role with the Geauga County Democratic Party, was found guilty of such malfeasance, misfeasance, and nonfeasance by Geauga County Common Pleas Judge Ford. Even after an appeal by Carson to the Eleventh District Court of Appeals, the charges were affirmed.

Although it is inequitable that Auburn Township taxpayers should finance the pursuits of Kenston Community Education with their tax money and their public property, there is at least one valuable lesson to learn from the taxpayers/voters of Bainbridge Township.

What are Auburn Township voters waiting for? Perhaps the permission of Kenston Community Education?

Published September 10, 2014

As promised at the outset of the September 9, 2014, there was a forty-five minute public comment time period. Although the initial comments came from people who seemed to want to restore old leadership and old mission statements after passing notes around the room, we were impressed by the succinct and fair comments of several of the presenters. The comments selected for this video represent opposing points of view presented without any apparent intent to hog time or attention.

Note the reaction of Park Commissioner Lou Mucci to members of the audience who interrupted the first speaker. Gratefully, Mucci's response demonstrated the fairness and impartiality of the Park Board Commission so that all points of view could be heard. We honestly believe that the interruptions from those who attended reflected badly upon by preventing them from educating the public about the validity of their beliefs. Perhaps when they view this video, they will be able to learn from their mistakes.

We congratulate the Geauga Park Commissioners for their generosity of spirit and openness and the speakers who were able to articulate their opinions with both clarity and brevity. At the end of the day, the ability to demonstrate fairness and open-mindedness, as well as the patience to help educate others, rather than dictate to them, are the factors most helpful in the problem-solving process.

Cheers to the Geauga County Park Commissioners! Keep up the great work and don't give in to the demands of small individuals who, like spoiled, petulant children, keep expecting others to give in to their irrational tantrums.

Published August 11, 2014

For the second year in a row Auburn Township's state audit revealed material weaknesses because disbursements during the year ended December 31, 2013, disbursements and encumbrances exceeded appropriations.

As noted on page 6 of “Notes fo the Financial Statements for the Year Ended December 31, 2012, Section 1. Appropriations states, “Budgetary expenditures( that is, disbursements and encumbrances) may not exceed appropriations at the fund, department, and object level of control, and appropriations may not exceed estimated resources.”

The 2012 annual audit under former Fiscal Officer Susan Plavcan elicited several pages of notes from the auditing entity known as Julian and Grube on April 18, 2013: . “As described in Note 1 of the financial statements, Auburn Township prepared these financial statements using the accounting basis permitted by the financial reporting provisions of Ohio Revised Code Section 117.38 and Ohio Administrative Code Section 117-2-03, which is an accounting basis other than accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America, to satisfy requirements.. . .The effects on the financial statements of the variances between the regulatory basis of accounting described in Note 1 and accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America, although not reasonably determinable, are presumed to be material.”

“ In our opinion, because of the significance of the matter discussed in the Basis for Adverse Opinion on U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles paragraph, the financial statements referred to above do not present fairly, in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United states of America, the financial position of Auburn Township as of December 31, 2012, or changes in financial position thereof for the year then ended.”

“In accordance with Government Accounting Standards, we have also issued our report dated April 18, 2013, on our consideration of Auburn Township's internal control over financial reporting and our tests of its compliance with certain provisions of laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements and other matters. “

Further, in the letter of May 21, 2013, State Auditor Dave Yost notes that according to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), “auditors ...formally acknowledge that you [Fiscal Officer Susan Plavcan] did not prepare your financial statements in accordance with GAAP [ Generally Accepted Accounting Principles}.”

The results released August 8, 2014, from Julian and Grube for the year ended December 31, 2013, under new Fiscal Officer Fred May, report material weaknesses known as the following: 2013-AT-001 and 2013-AT-002, as well as failure to correct material weakness 2012-AT-001, attributed to former Fiscal Officer Susan Plavcan.

Finding 2013-AT-001 at page 29 indicates that Julian and Grube were required to make adjustments”to correct misstatements identified in the audit of the the Township's financial statements”

i Increase road and bridge intergovernmental receipts in the amount of $71,855 to properly record homestead and rollback receipts.

ii Increase special fire levy intergovernmental receipts in the amount of $55,496 to properly record homestead and rollback receipts.

iii Decrease general fund property tax receipts in the amount of $127,451 to properly record homestead and rollback receipts. “

This explanation appears to demonstrate a deviation of $127,000+, providing a substantial motivation for a wrecked budget.

In conclusion, Julian and Grube state. “The present system lacks fiscal oversight and approvals and faild to meet the above expectations [of well-informed business decisions}. We recommend the Township consult with their auditors, the Township Handbook [latest edition March, 2014 ]. Auditor of State and/or Ohio Municipal League to ensure accurate financial reporting.” [Emphasis added]

Finding 2013-AT-002 begins with an explanation:
“Ohio Revised Code Section 5705. 41(D) requires that no orders or contracts involving the disbursement of monies are to be made unless [Emphasis added] there is certificate of the fiscal officer that the amount required for the order or contract has been lawfully appropriated and is in the treasure or in the process of collection to the credit of an appropriate fund free from any previous encumbrances.”

“The Township had 15% of disbursements tested with an invoice that was dated prior to the purchase order, thus causing those disbursements not to be certified in a timely manner.

“Without proper certification the Township may expend more funds than available in the treasury or in the process of collection, or than funds appropriated. It may also result in unnecessary or undesirable purchases.

“We recommend that all orders or contracts involving the disbursement of money be timely certified to ensure all monies expended are lawfully appropriated and available in the treasury or in the process of collection. The Township should consider using “Then” and “Now” certificated where applicable.”

In regard to Prior Audit Findings, 2012-AT-001 noted that “The Township had 24% of disbursements that were invoiced prior to the purchase order date. “

In conclusion, a comparison of State Audits completed on Auburn Township for the years ended December 31, 2012, and December 31, 2013, reflects the sloppiness and lack of internal control of the Township Fiscal Officer, whether it be Susan Plavcan or Fred May, over spending practices of the Auburn Township Trustees.

How much should taxpayers believe stories that Auburn Township is in the process of running out of funding for roads and bridges, thereby necessitating a questionable process of declaring a Motion of Necessity during July 2014 for the purpose of imposing an additional 2-mills upon Auburn Township taxpayers?

Wake up, taxpayers! Responsible Township spending results from responsible Township audit practices. It's just money. Should it be washing down the drain like the gravel in a driveway during a torrential rain?

Published August 5, 2014

Where is the Auburn Township's legal authority when the township needs her ? Calling Birdie Matheney...Calling Birdie Matheney

Most townships are able to pass resolutions of necessity in one meeting. So why did this resolution, the authority for placing the TWO MILL LEVY on the November 4, 2014, ballot , take FOUR, count 'em, FOUR attempts before the Trustees got it right?


ORC says that it takes a unanimous vote to pass a resolution of necessity. On July 7 Trustee Eberly was not present. Trustees Cavanagh and Troyan voted on the resolution of necessity to place the 2-mill road levy on the November 4 ballot.

Then with all three Trustees present on July 21, they passed the Motion of Necessity to place the tow mill levy on the November 4 ballot for the second time by a margin of 3-0.

At the same time they announced a special meeting, a public hearing, on the 2-mill road levy, for July 28. They even publicized the legal notice in the Geauga Maple Leaf
on July 24. So far so good.

At the 6 PM Special Meeting on August 28, in the presence of 3 residents, all three Trustees voted on the Motion of Necessity for the third time. There was no public hearing, which would have permitted residents to discuss the 2 MILL LEVY.

At the August 4 regular Trustee meeting, the Trustees signed off on meeting minutes from another SPECIAL MEETING, this time noted in print as July 30 and on the video as July 31. In what publication did the Trustees advertise this SPECIAL MEETING? We have checked both the Geauga Maple Leaf and the Lake County News-Herald, the two “approved” publications for printing legal notices for public hearings and special meetings. No legal notice announcing a SPECIAL MEETING for July 30 (or July 31, since the Trustees cannot get it straight themselves) appeared in either publication.

So, Trustees, if you did not announce the Special Meeting of July30 (or, was it July 31???) at the Special Meeting of July 28 and you did not print the legal notice announcing the Special Meeting of July 30 (or was it July 31???) for a 2 MILL LEVY to be voted on by the Auburn Township taxpayers, how have you acted legally??

Trustees, where is your legal counsel when you need her??? You seemed to have been able to use the Prosecutor's Office whenever and however you arbitrarily chose, say in the years 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 to pursue frivolous litigation against your own residents, farms which are exempt from your township zoning as per ORC 519,21.

So now, how is it that you, the Auburn Trustees, with Mr. Troyan as a Juris Doctor who proudly boasted that he passed the bar exam “the first time around” cannot figure out, apparently, how to accomplish a Motion of Necessity? What if you haven't gotten the Motion of Necessity right yet and void the outcome of an election? Oh where oh where has that little Birdie gone?

Oh, where, oh where is PROSECUTOR David Joyce? Is it true that his August recess here at home is so occupied with election appearances that he cannot meet with constituents? That's what his appointment girl, Cathy Dalton, informed us....

Oh, where, oh where has our little Birdie gone? Oh where, oh where, has our David Joyce gone? Are they wearing yellow ribbons far, far away?

Far away... They are so far away....

So many legal authorities... so little knowledge...so far away when the heat is on.

Published July 28, 2014

The public meeting brought all three Trustees but found the Fiscal Officer gone missing, with the office administrator calling the roll and taking minutes. Without even the Pledge of Allegiance, the meeting convened hastily at 6 PM. Had you needed the bathroom, you would have missed the entire content. At 6:04 PM, the unanimous vote having been taken and recorded, Office Administrator Dolezal adjourned the meeting.

Using ORC 5705.19G as a reference, Trustee Troyan partially read the language of the Motion of Necessity and the vote was on. As a result of this reading in a public meeting, an additional 2-mill Road and Bridge Levy, the first since 1995, according to Trustee Cavanagh, will be placed on the November 4, 2014, ballot.

Should the measure pass by a majority vote in November, real-estate taxes in Auburn Township will increase—noticeably. Through the courtesy of Ronald Leyde of the Geauga County Auditor's Office, we were permitted to view a 2913 document from the State of Ohio which compares all the municipal entities of Geauga County in terms of inside and outside millage. We have as a result prepared a chart which documents that information for the sixteen Geauga County townships arranged alphabetically with Auburn appearing first and Troy appearing last.

It is an understatement to say that the results are interesting. As you view the chart, you need to understand some basic terminology:
1) Inside millage
2) Outside millage
3) R&B, shorthand for the Road and Bridges, identified in standard accounting (UAN is the system utilized for many Ohio municipalities ) as Special Revenue Account 2031. In Auburn Township the unencumbered balance in Account 2031 as of December 31, 2014, is anticipated to be $290,568.18. (1)
The unencumbered balance in Account 2031 as of December 31, 2015, is anticipated to be
$228.538.55. (2)

The accompanying chart demonstrates that currently Roads and Bridges Account 2031 accounts for 48.42% of the total operating revenues for Auburn Township, compared to the average Road and Bridge percentage of sixteen townships of 39.63. What this information seems to demonstrate. While it is true that Huntsburg, Middlefield, and Newbury Townships dedicate a higher percentage of their budgets to the maintenance of Roads and Bridges, and that total millage in Chester and Bainbridge are significantly higher than in the remaining 14 townships, the passage of this 2-mill levy will increase the percentage of Auburn millage dedicated to Roads and Bridges to 57.39 on a total of 11.5 mills, when the average millage in Geauga County is 10.67.

We believe the information on this chart, courtesy of the State of Ohio, demonstrates which townships in Geauga County are operating their Roads and Bridges, as funded in UAN Account 2031, with the most efficiency. We suspect that Auburn does not utilize its Road and Bridges fund with as much efficiency as a percentage of total millage as many other Geauga township although it appears to have one of the higher budgets.

See notes below for chart definitions                                                                        (3)
TownshipR&B Inside
R&B Outside
Total R&B
R&B as % of
Total Millage
Average of 16 townships4.112510.668139.63%
Auburn with proposed 2 mill levy6.611.557.39%

Note 1. R&B means Road and Bridge

Note 2. Inside millage is limited by law to 10 mills for any taxing district. Because they are inside mills, these 10 mills can be collected as a levy without being voted on by the people in the taxing district.

Note 3. Outside millage is all other millage requested that is over the 10-mill limit. Outside mills must be voted upon and approved by the majority of the voters in the taxing district where the tax will be levied.

(1) Auburn Township Financial Worksheet-Budget, 6/30/2014. p.8
(2) Ibid.
(3) Geauga County Auditor


Published July 10, 2014

After the conclusion of official business at the Commissioner meeting of Tuesday, July 8, 2014, Commissioner candidate Skip Claypool responded to Mary Samide's comments by opining that the proposed 15-cent per gallon federal tax will drastically derail the financial futures of working class taxpayers. Claypool advised concerned citizens to talk directly to U.S. Representative, David Joyce, who reportedly will be in town and available during the week of July 14-18.

Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri whole-heartedly agreed, reminding fellow Commissioner Mary Samide, a lame-duck as a result of the May primary, how the NOACA-supported, federally-granted Chardon bike trail, as well as the sale of county-owned land for that bike trail for $1 to Chardon Council, have been detrimental to Geauga County taxpayers.

As you will see in the video, Spidalieri referred to the 15-cent per gallon increase in the price of gas as “pissing our money away” in response to Samide's observation that the Highway Trust Fund, a significant source of federal money for the construction and repair of roads, bridges, and railroads; is depleted and bankrupt. In the background, lightning and thunder strikes and grueling rain are clearly audible while a distracted, nervous Mary Samide turns her head to observe. Spidalieri added that he did not see anyone using the federally-funded bike trail during the rainstorm because people need to use their cars to get to their jobs.

Concerned about the prospect of paying an additional 15 cents per gallon for your gas as you try to make ends meet in an anemic economy that grew at a projected annual rate of 2% ? The U.S. Congress is scheduled to vote shortly on the so-called “Grow America Act.” If you live in Geauga, Lake, and parts of Cuyahoga County, Dave Joyce is your House Representative.

In the May primary Joyce outspent his Republican opponent Matt Lynch 10 to 1 to win by 20 %-- 27,000 votes to Lynch's 22,000 votes-- after refusing to debate Lynch. David Joyce is happy to demonstrate just how much money is in his war chest. Just prior to the Fourth of July holiday, he sent his constituents a video that purported to justify the actions of the big oil, big natural-gas, and big coal companies and the increase in gasoline prices. These are the entities that want to destroy clean alternative energy and fill the atmosphere with more pollutants in the name of free enterprise while, in our opinion, having control of your “elected” official.

If you like air pollution, make sure you vote for David Joyce... If you have concerns for the environment, the sustained health of your children, your elderly loved ones, and yes (how selfish!) yourselves, get in touch with the office of Representative David Joyce. You have recently seen his photo often-- with the frozen, cocky, half-smirk on his face. Tell him you want to talk to him face-to-face. Don't settle for aides Nick Ciofani or Dino DeSanto. Insist on nothing less than talking to good ole smiling Dave himself. You can schedule an appointment with Dave at Steve La Tourette's old address at Victoria Place in Painesville, close to the Lake County Courthouse. Call him soon and often at 440-352-3939.

Can you afford to pay the additional 15 cents for each gallon of gas?

Published June 25, 2014

Auburn Township zoning and lack of zoning seem to be keeping the township tied up in Geauga County Common Pleas Court, using Geauga taxpayer money and an assistant prosecutor who may not have anything more productive to accomplish on Geauga tax dollars. Shortly the township will be represented, again at taxpayer expense, by an attorney who routinely represents townships throughout Ohio that are members of the Ohio Township Association (OTA). This episode marks about the tenth piece of litigation against Auburn Township since 2009. We predict increased insurance premiums for Auburn Township, which seems to attract these situations like Poo bear being attracted to honey combs---and lots of bee stings.

The most current litigation, identified as 14A000484, is an administrative appeal seeking reversal of BZA Case 14-02v, decided on April 22, 2014, by a unanimous 5-0 negative vote. This BZA case occurred after reports of stockpiling of concrete and boulders on a Ravenna Road property, apparently owned by an associate of Thomas Agesta, better known as Eclipse Landscape Excavation. Eclipse is the entity who provided the best and lowest bid to remove the hill at Munn and Taylor-May Roads.

According to the docket at Geauga County Common Pleas Court, Mr. Agesta was able to acquire without significant cost concrete being discarded by the State of Ohio/Ohio Department of Transportation in conjunction with the Route 422 construction currently occurring. BZA Case 14-02v requested that the Huffman property be used as a “temporary stockpile location” in conjunction with a crush pad to create road surfacing material.

The BZA cited several reasons for refusing to grant the variance: 1)”Any use not specifically listed [as permitted] shall not be permitted”; 2) the 422 project is being undertaken by Shelly Company of Twinsburg, the sole entity authorized to stockpile material; 3) the Ravenna Road property is located in a “B4” light-industrial area where the “sound limit” is not to exceed 65 decibels between 7AM and 8PM.

The administrative appeal raises a couple of interesting questions: 1) Is Eclipse Landscape Excavation able to engage in concrete crushing during the entire time frame of the Geauga County court case, which could take more than one year to resolve? 2) Although Auburn Township enacted a sound resolution to its zoning code in 2013, does the township have equipment to objectively measure decibels? Is Zoning Inspector Kitko trained to operate the equipment? If not, WHO is? When this zoning was enacted in fall 2013, there was speculation that the sound amendment was an attempt at spot zoning in opposition to specific business(es).

Administrative Appeal 14A000484 was filed on June 12, 2014, exactly thirty days after the BZA made the ruling official on May 13. Although we gave Mr. Agresta the opportunity to talk about his legal action, he has chosen not to comment.

Stay tuned for this latest adventure of Auburn Township and Geauga taxpayer funds at work.

Is Auburn Township Concerned about Liabilities for its Zoning Inspector?
Published June 18, 2014

The June 16, 2014, Auburn Trustee Meeting commenced with a second public hearing regarding a zoning amendment on electronic signs for businesses. This second meeting was continued from May 19. Each of the public hearings began at 7:15 and adjourned at 7:30 to begin the regular bi-monthly Auburn Trustee meeting.

One of the more provocative comments came from Dee Belew, perennial secretary for the Auburn Zoning Commission. She volunteered that the zoning amendment under discussion was to serve as “guidelines for the BZA [Auburn Township Board of Zoning Appeals] instead of them [BZA] writing the zoning.” This comment appeared to be a criticism of the BZA 's overpowering role of interpreting “gray areas” in the Auburn Township Zoning Code.

Trustee John Eberly, in an apparent personal response to both Mrs. Belew and to Zoning Commission Chairman, John Scalia, noted, “I don't think it [sic] should be a gray area for the zoning inspector. Why would you want to put the zoning inspector in a precarious position?” John Everly insisted the word advertising be included for products sold by the businesses using the signs.

This comment, although about as clear as the ever-present mud puddles and loopholes in Auburn Township zoning code, appeared to contradict trustee comments of yesteryear idolizing the current Auburn Township Zoning Inspector, Frank Kitko, as “the dean of zoning.” Instead, the comments from both Belew and Eberly seemed to express concerns about the undue power of the BZA and the impaired abilities of its current zoning inspector, who has served more than thirty years in the same position. Lately, it has become apparent to some observers that Kitko may be suffering adversely from a combination of physical and mental impairments.

The hearing was continued for a second time until July 21 at 7:15 P.M. in anticipation of the return of Trustee Patrick Cavanagh, who was absent for the proceedings.

Published June 13, 2014

The June 10, 2014, Auburn Township BZA meeting saw the absence of two regulars: Kevin Graham and Lew Tomsic as the mighty proponents of truth, justice, and the American way (NOT) found themselves pondering BZA 14-06v, “a request for a variance submitted by Jeffrey A. Suszynski for Jilcin, LLC, from the Auburn Township Soning Resolution 5.02(a) Accessory Buildings: 'No accessory building shall be located in a front yard' for a proposed accessory building to be located at 11900 Washington Street, in a B-1A zoning district, Auburn Township, Ohio 44023.”

At 7:35 P.M., just 35 minutes after the inception of the meeting, with a Mr. Slade representing Jilcin/Syszynski sitting up close and comfortable with the BZA members from about 6:45, the Auburn Township BZA voted unanimously to grant a variance for a 2600 square foot heated “garage” to store personal property belonging to clients contracting with Jilcin/Susynski's company known as “Paul Davis Renovation.”

             2600 sqft heated garage to go in front of building above on right.

So what's the beef? A neighbor of Paul Davis Renovation showed up to complain about high grass at the Davis/Susynski/Jilcin operation. The neighbor, a resident of Auburn Township since 1978, thought his contiguous neighbor could at least trim the high grass. BZA member Brian Stewart stated that the neighbor should work out that arrangement with Davis/Susynski/Jilcin in a “good neighbor” kind of pact. How kind and generous of the BZA.

So what's the beef? Think back to the Auburn Township BZA's case in February 2011. This one involved a heated enclosed gazebo in a front yard close to the street. The BZA took issue with the fact that the structure was lighted. The eight-sided enclosed structure, with a square area of less than 100 square feet, caused speculation among BZA members, particularly Lew Tomsic and Brian Stewart that the owners could convert the structure into a commercial operation in a residentially zoned district and operate something like a repair garage. . . Many neighbors from the owners' subdivision were present to testify that they approved of the structure. The BZA, though it continued the case, quickly determined that the gazebo with its less than 100 square foot area was a violation of Auburn Township Zoning Resolution 5.02(a): “No accessory building shall be located in a front yard.” The owners, true to their principles, took their BZA case to Geauga County Common Pleas Court, where the case lingered for about eighteen months and a substantial legal bill for the residents. The outcome, arranged by Assistant Prosecutor Bridey Matheney, already illustrious for her complete ignorance of STATE code known as Ohio Revised Code, specifically the part of ORC dealing with the ruling that farms are exempt from any township zoning; resulted in a hefty escrow fund to be financed by the gazebo owners to guarantee that the enclosed gazebo of less than 100 feet with, Oh My Goodness, both heating and lighting, would be dismantled in about fifteen years or less.

                         Does this look like an auto repair garage?

Justice was once again arranged by Auburn Township and its legal beagle (er, blunderbuss) in Geauga County Courts. Now the Auburn Township BZA has given approval to a 2600 square foot HEATED accessory building in a front yard with no fuss, no muss.

Justice reigns supreme in the fiefdom of Auburn Township.

Published on June 6, 2014

During the June 3, 2014, Geauga County Commissioner meeting, Commissioners approved three motions that may benefit the short term desires of Chardon City at prohibitive cost to the taxpayers of Geauga County. Geauga County tax bills were delivered this week with payup on or before July 9, 2014. If you are a Geauga property holder, you need to know how you are financing the current wishes of Mayor Phil King, City Administrator Randy Sharpe, and Chardon council. Many of you may know already the name of Nancy McArthur, a member of the Chardon council.

The three motions were item3-5.

Item 4: “The Commissioners' Office is requesting the Board approve and execute the RID Compensation Agreement with the City of Chardon.

Item 5L “The Commissioners' Office is requesting the Board approve and execute Resolution #14-091 Authorizing the Transfer of Land No Longer Needed for Public Use to the City of Chardon, Ohio.

Item 6 “The Commissioners' Office is requesting the Board approve and execute the Purchase Agreement with the City of Chardon for two parcels (#10-700800 and #10-70968) in the amount of $1.00.

The last time these items were discussed during a public Commissioners' meeting was at years end 2013, when the apparent direction of the Commissioners was to explore their legal options to seek financial redress from what was perceived to be a dire action.

City Administrator came up to the Commissioners' table three times to sign the written agreements, which appear to make Chardon a beneficiary at the expense of all Geauga County property owners. Sharpe, who we viewed as more communicative when we last saw him at a Commissioners' meeting, was noticeably wordless in his apparent mood of complete physical and emotional satisfaction. How was this miscarriage of justice to Geauga taxpayers possible? It was the implementation of Ohio Revised Code in ways which the Ohio Legislature had not deemed possible but will remain conceivable over and over unless and until Ohio legislators can undo what they did.

Comments emanated from Munson resident, Jeff Kline, and Chester resident/Commissioner candidate, Skip Claypool. Kline berated the Commissioners for ceding property with a tangible monetary value for just $1. Claypool questioned whether the Sunshine/Open Meetings Law had been violated by not keeping Geauga taxpayers informed about this abuse of their financial support of Geauga County.

Prosecutor Jim Flaiz, accompanied by Assistant Prosecutor Laura LaChappelle, stood up as he attempted to rationalize the lack of public information from his office with concern that Commissioner meetings are committed to video that “anyone” (including Chardon officials) can view for strategy purposes. He intimated that Geauga County's chances in a legal battle were less than optimum. Read this statement as “VICTORY FOR CHARDON!”

Although all three motions were approved, Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri was the only dissenting vote on Agenda Item 6, wherein he noted that early in the negotiations the City of Chardon had been willing to offer $65,000 for easements to be utilized for the bike trail financed by the Northeastern Ohio Area-wide Coordinating Agency in early January.

What becomes abundantly clear about governmental affairs in Geauga County is that the taxpayers, the owners of property, are consistently asked to pay for the errors and the shortcomings of the administrators that they elect.

What becomes critical is the need to hold county officials accountable. Thus far, Geauga taxpayers have been too preoccupied and perhaps too busy to look out to protect their financial investments in this county. How long will taxpayers wait to find out that all the nickel and diming of past years is turning into a real hole in the dike, a deluge that threatens to destroy the area much faster than any melting of the polar ice cap.

How about moving the county seat to a location that would be grateful for the extra commerce generated by county government activities? Nominations are now open. . . Money or the lack thereof is a powerful behavior adjuster.

Published April 24, 2014

2014 is proving to be a year of house-cleaning for Geauga County administrators and the voters who foot the bills. It is only April, but already the Geauga Park District has seen the dispersal of one board of commissioners and the narrow avoidance of a $1.9 million deficit left as a souvenir by the previous board. The Geauga County Department of Transit experienced theft by its director and another staff member, prompting the Commissioners to consider the need of an outside company to engage in oversight practices. Now we come to the Board of Mental Health, whose director, Jim Adams, is the highest-paid employee in the county at $153,734. His situation comes to light as a result of his recent visit to the Commissioners to request more money for Board operations, presumably the .7 mill levy whose promotion occurs across the county in black signs with yellow text. In light of Commissioner Spidalieri's bombshell revelation that Jim Adams and his board had acted unconscionably in awarding outrageously generous raises when other county employees had been lucky to receive 3% raises, we are aware that Geauga County is quickly rising to the forefront of attention as a place where voters are being ripped off by lack of attention to details by an incumbent Commissioner, dishonest practices by shrewd shyster-employees, perception that the voters don't care if they are cheated because their pockets are lined with money, or all of these.

We have noted that the former Geauga Park Board Commissioners were disbanded. We have noted that the Transit employees were terminated with possible criminal charges to follow. Now we are faced with Mental Health Board employees who would like us to believe that they were not complicit in receiving outrageously prohibitive salaries. They would like us to kiss and make up with them because they have admitted that they received too much money and are willing to hand the spoils back to the voters. All the voters have to do is let them stay on. What is the old expression? “Fool me once...”

It seems that Commissioner Spidalieri set the limits: Resign voluntarily or face action by the Prosecutor's Office and possible criminal charges. To accept anything less than the resignation of Jim Adams, the four staff members, and the remaining Board of Mental Health members, some of whom are in obvious conflict of interest, is to let the fox who was not quick enough to make off with the chickens stay put in the henhouse.

Published April 22, 2014

One of the most significant turning points in recent Geauga County history occurred in August 2012, when a newspaper editor reportedly was the advisor to a Chester Township trustee. Chester Township meetings were viewed as oppressive when the trustee in question seemed not only unable but unwilling to take to address residents' concerns. At one particular August 2012 meeting, the Chester Trustee announced that public participation in the form of comment was “not a right, but a privilege” and removed the public comment portion of the meeting under threat of calling the Chester Police to remove those who spoke out.

At the previous meeting the very same newspaper editor had been present to video the Chester meeting. At the conclusion of that meeting he announced to all who would listen the need for decorum, order, and Roberts' Rules of Order. There was an irony afoot: a newspaper editor has the moral and ethical responsibility in a democratic republic governed by a Bill of Rights to preserve freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, and especially freedom of speech. This newspaper editor was proposing that the public stuff their opinions up their guts and shut up.

For those who do not know the outcome in Chester Township, the views of the newspaper editor, as well as those of the trustee, were soundly trounced in November 2013. Chester residents overwhelmingly turned out not one, but both, incumbent trustees. Chester Township trustee meetings are a now a delight to watch and to participate at. When questions and comments from the public are genuinely welcomed by those elected to serve them, animosity is supplanted by the genuine desire to be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

Recently we noted the appearance of the same newspaper editor videoing a Geauga Commissioners' meeting. Rumor has it that he has expressed his concern that the “the public” may speak out or ask questions during the “public” portion of the meeting. He is again stressing Roberts' Rules of Order. We are again appalled by a newspaper editor apparently more concerned about suppression of public thoughts and ideas than in the development of an intelligent electorate whose questions and comments enable them to make thoughtful, reasoned decisions in the voting booth.

We think there is some mischief afoot when an editor, the centuries-old harbinger of free press and free speech, would rather promote demagoguery than encourage the people to find their own voices.

What do you think? township@usa.com

Dog rescue at Bear Town Lakes
Published April 16, 2014

The April 10th Chagrin Valley Times on page 5 reported the Auburn firefighters' rescue of a boxer dog from the frozen waters of Bear Town Lakes. I am grateful that the dog could be saved, but, as Paul Harvey of radio fame used to say, “Now for the rest of the story.”

Missing from the article were several very important facts to help readers make an informed decision. For starters, Ohio leash laws are posted in Bear Town for the safety of all visitors. These leash laws require dogs to be secured at all times in the Geauga Park System. Had the owner of the dog kept the animal on its leash, it would not have run out on the ice to chase geese.

Representatives from Geauga Park District have provided written verification that a park ranger was present at Bear Town on March 30. Furthermore, they verified that Geauga Park District cited the dog owner for having the dog off the leash, and legal action is pending. By ignoring the leash laws, the dog owner endangered not only his life but also the lives of the Auburn Township rescue team and any other well-intentioned bystander that may have tried to help at the scene of the rescue.

The worst outcome was the injury of a member of the rescue team when his water-rescue-drysuit filled with icy water, causing hypothermia and hospitalization. Was the drysuit defective? Was the rescue worker adequately trained?

I am grateful that neither human nor animal perished. Nevertheless, it is unfortunate that Geauga Park District regulations posted to maintain the safety and welfare of all park visitors were violated. I wish the injured rescue worker a speedy and total recovery.

FEBRUARY 21, 2014

Published February 22, 2014

In a public informational seminar held at the Meyer Center at Big Creek Park in Chardon, only four members of the public were in attendance. The session required the presence of GPD department heads, Fiscal Officer, Michele Pennell; Planning Department Heads, Aaron Young and Matt McCue; IT Department Head, Don Lombardy; Marking Administrative Heads, Paige Orvis and John Kolar; Human Resources Director, Robin Pilarczyk; Operations Heads, Brett Bellas and John Oros; Ranger Department Head, Larry McKinnon; Natural Resource Management Head, Paul Pira; and Development Department Head, Emilie Gottsegen. Also present was Probate Court Liasion, Constable John Ralph. Seated in attendance was former Head Ranger, Scott Wilson.

The meeting, promoted as a venue that would end by 1 or 2 P.M. came complete with coffee, bagels, cream cheese and fruit. Outside a cold drizzle created a serious chill, making the hot coffee a pleasurable experience.

Commissioners Lou Mucci and Mary Ruth Shumway made introductory remarks, paying special attention to the Year over Year Balance Sheet of 2014-2019, which as predicted a $1,902,224 deficit by year end 2014. 2014 Revenue/Income is projected to be $9,985,623, a decrease of 2.6% from 2013.

Year end expenses are projected at $8,300,830, an increase over 2013 of 20.2%. Commissioner Mucci cited “changes that will have to happen” and noted that because cash disbursements from the County Auditor will not commence until March, GPD has the benefit of being able to prioritize expenses so as to avoid the deficit if everyone can be committed to the goal.

Further, the Commissioners noted that no decisions would be made on February 21. Instead, though, the emphasis for the future must be a recognition of the importance of the Geauga Park District Foundation, the need for ample cash reserves, and a profound understanding of which projects are not crucial to the survival and success of the GPD, based on the dependence on county tax dollars.

Michele Pennell identified herself as a 10-year employee of GPD. And began by describing the budget process, as it begins in January-February of each year, leading up to County Budget Commission hearings in the office of the County Auditor in late August in the presence of Auditor Gliha, Treasurer Hitchcock, and a representative of the Geauga Prosecutor's Office.

Pennell identified the three levies that bring in 2.7 mills for GPD operation. Real Estate taxes, she explained, comprise 67% of the operating funds in 2013 and 62% in 2014. It is necessary to insure $2,000,000 in cash reserves on hand for operating expenses until the first disbursement of funds from the Auditor in March. Commissioner Shumway asked the duration of time necessary to approve the GPD budget. Mrs. Pennell explained that Budget Commission meetings are the first and third Mondays in August, implying that a decision could be finalized within a two-week period.

Pennell identified three large funds: the General Fund, the Land Improvement Fund, and the Retirement Reserve Fund. She further clarified that an organization or entity cannot spend more than it appropriates or sets aside for expenditures. Because appropriations are made early in the year to avoid deficits, at year end, there is always more money on hand than is spent; hence, there is a surplus or carryover that extends into the next year. If there are fewer receipts in the Revenue column than expected, it is necessary to modify a financial request from the Auditor. Appropriations at the end of the year are zeroed out and not carried forward unless there is a “carryover encumbrance.” Money must be held, in the form of an appropriation, before any financial commitment is made.

At the end of her hour-long presentation Pennell offered the following suggestions at the bidding of the Commissioner:

1. The ability to add all line items for the year
2. The County Auditor is not implementing funds efficiently
3. “We want to cut our expenditures.”
4. The Auditor has denied GPD requests for IT training

Pennell's observations brought forth comments from Young, Mucci, and Oros. Young commented on the need to exercise critical adherence to the time-line. Mr. Mucci added the necessity to allow for flexibility in line items while adhering to accountability. Oros observed that he had not felt himself
“part of the process” in the past and stressed “the need to talk nuts and bolts, rather than the whole project.” He further observed that communications need to “more upfront.”

After a brief break, Aaron Young began his presentation, which was identified as a 10 minute overview. His actual presentation lasted about 1 ½ hours, largely due to many questions from the Commissioners and some from the attendees.

Regarding the Land Acquisition part of the Planning Department, Young volunteered that he had experienced “no input into land acquisitions...Decisions were made above” and “did noto involve the planning team.” Those in attendance were able to conclude that these decisions were made by the Executive Director at the time.

Young referred to Park Master Planning, a ten-step process, which involves implementation of actual projects, which have been completed 15% under budget. He explained that the projects for 2015-2016 are conceptual. When asked by Commissioner Mucci how Young deals with public controversy and animosity regarding park projects, Young identified reliance upon surveys governed by natural resources data, responsibility to Ohio Revised Code, and the development and implementation of a master plan.

As regards construction methods and process, Young explained that bidding is required at levels of expense equal to or greater than $50,000 and adherence to Prevailing wage, a federal standard. When asked about the practice of breaking up a large project of $100,000 into four equal projects to avoid the bidding process, Young explained that breaking up a project in this fashion so as to avoid bidding and Prevailing Wage is “problematic.”

The Planning Department oversees actual construction with a reduced staff. Therefore it is necessary to know the rules, to be knowledgeable about construction claims, to use outside architectural consultants, to know permitting requirements of the EPA and the Geauga County Soil and Water Conservation District, and the obligations imposed by receipt of grants. Bids, he explained, are expected to come in under projected costs. It is helpful to maintain a database for concrete and asphalt prices over a period of years.

The scheduled projects for 2014 are West Chardon, the Maple Highland Trail South, Observatory Park IV and V, including the Nassau Park Station Renovation tabled by the Commissioners, Orchard Hills, and various asphalt improvements. The Maple Highlands Trail South, not to be confused with the City of Chardon Maple Highlands Trail bicycle path (actually a “multi-use trail” because of receipt of grant funds from the Northeast Ohio Area wide Coordinating Association). The GPD Maple Highlands Trail links to GPD's Maple Highlands Trail North only because GPD does not own any property contingent to the project proposed by the City of Chardon.

Mr. Young further elaborated about the City of Chardon's multi-use trail, explaining that GPD has Chardon's plans as a result of requesting them four years ago. Mr. Young volunteered that the City of Chardon has multiple options for realizing their trail, while the Park District's Maple Highlands Trail is very confined in purpose and nature. The GPD trail stops at Route 44; it is less than two miles in length without a parking facility, but subject to the availability of a plethora of vacant lots. The GPD is built to withstand all use with its 12 foot width. It is widely used as a shortcut to avoid city traffic by Amish buggies. At this point the question was asked if this trail were acceptable for use by mounted riders on horseback. Mr. Young affirmed that question.

Regarding Orchard Hills Park and playground equipment improvements, the original plan was to install equipment near the shelter, but the current plan is to install the equipment near the restrooms. Public input has indicated the need for equipment. Any expenditure less than $50,000 on playground equipment, according to Mr. Young is a waste of time because there is a need for “significant signature pieces” to induce parents to bring their kids to a park with playground equipment.

At this point Mr. Mucci suggested the patronage of local businesses to purchase equipment, and Mrs. Shumway asked whether Young preferred two or three playgrounds in the park system. Young replied that his personal preference was to spend more money on fewer pieces of equipment, but that quality was a better requirement than quantity.

Regarding asphalt improvements, Young explained the process at Metzenbaum Park. When asked if the Planning Department utilizes the services of the Geauga County Engineer, Young answered in the affirmative. His assessment of the cost of asphalt was $54,000 for “short” and “long” lengths but was not asked to define or differentiate between those terms.

At this point, shortly after noon, the session broke for a lunch provided for participants within the meeting room. With the testimonies of only two of the departments complete, it was clear that the session would last at least until 3 PM. This writer left without lunch to attend to other duties.

So began a glorious new era
Published January 31, 2014

Once upon a time not very long ago in a township named Auburn in a very small galaxy known as Geauga, there was a township website. It was a very good website because for awhile it was up-to-date. It worked then.

The Auburn Trustees decided that the website was too hard to keep up-to-date. They commissioned a new website for thousands of dollars. It had a splendid, expensive new township logo and pages they said “anyone” could maintain. So began a glorious new era.

A few years passed. The new website became old and tired. What had become of timely information like minutes for meetings of trustees, board of zoning appeals, and especially the hard working zoning commission? Alas, some of the information was upside down. Even the calendar of events could not be trusted; some public meetings were not listed at the website. Some meetings that were listed were canceled without informing website visitors.

We come to the present. The Trustees proudly announce they are embarking on a new internet adventure to spend thousand of dollars for e-mail blasts “to keep the electorate informed.”

With a fairy-tail ending, the Auburn adventure would inform the electorate and rouse them to attend civic meetings. Everyone would live happily ever after. The township employee who maintains the website and who received a healthy raise in January 2014 for “good work,” could take pride in her efforts.

Alas, we need to focus on the real world. Perhaps, instead of a fancy website with more bells, whistles, and do-dads, we only need a dedicated employee who will consistently and conscientiously maintain the current website.


Published January 13, 2014

The January 6, 2014, Auburn Township Trustee Meeting was the reorganizational meeting. That's the one where all the annual pay raises are announced for all the same ole appointees. It's also the meeting at which newly elected officials get to dress up in a suit, stand tall and proud, and raise their right hands to swear to uphold both the U.S. and Ohio Constitutions. It sounds awe-inspiring, doesn't it?

The video of the swearing-in of newly reelected Auburn Trustees John Eberly and Michael Troyan caught the whole historic process for posterity. With Fiscal Officer May reading the oath of office, Mr. Troyan in his favorite hoodie and Mr. Eberly in his knit shirt chose to remain seated. Though Mr. Eberly raised his right arm with some enthusiasm, Mr. Troyan managed to extend one finger while resting his right hand on his ample cheek.

Mothers, don't let your aspiring Eagle Scouts grow up without local heroes. We have personally witnessed of late some great elected Geauga County role models-- in white shirts, suits, and ties—take the same oath of office with a sense of respect and responsibility. The video of the Auburn Township oath of office speaks volumes about the low regard Eberly and Troyan have for their duties and responsibilities as servants of the public trust.

January 19, 2014: Name withheld
Well said – I sure hope (and it needs to) get published!

January 19, 2014: Name withheld
Isn't this incredibly sad to view?
As the elected and trusted representatives of the Auburn Township community, isn't it a display of uninspiring, unprofessional, indifferent demeanor as well as a reflection of the lack of personal pride in presenting themselves to the residents of Auburn Township?

January 17, 2014: Name witheld
After viewing the respectable assembly of other trustees, Auburn certainly is a pathetic projection totally lacking a reflection of pride ...

January 10, 2014: Name withheld
I thought it shows a lack of respect for the office (and therefore the people). I don’t know if they have physical disabilities, but they didn’t even stand up, and one guy didn’t even lift his arm off the table. Disgusting!