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News Stories and Events for 2015

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

Published December 23, 2015

Click this link to access all Republican candidates running for office in the Geauga County Primary Election on March 15, 2016.

Published December 21, 2015

Click this link to access all Republican candidates for Republican Central Committee seats to be determined by the Geauga County Primary Election on March 15, 2016.

Published December 16, 2015

Thanks to the initiative of Geauga County Township Association President, Burton Township Trustee, Jim Dvorak, students at Berkshire High School in Burton got to witness a swearing-in of local trustees who were newly-elected in November 2015. The ceremony took place on Tuesday, December 15 at the small gymnasium attached to Berkshire High School. About eight township officials were present to introduce themselves and provide a very brief description of their
duties/accomplishments in their respective townships or within Geauga County Township Association. The students who assembled were quiet, respectful, well-mannered and eager to learn.

Also present was Geauga County Common Pleas Judge, Forrest Burt, who surprised many with his admonishment to the students that the alternative to paying attention to him was being taken back to class. Burt announced that he was a graduate of Berkshire High School when the sports teams were identified as Maple Leafs, not Badgers. Judge Burt explained that the name was changed because many individuals identified Maple Leafs as things “that turn yellow,” not a good way for a sports team to be remembered.

After swearing in the elected officials who had introduced themselves to the student body, many of them juniors and seniors, Judge Burt stressed the critical importance of the Ohio Constitution and the solemn responsibility that local elected officials undertake when they swear to uphold that written document. Furthermore, Judge Burt noted that during the lives of those who were present to watch the swearing-in, they might very well become aware of the fact that the Ohio Constitution prohibits certain actions of elected officials from occurring. Such an event may require action on the part of voters, such as the removal from office of a Bainbridge trustee some thirty-plus years ago as a result of a trial held at the Geauga County Courthouse by a then sitting Common Pleas Judge.

This website would like to commend the two unidentified students and teacher from Berkshire High School who asked questions of the assembled guests and Judge Burt. The question about removal from elected office, voiced by a male teacher, elicited a question from Burt, asking how many U.S. Presidents had been removed from office by impeachment. The answer of Richard Nixon, Burt explained, was wrong because President Nixon beat Congress to the punch by resigning before he could be subjected to an impeachment vote. The President, Burt said, who came closest to being impeached by Congress was Andrew Johnson, successor to the assassinated Abraham Lincoln. Even Johnson, however, escaped impeachment by a single vote.

Such were the lessons and opinions shared by local elected officials, especially His Honor Judge Forrest Burt, about local Geauga County government and American Presidential history at the assembly provided at Berkshire High School on an otherwise quiet day.

Posted December 16, 2015

Just about an hour into the Geauga County Commissioners' meeting for Tuesday, December 15, 2015, Commissioner Walter “Skip” Claypool announced that on Friday, December 11, 2015, 44 appointed, not elected, representatives to the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency voted to approve the spending of $500,000 to lobby to raise the gasoline tax that northeast Ohioans pay at the gas pump. On the other hand, the same group of appointees who have been identified as “progressive” by NOACA director, Grace Gallucci, will be committing $1,400,000 from the same gas-tax account to fund “Total Livable Communities.” Neither of these projects are subject to voters' approval or repeal.

Commissioner Claypool stated that only “through public awareness” can voters and taxpayers change spending over which only appointed individuals have any control. Therefore, stated Claypool, it is time to contact state and federal legislators to voice disapproval of this latest apparent “taxation without representation.”

Phone contact information is as follows:
U.S. Representative David Joyce: 440-352-3939 and 202-225-5731

State Senator John Eklund: 614-644-7718

State Representative Sarah LaTourette: 614-644-5088

Remember, if you don't take the time to let your elected reps what you think is wrong or missing, you can't blame them for not initiating a change. On the other hand, if you communicate to them and they're not paying attention, then it's time for you to vote for a change.

Want a Vote on the Joyce-Lynch GOP Endorsement Convention? Missed the Deadline By Four Years....This is How to Make the Next One
Published Richard May·Saturday, December 12, 2015

Sometime next month the Republican Party of Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) is going to hold an endorsement vote between Republican Congressman David Joyce and former state representative Matt Lynch for Ohio’s District 14.

Congressman Joyce is Mr. RINO according to conservatives. Major backer of former Speaker John Boehner. Lynch is the darling of the Ohio Tea Parties and social conservatives.

They both would like the endorsement of Ohio’s largest County Republican Party. It will go a long way to help them win their March 15th Republican primary.

Do you have an opinion on who should be endorsed?

I and my friends will take that opinion into consideration.

You see, YOU MISSED THE DEADLINE FOR THIS VOTE BY FOUR YEARS, in order to join us on this endorsement.

Would you like to have a voice on the next major endorsement after the primary? To have a say on what the Republican Party stands for?


You will reply to me....Gee, I’m going to be on the ballot? YES, you will be on the ballot with a NINETY PERCENT CHANCE OF BEING UNOPPOSED. Then you will have a 99% chance of winning the position when you are unopposed.

You will tell me that you have no time.....THERE ARE ONLY TWO OR THREE CONVENTIONS A YEAR. (You have no time, yet, you have time to read this section of the internet.)

You will ask if it costs any money. NO. YOU ARE ELECTED BY YOUR NEIGHBORS TO A PARTY POST. You are not paid in this position either.

You will tell me your health is bad and you can’t campaign for the candidates....YOU ARE NOT OBLIGED TO CAMPAIGN. It would be wonderful if you did, but your obligation is to be elected. USUALLY WITHOUT OPPOSITION.

I know school did not teach you this. I enlightened a tenured political science professor on some aspects of this recently (no names please).

If you live in Cuyahoga County and are interested call me at 216-924-9419. I will answer further questions calmly without capital letters.

Remember you are there to influence the Republican Party, not take orders.

In Cuyahoga County you only need your own signature. It is called the Republican Party County Central Committee. If you live in another Ohio county, call your Board of Elections and ask if this election is being held this year. It will have the same deadline.

Stop complaining to a radio, TV, or computer only. You can do this.

Published December 1, 2016

Geauga County Engineer Joe Cattell and Geauga County Job and Family Services Director Craig Swenson this morning announced that the March 15, 2016, Primary Ballot will contain levies for both of those county departments.

The Geauga Engineer levy will be a renewal of the existing 2.50 Mill Road and Bridge Levy “for the General Construction, Reconstruction, Resurfacing, and Repair of Streets, roads and Bridges in Geauga County as Authorized by Sections 5705.19(G), 5705.25, and 5705.26 of the Ohio Revised Code.”

The Job and Family Services levy is a renewal of the existing .70 Mill Children Services Levy authorized by Ohio Revised Code 5705.07 and 5705.24.

No information was provided by either county department about when the tax money(s) generated by the above two levies would first be collected from Geauga taxpayers.

Published November 26, 2015

County Engineer Joe Cattell engaged in dialogue with Commissioner Walter Skip Claypool on may topics, some of them not seeming to be obviously connected with the Engineer's Office. For example, Claypool bemoaned the cost of a single-day hazard-disposal seminar at a price tag of $38,000. Said Claypool, “For $38,000 we could have a year-round program. . .I may be coming to talk to you regarding that program.”

Cattell stated, “The disposal program is very popular”. . . but “the problem is the handling of the solid waste program. A lot of the expense has to do with disposal. A lot of people have called me about disposal of tires.” Elaborating on the popularity of the program, Cattell added, “Cars are lined up all the way to [Route] 44.”

Claypool expressed his biggest concern about the solid-waste disposal situation: “I don't know where it's all going to go.”

Blake Rear appeared to warm up suddenly to the topic. “This is one of those pay me now pay me later projects. It accomplishes the disposal properly. It's an ounce of prevention. . .We don't want to be penny-wise and pound-foolish.”

Claypool added, “We're talking about a year-round program. . . It's a utilized program.”

Published November 24, 2015

Geauga County Engineer Joe Cattell found himself in a discussion today with Commissioner Walter “Skip” Claypool regarding the latest quarterly meeting of the Northeast Ohio Area-wide Coordinating Agency. NOACA has announced its intention of establishing a Rural Council for rural areas like Geauga County. Mr. Claypool expressed his reservations about everything NOACA, including this newest development. He referenced the work of NEOSSC, having to do with so-called Sustainable Communities. Mr. Cattell, who was present at the last NOACA meeting, opined that he understands Mr. Claypool's concerns. Mr. Claypool says that NOACA's entire agenda is for the benefit of Cleveland.

Commissioner Blake rear referenced an 11-member conference regarding the Rural Council. According to Mr. Rear, Geauga County is considered 30% Urban and 70% Rural, thereby being entitled to 4 members on the so-called Rural Council. To date, Mr. Rear stated, there is no indication that any or all of Geauga County's 4 members have already been named.

Mr. Claypool asked, “Have you seen their plan? . . . They [ representatives from NOACA] were not elected to represent this county. . . Whatever we do [to oppose NOACA proposed actions], they will accomplish it.

Mt. Claypool urged Mr. Cattell to vote no on all of the proposals coming before NOACA membership on Friday, December 11, at NOACA Headquarters in downtown Cleveland.

Published November 18, 2015

Back on July 12, 2015, , we published an article entitled, “Auburn Township Nepotism and Wastefulness,” which discussed how money was being spent in Auburn Township by elected Auburn officials. One of the most serious issues was the apparent skipping of numerous warrants by Fiscal Officer Fred May, and we noted the numbers of the warrants in question. We took the issue a step further and reported our concerns to the office of State Auditor David Yost. Upon receiving the complaint in writing, we were told that the State Auditor had chosen to look into the issue further as Case No. 2015-CA00291. This morning we received written notification that the case apparently has been resolved.

Our original concerns were expressed as follows:
“These checks do not occur in payment listings, have not been voided, and are not noted in payment listings to be out of sequence: 2258, 2288, 2386, 2388, 2392, 2396, 2420, 2456, 2457, 2458, 2459, 2460, 2461, 2462, 2465, 2466, 2467, 2468, 2469.”

The communication from the Public Integrity Assurance Team of the State Auditor;s Office indicated that as a result of the concerns over the alleged missing warrants, there was an extensive review of bank statements, canceled checks, and ledgers in order to clarify Fiscal Officer Fred May's unorthodox method of accounting for the referenced warrants. As a result, the Special Audit Task Force has forwarded the results of its work and recommendations to the Cleveland regional office of the State Auditor for the next audit cycle.

Fiscal Officer Fred May, who will attend a free accounting/record-keeping seminar in Columbus in December, will shortly be submitting to the State Auditor all financial reports for Auburn Township for the years 2013 and 2014. Reports from the State Auditor regarding these audits will be available for review at https://ohioauditor.gov/auditsearch/search.aspx on or before August 1, 2016.

Update provided by Fiscal Officer Fred May

Hi Tom and Diane,
Having read the latest article on your web site, I think your concerns about unlisted payments are valid, and as a result I have taken steps to improve transparency in our payment reporting. As you know, I post a list of payments at each board meeting and then it is published to our website. You identified several gaps in the sequence of payment numbers listed on this report, and were understandably concerned as to why these payments were missing and what information might have been held back.

It turns out that all but one of the payment numbers you identified refer to checks that had been voided or that were for payroll payments. These items had been excluded from payment listing reports. The one exception was a check that was inadvertently left off of the payment listing. It was for $1,915.17 to Dominion East Ohio for natural gas.

I worked with the Auditor of State to identify reporting practices that would address your concerns and present a clearer picture of our payments. As a result, I adjusted our payment listing report so that it now shows voided checks, and I will be labeling our payment listing to notify the public that it does not include payroll information but that such information is available by request.

If you have any other concerns or questions on this matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Fred May

Published November 16, 2015

Unknown to most voters in the Auburn Township election for trustee and fiscal officer, the incumbent trustees approved a $95,000 contract for Jim Dixon of Newbury to supervise the hiring and building of a service garage with the possible capability of housing seven road vehicles as well as the hiring of Jim Larson, an architect. Cost of the service garage has been estimated in the $1.8 - $2.8 million range.

At tonight's second meeting for November (first and third Mondays of each month at 7:30 PM) Trustees Eberly, Troyan, and Cavanagh approved Jim Larson contract at $165,000 and announced that the funds to pay for this obligation are to come from the Roads and Bridge Account, which receives the revenue from four separate levies, the latest of which was the successful passage of the November 3 renewal levy. Voters will remember that an additional 1 mill road levy passed in November 2014. The result of these events is that the Road and Bridge account will have a carryover of $240,000 as of December 31, 2015. The General Fund will have a carryover of $300,000 on December 31, 2015.

As of yet, no public announcements have indicated from which of the two above funds the payment of Jim Dixon $95,000 contract will come. Dixon received his first installment, $4,000, in a check dated today from Auburn Township's Fiscal Officer, Fred May.

The Fire Department Fund, according to May, will have a carryover on December 31 2015, of $0.16.

Published November 11, 2015

Geauga Commissioners paid special attention to all Geauga veterans of armed service-duty and to one World War II veteran in particular. Commissioner Skip Claypool, on behalf of Commissioners Ralph Spidalieri and Blake Rear, offered attendees at the November 10 Commissioner meeting a green light to demonstrate their commitment to honor veterans of military service. Commissioner Claypool paid tribute to K-Mart's “green light” promotion, and the Director of Veterans Affairs in Geauga County noted that by using a green light, “you are showing support for those who have served.”

Seated about halfway back in the Commissioners' Meeting Room was a 93 year old veteran of World War II. Too self-effacing to relate his own accomplishments during World War II, he told his daughter, “You do it.” She did just that, explaining for those in attendance that Mr. Hollis had served in the 497th Field Auxiliary as a truck driver who brought supplies between the drawn lines of battle. Additionally, he served from November 1942 until February 1944 in the 18th Armored Division of General Patton's Third Army. Among other activities, Mr. Hollis was able to cross two flooded rivers during the Battle of the Bulge in a tank perched on a pontoon.

The Commissioners presented Mr. Hollis with a certificate honoring him for his service in World War II. Mr. Hollis shared the fact that he will be 94 in February, 2016.

Published November 6, 2015

Litigation alleging Zoning Inspector Error was filed in Geauga County Common Pleas Court on Thursday, November 5, 2015, two days after an incumbent “farmer” Trustee barely squeaked to victory in the November 3 Auburn Township election. Geauga County Common Pleas Court Case 15A000865, filed by Ethan and Ashley Kay, on Jacobs Lane, alleges Zoning Inspector Error. Judge Forrest Burt presides.

At the September 6, 2015, Board of Zoning Appeals hearing the Kays asked for a variance to allow the presence of a 24' by 40' barn to house 30 some pygmy goats. Mrs. Kay has been raising pygmy goats for about fourteen years. The Kays live on Jacobs Lane, an undedicated street, on which four other neighbors live. Some Auburn officials have noted that Ohio Revised Code does not permit agricultural activities in a platted subdivision, although a reading of ORC 519.21 indicates the opposite. Further, at least one other resident, if the street comes under zoning, is in violation for the presence of an unfenced-in large swimming pool, in direct violation of Auburn Township Zoning. Several neighbors, at least one of whom proclaimed herself to be a “country girl,” protested that the odors emanating from the small animals were offensive, though that neighbor, whose testimony appeared in the meeting minutes, is not a contiguous neighbor and therefore, according to the rules of the quasi-judicial BZA, her comments were not relevant for testimony. More importantly, one neighbor intimated that a list of goat diseases obtained from “research” presented a threat to the health, safety, and welfare of the residents on the unplatted street. At least one of the residents complained that the accessory building to house the livestock was illegal because it permitted the property owners “to conduct business” in a subdivision. Furthermore, there were complaints that the business of animal husbandry on Jacobs Lane caused traffic problems for the residents.

According to the praecipe submitted in 15A000865, the plaintiffs “respectfully request that this Honorable Court grant the present Motion to Stay the Decision of the Auburn Township Board of Zoning Appeals pending the outcome of the appeal.” At the September 6 BZA meeting, BZA member Lew Tomsic suggested that the Plaintiffs did not “even need an attorney” to file paperwork with the Geauga Common Pleas Court to get a judgment entry in which Auburn Township Trustees could reverse the judgment of the BZA.

This case is the second administrative appeal filed this week in opposition to refusals of the Auburn BZA to grant variances. In this particular case, one alleging agricultural use, it should be noted that agricultural use does not require the issuance of a variance. This case is yet another “agricultural” issue in which the Auburn Township BZA has run afoul of Ohio Revised Code 519.21. In 2009 and 2010 the Auburn Township BZA, in its efforts to prevent a 60 acre farm from engaging in viticulture and a 20 acre horse farm from installing a ten-kilowatt wind turbine, found themselves defeated in 2011 and 2012, respectively at the Eleventh District Court of Appeals, which has supported agriculture strongly. The two previously-cited cases were widely publicized as erroneous and fallacious judgments on the part of township zoning.

It should be further noted for this report that Ohio Revised Code 519.21, which defines agricultural practices exempt from Ohio township zoning, has undergone significant revision in favor of agricultural innovation in Ohio within the last two years.

Published November1, 2015

Joseph Deserio's failed application for a variance (BZA-15-06v) was unanimously turned down on September 6, 2015, and finalized by findings of fact and meeting minutes officially approved on October 6. 2015. As a result Deserio filed a legal appeal against the Auburn Township Trustees on October 30, 2015, with Geauga County Common Pleas Court case 15A000844. In a letter signed by Auburn Township Zoning and Board of Zoning Secretary, Jane Hardy, on October 6, 2015, the cited reason for failure of Deserio's request for a variance was that “any use not specifically listed [in the Auburn Township zoning code] shall not be permitted.”

Those present for the September 6 BZA meeting heard BZA member Lew Tomsic, Sr, bemoan in the presence of the auburntownship.org video camera the issue of Auburn Township's “broken zoning.” Such “broken zoning,” he acknowledged, has forced the BZA to approve or disapprove attempts of commercial enterprises, mostly landscape- and excavation-related, by engaging in “spot zoning,” The co-owner of the property, Mr. Stull, of Cuyahoga Falls, protested the inability or unwillingness of Auburn Township elected officials to get into the Twenty-first Century in order to improve the economic lots of long-time owners who can neither sell nor develop their small parcels because of too high taxes (including a large annual sewer assessment to cover the cost of the Auburn Township/LaDue Sewage Plant since about 2000), too many restrictions by Auburn Township Zoning Code in reference to the permitted building coverage on Auburn Corners parcels, and the apparent lack of demand for goods and services in that location. At that same BZA meeting one resident from Lancaster Drive protested the potential noise and ground disturbance that would be caused by landscape/excavating equipment on site. (See video and coverage of September 6 BZA meeting)

This most recent litigation, which will be fought by the office of County Prosecutor James Flaiz on behalf of Auburn Township Trustees and BZA appointees, will utilize Geauga County taxpayer funds appropriated to that office. The case will utilize the services of Assistant Prosecutor, Bridey Matheney, actively seeking election to the Geauga County Common Pleas Judiciary seat that will be vacated when David Fuhry does not seek a third term in November 2016 because of age restrictions imposed on him by Ohio Revised Code. Many remember Matheney as suck-up to the Auburn Trustees when they persecuted two farms (one that engaged in viticulture and the other a horse farm seeking a 10 kilowatt wind turbine) all the way to abject defeat and humiliation in the Eleventh District Court of Appeals and the Ohio Township Association. The latest case has been assigned to Judge Forrest Burt, also forbidden to seek re-election in 2018 because of advanced age. Judge Burt should be remembered as the Assistant County Prosecutor under former County Prosecutor (now known as “Just Dave”) Joyce in the early 1990s, when he defended Auburn Township against Auburn Glen Corporation litigation, again at Geauga taxpayer expense. Auburn Glen won at the Ohio Supreme Court level.

15A000844 notes that “[t]he decision of the BZA is an abuse of discretion, arbitrary and capricious,” and “is contrary to law.” Public information requests for the relevant BZA findings of fact and minutes by www.auburntownship.org have not been fulfilled by Auburn Township Fiscal Officer Fred May over the last several weeks, in spite of a Second Request. The next step is to file a Mandamus with Common Pleas Court, which will result in taxpayer expense Interestingly, although Ohio Revised Code permits the Auburn Township Trustees to negotiate with plaintiffs over BZA variance/conditional use complaints, the former have been very insistent about avoiding such negotiation as well as saving taxpayer dollars.

Published October 27, 2015

Although the contract with Orchard Hills Senior Center will not be up for renewal until the end of January, the Geauga Department of Aging asked for bids several months ago in an effort to find a new centralized location to provide more services to Geauga senior citizens. Those agencies that responded to the request for bids on a prospective senior center were Metzenbaum , Orchard Hills, Petronzio Management, and West Geauga Plaza, LLC.

The two most competitive bids came from Orchard Hills and West Geauga Plaza, LLC. Although Orchard Hills' basic monthly rate was the more reasonably-priced of the two, the rate did not include any utilities. West Geauga Plaza, LLC, submitted a higher bid that included utilities.

For some time Orchard Hills, the current site of a Geauga Department of Aging senior center, has been considered problematic because the facility is often leased out for other affairs on weekends, making it necessary for Department of Aging equipment to be boxed up and put away on Friday and then to be unpacked on Monday. Department of Aging Director Jessica Boalt related that the process has been inconvenient and inefficient.

Consequently, Item 9 on this morning's agenda for the Commissioners' Meeting was a request from the Department of Aging that the Commissioners “accept the proposal from West Geauga Plaza, LLC, at the recommendation of the Aging Advisory Board, to Lease Space for the West Geauga Senior Center for a three year period in the amount of $46,800.00 per year which includes rent and utilities (excluding sewer).”

Commissioner Claypool voiced concern that a three-year lease was too long a commitment. He noted that the current arrangement with Patterson's Orchard Hills facility is month-to-month with no contract. Ms. Boalt suggested the need to sit down with Commissioners to develop a 3-5 year plan for West Geauga Senior Center, citing the fact that the attendance at the former has increased 10% in the last year. Claypool cautiously accepted the premise that a three-year, rather than a two-year, lease was necessary to continue to the next step, which will be the receipt and acceptance of a contract from West Geauga Plaza, LLC, with notation that necessary renovation on the 7000 square-foot facility will take 90 days to complete in order to enlarge the kitchen and add two bathrooms.

All three Commissioners voted to accept the bid from West Geauga Plaza, LLC.

Published October 20, 2015

Known to the Geauga Sheriff's Department for years, Dennis Whaley, an auxiliary deputy, lost his long battle to cancer on October 15, 2015. Mr. Whaley will be remembered for using “vacation time” earned from his place of employment to provide help to the Sheriff's Department, such as assistance at the annual Great Geauga Fair.

Dennis was diagnosed with a Stage Four cancer of the same variety that claimed the life of his son several years ago at the age of 22. The Geauga Sheriff's Department sponsored a celebration of Mr. Whaley's life and accomplishment in the spring, when it was feared that Mr. Whaley's health was thought to be deteriorating quickly. Thereafter, Mr. Whaley seemed to stabilize, providing some optimism for the near future. Mr. Whaley attended the Great Geauga County Fair over the Labor Day weekend .

Sheriff Dan McClelland announced to attendees at today's Commissioner Meeting that the family of Dennis Whaley will receive guests at the Geauga County Fairgrounds in Burton at the Schoolhouse Building on Thursday, October 22, from 2-4 and 6-8 P.M. Funeral is to be held at 10 A.M. on Friday, October 23, 2015.

In the words of Sheriff McClelland, “We lost a good one.”

Published October 20, 2015

Making an appearance before the Geauga County Commissioners, Juvenile Court Judge Timothy Grendell announced that Juvenile Court has been awarded about $290.000 from Victims of Crime Assistance and State Victims Assistance Academy for the administration of the CASA for Kids Geauga County program. VOCA and SVAA grants are funded by criminal fines and forfeitures and not by tax dollars. As a result, Geauga taxpayers will be relieved of paying $194,000 for the CASA program in 2016. The CASA for Kids program provides specially trained volunteers known as Court Appointed Special Advocates to make certain that the best interests of a child from troubled families with substance abuse, mental health issues, or domestic violence issues are served.

Published October 13, 2015

Judge Timothy Grendell appeared at the October 13 Geauga Park District meeting to accomplish two outcomes: 1) to urge Park Commissioners and the public to write their Ohio Senators and Representatives to prevent passage of House Bill 8 and 2) to issue commendations to organizers of the Geauga County Tea Party-sponsored Liberty Camp held in July at Chickagamee Reservation, a GPD park.

Grendell referenced his May 8 letter to the Park Board Commissioners. In that letter Grendell pointed out that “[y]ou , as the appointed Park Board, would have no say in the matter” of Ohio Department of Natural Resources' ability to give an oil/gas driller permission to drill for oil/gas using hydraulic fracturing techniques. The letter highlighted the passage of H.B.8 by the Ohio House in
March 2015 by a 98-0 vote. The next step in H.B.8 becoming Ohio law is for the Ohio Senate to approve the Senate version of the bill and for Governor Kasich to sign it into law. Grendell noted that Senator John Eklund is reportedly working on an amendment that would exempt county parks from the legislation. Grendell urges all concerned citizens and taxpayers to write letters to the editor and to their legislators objecting to passage of this bill, which places control of mineral rights of all public lands to be controlled by the Director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Russell Township's Linda O'Brien was featured as the chief organizer of Liberty Camp, a program that was first held in Portage County last summer under the auspices of the Portage County Tea Party. Linda O'Brien, a passionate proponent of First Amendment rights, planned the Geauga County Liberty Camp for a year with extensive research into the customs and lifestyle of 1770s American colonists who ultimately became revolutionaries against the tyranny of the British monarch, George III, and established a Declaration of Independence and a Constitutional form of government after the official peace treaty of 1783. O'Brien herself played the role of an American patriot, as did Geauga County Commissioner Walter Skip Claypool and Geauga Park District Director John Oros and Denver Sallee, among others. Judge Grendell took the time to honor these individuals by public proclamation at the meeting. Grendell praised the efforts, which involved 56 children, for helping to make the experience a living history lesson.

Published September 22, 2015

Geauga County Prosecutor Jim Flaiz used his annual budget hearing with the Geauga County Commissioners to defend his practical actions, including his efforts to spend money conservatively. The total actual budget request for 2016 is $1,401,376, down from the 2016 request of $1,455, 122. Thus, Flaiz is receiving 96.307% of his request. It appears fair to say that the Prosecutor's budget has remained pretty flat, in spite of his references to the expensive criminal prosecutions relevant to drugs that have occurred in the last couple of years. Flaiz noted the big increases in
prosecutorial costs during the interval of 2012-2013, when it became necessary to add an additional felony prosecutor (total of 3 in the department), a drug prosecutor, and a part=time criminal investigator. Flaiz also discussed the undercover drug buys within the department in the last couple of years.

The growth of big box retail within Geauga County has contributed to the growth of crime. Nevertheless, the funds set aside for the Geauga Drug Task Force in August 2013 have resulted in increased prosecution of activities related to drug-related money. Three Walmarts in the Chardon area are an important source of crime in the county. Chardon retail inflicts a toll upon Chardon law enforcement (Chardon Police Department) in spite of the fact that big box retail stores are a tremendously important source of sales tax revenue that is returned to the county.

During the course of the hearing both Commissioner Spidalieri and Prosecutor Flaiz were passionate about the importance of the former's monthly column in a local marketing publication. This column has apparently been wildly successful in an increased number of arrests of Geauga County's most wanted fugitives. Both Spidalieri and Flaiz were visibly proud of the increased number of arrests of “wanted” fugitives in Geauga County and both took credit for the pictures of fugitives leading to their eventual arrests within the county. Commissioners Spidalieri and Claypool expressed positive approval of the increased aggressiveness of the Prosecutor's Office in recent years,

Published September 21, 2015

Sam Sell, an Auburn Township teen, was spending some quiet time with his cousin as they were fishing at Lake LaDue during the weekend of September 12-13. A loud noise broke the peace of the water as a white truck came rolling off the wooden deck and landed in Lake LaDue approximately 150 feet from the shore. With authority and confidence Sam instructed his cousin to call 911 on the cell phone in hopes of rescuing the trapped driver in the vehicle.

Sam, without thinking of his own safety, pulled off his shirt and dived into Lake LaDue, swimming the 150 yards to reach the vehicle. The driver apparently rejected Sam's request to open the driver side door, although the water level inside the vehicle was already up to the driver's shoulder.

Fortunately, by this time the Auburn Township Fire Department was at the scene with a boat to transport the driver if he could be extricated from his vehicle. The Fire Department workers in the boat reached the vehicle, whose nose was down and whose tail end was above the level of Lake LaDue. Breaking the rear window, firemen were able to help the victim escape to the safety of the boat and bring him back to the shore. Sam swam the 150 feet back to shore.

Fire Chief John Phillips related at tonight's Trustee meeting that both the rescuer and the rescue are out of harm's way although the driver of the vehicle required hospital intervention. This is a story with a happy ending thanks to the quick actions of two teenagers and the willingness of Sam Sell to think of the welfare and safety of another person before himself.

Kudos, Sam Sell! Auburn needs more heroes like you! You demonstrate how everyone should treat their fellow human beings. You make us all very proud.

Published September 9, 2015

Based on a hunch and a public information request, we have discovered several breaches of safety and decorum by a Geauga County Sheriff employee. The employee in question, Adam J. Lefelhoc, was cited by the State Highway Patrol on August 30, 2015 on two counts in Lake County at 12:22 A.M. for violating ORC 4511.33. The State Highway Patrol cited Lefelhoc for crossing the center line (TRC1504460B) and for OVI /Operating a vehicle under the Influence (TRC1504460A). The case is pending in Painesville Municipal Court and will have its first hearing on October 13, 2015, at 8:30 A.M.

An employee of the Geauga Sheriff's Department reportedly since 2013 as a drug investigator, Lefelhoc has had other vehicular problems. In 2004, also in Painesville Municipal Court, he was the defendant in Case TRD0406024A and TRD0406024B for driving with a suspended driver's license. That same year he was in Painesville Municipal Court for criminal charges in CRB0401817.

Lefelhoc's application for employment with the Geauga County Sheriff's Department reveals that although he was earning $17 per hour with the Chardon Police Department, he sought $15 per hour for employment with Sheriff Dan McClellan. It is the unverified speculation of some that Lefelhoc became a Geauga Sheriff employee as a result of an affiliation with former Geauga Sheriff employee, Scott Niehus, who has since left the Sheriff's Post, ending any thought that he might be McClelland's successor as Sheriff, to become Chardon City Police Chief.

The public information from Painesville Municipal Court reveals a total of twelve court-resolved and -resolvable offenses since May 2002. We suspect a trend here and question the judgment of the Geauga County Sheriff's Department in the employment of an individual who appears to have difficulty following the law.

Is this the kind of resolution that Commissioners Spidalieri, Jemison, and Samide had in mind when they committed $600,000 in 2013 to the Geauga County Sheriff Office (GCSO) for bringing a resolution to the heroin problems in Geauga County?

Published September 2, 2015

With a twenty-minute executive session, the September 1 Commissioner Meeting moved to adjournment about 9:55 A.M. after Commissioner Skip Claypool noted that County Maintenance Director, Glenn Vernick, had thought of a parking plan that would provide equal opportunity for all county department employees in the Courthouse Annex building. Claypool added that Juvenile/Probate Court Judge, Timothy Grendell, had been favorable to the idea as well. Glenn Vernick's plan would allot the 56 spaces equally among 123 workers so that 40% of each department would receive a parking space. Mr. Claypool speculated that because of the higher risk potential for members of Jim Flaiz's prosecutorial staff, those employees would receive parking spaces up close to the building. Additionally, Claypool noted that Juvenile Court employees, the Prosecutor's Office, and the Auditor regularly receive threats from disgruntled residents.

No official solution has been approved, but it appears that much of the original tension and stress will hopefully be resolved with diplomacy and understanding.

Published August 25, 2015

The Geauga County Commissioner Meeting of August 25 went according to plan until the very end. Two motions not on the agenda were approved. The first motion concerned the approval of a contract from SAX Consulting for $2200 to perform a “security audit” concerning the safety of the Courthouse Annex and its parking lot, where county employees in that building park. Commissioner Spidalieri, abstained from any discussion. Commissioner Rear, acting in similar fashion to Commissioners Claypool and Spidalieri when they nominated and approved the appointment of several individuals to expiring terms as representatives to the Board of Mental Health several weeks ago, noted that Juvenile Court and the Commissioners are in disagreement. He noted that the Commissioners receive daily complaints from Juvenile Court Judge Grendell at the expense of others in the Courthouse Annex. He suggested that Juvenile Court be moved from the Courthouse Annex to accommodate all of the suggestions of the Court to Building 8 at 470 Center Street.

Commissioner Claypool, claiming to be taken by surprise, indicated he was unprepared to second Rear's motion. Calling Rear's concept “an intriguing idea that requires more inspection,” Claypool warmed to the topic by referencing a recent allegation that the Commissioners had violated the Sunshine Law while they were in the same parking lot discussing the Annex parking security issue. Elected officials, Claypool noted, are permitted to be in the same parking lot without being in violation of Ohio Revised Code. Prosecutor Flaiz, Claypool added, was also on hand and provided a letter of opinion regarding the propriety of the situation. A letter from Juvenile Court was the apparent source of the complaint. This conflict regarding separation of powers, concluded Claypool, was nothing more than a conflict over who deserves to utilize parking spaces at the Courthouse Annex.

County Auditor Frank Gliha, whose offices, like those of the Prosecutor and the Common Pleas judges, are located in the Courthouse Annex, noted that he was pleased about the security assessment provided by SAX Consulting. Gliha said he wants adequate security for both county employees and residents who utilize the offices. The building has never been secure, added Gliha, except for the second floor, which houses Juvenile Court rooms.

Claypool expressed the opinion that he would rather face risk than the security imposed by a police state. “You cannot protect yourself completely.” One can only utilize necessary and reasonable steps.

Gliha countered Claypool by identifying the Courthouse Annex as an “unsafe environment.”

Claypool noted the need for constant evaluation about personal security. “We will be taking a look.”

Inasmuch as an August 24 letter to the Commissioners from Juvenile Court Judge Grendell referenced the security measures imposed by the Ohio Supreme Court, the question of the need for an additional $2200 imposed by the SAX contract with the Commissioners becomes an issue.

Rear brought the discussion back to the topic at hand by reminding Claypool that “we have to let someone know by tomorrow noon. Be cognizant that a public meeting requires three commissioners. I don't have the time.” This comment apparently paraphrased a written statement from Judge Grendell.
See attached letter.

Claypool suggested that the Commissioners call a public meeting for Friday, August 28, and invite Judge Grendell to participate in a discussion in Commissioners' Chambers in Building 4, Claypool invited the public with the intention of authorizing the vote to go into executive session. “I'll buy the donuts,” he said.

“I don't want to play the Sunshine Violation Game again. Everything is pending the Prosecutor's opinion,” stated Rear.

“I would love to improve the relationship between the Judge and us.”

At this point Rear seconded Claypool's motion to hold the public meeting with Judge Grendell at noon on Friday. “It is not my intention to be adversarial.”

Commissioner Spidalieri noted that his presence that day was an impossibility and the meeting was adjourned about 10:15 A.M.

Published August 24, 2015

At the second fiscal budget hearing in two weeks involving the Geauga Park District, the budget commission, consisting of Prosecutor Jim Flaiz, Treasurer Chris Hitchcock, and Auditor Frank Gliha, heard GPD Fiscal Officer Michelle Pennell announce the GPD's plan to institute the Capital Improvement Land Acquisition Fund with $2.85 million dollars. The fund, which will hold monies to be spent in 2017 and 2018, is to be overseen by the State of Ohio, not the Geauga County Budget Commission. In addition, as clarified by GPD's newly-hired attorney, Dale Markewicz, GPD can create a Capital Improvement Land Acquisition Fund every year. The funds in each of these Capital Improvement Land Acquisition Funds must be spent down within ten years of being established. The next step is for the Geauga County Commissioners to approve the Capital Improvement Land Acquisition Fund for 2016, followed by the Fund's approval by the office of State of Ohio Auditor, David Yost. Budget Commission members Hitchcock and Gliha both expressed confusion about GPD's new financial details repeatedly during the twenty-minute hearing.

Additionally, the monies suspended in 2015 ( the .7 mill tax levy originally approved in 1989 and approved again in 2012 by Geauga County voters) have been reinstated for 2016. Any decision regarding continued collection of those monies will depend upon the 2017 GPD fiscal budget, slated for hearing in August 2016 by the Budget Commission. Budget Commission member Flaiz acknowledged receiving a letter from the group known as Protect Geauga Parks that requested that the funds from the suspended .7 mill levy be reinstated.

Flaiz noted, “All three of us care about the voters. The problem [with the .7 mill GPD levy suspended for 2015] is that . . .the voters were misled in 2012. What the voters were presented with was wrong. . . and dishonest. We can't correct those wrongs until down the road. The new group [of GPD Commissioners] should be given an opportunity [to follow-through on their promises regarding the 2016 fiscal budget].

GPD Attorney David Ondrey announced that the August 24 hearing constituted a public meeting for GPD. Present for GPD were Park Commission members, Mary Ruth Shumway and Jeff Orndorff, along with Anna McDonald, Director John Oros, the aforementioned Michelle Pennell and attorney Markewicz, who emphasized the plan of GPD to set up Capital Improvement Land Acquisition Funds every year.

The GPD 2016 Fiscal Budget was approved largely because GPD leadership was able to demonstrate that its General Fund expenses would be $9,834,055.00 instead of the originally contemplated $6,784,054.08, resulting in a carryover on December 31, 2016, of $959.703.76 instead of the $4,009,704.68 that had prompted extensive criticism at the original Budget Commission meeting of two weeks ago. In addition, the revised 2016 Construction Fund expenses increased from $2,238,240 to $2,446,500 and the carryover on December 31, 2016 in that fund is anticipated at $2,789,337.17 from the original $146,997.17.

Although Frank Gliha did not reveal his intentions toward the 2017 GPD Fiscal Budget, both Hitchcock and Flaiz threatened that failure of the current GPD leadership to abide by the 2016 budget would result in two vetoes. Hitchcock said cryptically, “If the proposed budget is not honored, you will lose me. . .If there is a [carryover] balance beyond $32 million, I am gone.”

The meeting adjourned at 10:20 A.M.

Published August 11, 2015

Over the years I have attended many budget hearings here in Geauga County. Today is the first time since I have been going to these meetings that a budget has been rejected, and by unanimous vote of the appointed members of the budget hearing board, Geauga County Prosecutor James R. Flaiz, Geauga County Treasurer Christopher P. Hitchcock, and Geauga County Auditor Frank J. Gliha. Specifically I am referring to the Geauga County Park District's budget.

The Park District is receiving funding provided by levies passed by the voters under the previous park board. The problem appears to be the growing carryover balance that started in 2007. In 2013 the balance was $4,947,566.00, in 2014 it was $5,347,478.00, and in 2015 it is $6,328,932.00. The perceived trend is not good but fails to take into consideration the spending plans of the board
through the end of the levy period, which is 2019. For the short term the park system is collecting more than it needs to function. However, in the long term it all depends on the leadership decisions of the Park Board Commissioners.

In light of the numbers and the action of the budget hearing board, there are several questions that beg to be asked. Did the previous park board ask the voters for too much money? Did the previous park board actually have plans to spend of this money? Is the current park board unable to spend this much money on park improvements? Should the park board ask to suspend another one of its funding levies until cash reserves are reduced to correspond with spending needs? Should the current park board go on a spending spree to reduce the excess? If the board members spend the monies should it be for more park land?, or should it be for improvements to existing park land?

The next hearing on the Geauga Park District budget will be on August 24 at 10:00 am at the Geauga County Auditor's Office, 231 Main Street, Suite 1-A, Chardon, OH 44024. Come to the budget hearing and see where your money will be going. It is only money, and it is your money.

Published July 24, 2015

Per the July/August 2015 Ohio Township News, township trustees will be pleased to receive pay raises for their services after not receiving any raises since 2008. In mid-April 2015, the Ohio House of Representatives, after several months of hearings, passed HB 64. HB 64 originated in mid-February with Governor Kasich's February budget. The version passed by the Ohio House represented several revisions. The bill was introduced separately in the Ohio Senate, which also added many revisions to the version “as passed by the House.” Because the Ohio House did not agree to the changes effected in the Ohio Senate, the outcome was in the hands of a conference committee from both bodies to arrive at final outcomes.

At this point, the final outcome has depended on approval, with Governor Kasich's signature. Most of the money issues were to be effective July 1, 2015, 90 days after Kasich's approval.

In the meantime, state tax revenues have been reported by the Office of Budget and Management to be higher than originally predicted so that there is an additional $200 million to account for in the next two-year session. In the current version of Amended Sub-Bill HB 64, Sections 505.24 and 507.09 provide a 5 per cent pay raise to township trustees and fiscal officers in 2016, followed by another 5 per cent raise in 2017. These pay raises are separate from any levies approved in townships in November elections for road and bridge accounts, fire management accounts, and safety accounts.

Did you know that the salaries of township trustees and township fiscal officers are based on the dollar amount of the annual AMENDED fiscal budget? This means that salaries are based on the dollar amount that is awarded annually by the Fiscal Budget Commission (composed of the elected County Auditor, the elected County Treasurer, and a third member, typically a member of the office of the elected County Prosecutor).

Page A15 of State Auditor Dave Yost's March 2015 publication states, “The compensation of a township trustee should be controlled by the budget as amended and supplemented, and not the original, budget adopted by the township trustees, assuming that an amended official certificate of estimated resources had been obtained from the budget commission recognizing this additional revenue.” This statement cites Ohio Attorney General Opinions 79-006 and 99-015.

According to ORC 505.24(C),
“Whenever members of a board of township trustees are compensated per diem and not by annual salary, the board shall establish, by resolution, a method by which each member of the board shall periodically notify the township fiscal officer of the number of days spent in the service of the township and the kinds of services rendered on those days. . . .The notice shall be filed with the township fiscal officer and preserved for inspection by any persons interested.”

“Each trustee shall certify the percentage of time spent working on matters to be paid from the township general fund and from other township funds in such proportions as the kinds of services performed.”

Finally, are you aware that in 2015, trustees in Ohio townships are paid according to the following formula:

Township Budget of $750,001-$1,500,000 entitles township trustees and fiscal officer to a per diem compensation of $45.02 (formerly $14,147 annually), based on 200 days of annual service.

Township Budget of $1,500,001-$3,500,000 entitles these elected officials to a per diem compensation of $51.44 (formerly $19,806 annually).

Township Budget of $3,500,000-$6,000,000 entitles these elected officials to a per diem compensation of $56.59 (formally $21,221 annually).

The 5% salary increase of 2016 will provide for per diem salaries of $47.07, $53.96. and $59.13, respectively.

The 5% salary increase of 2017 will provide for per diem salaries of $49.42, $56.36, and $62.09, respectively.

Do your elected township officials “earn” the kind of money that the Ohio General Assembly has granted to them?

Published July 19, 2015

After gaining unanimous approval at the July 14 County Commissioner meeting for the acceptance of a contract of understanding with/for the Family First Council, Job and Family Services Director, Craig Swenson, initiated a more serious issue. He said he wished the County Commissioners to authorize the first part of a levy campaign to “go to certification through the County Auditor.” He cited the Public Children's Service Agency fund, which has lost $2.1 million in the last three years due to placement of children as a result of court orders handled by Juvenile Court. In the last several months. Swenson, said, there have been 60+ placements of children with up to 86 such placements; such a pattern is not sustainable for Job and Family Services.

“I don't have a solution,” Swenson asserted in response to Commissioner Claypool's comments. “Since 2014, placement rates have been way above the 60's” with costs “averaging over $100,000 per month.” Taking April and May 2015 together, JFS has incurred $250,000 in placement costs, two of the highest in history.”

When Claypool asked, “What's the shortfall if the levy does not pass?” Swenson added,”We try to keep children in their homes,” but “since 2010, children are in our [JFS] custody longer than they have ever been.” With a balance of $1.4 million in accounts and over $2 million in losses, “we will be at a $0 balance.” Payment of JFS expenses incurred as a result of Juvenile Court orders will come from passage of a levy by the voters or by the voters as a result of the need for court-ordered payments to come from Geauga County's General Fund. Either way, the bills must be paid.

“We have to follow court orders,” Swenson emphasized. “The best and least restrictive placement” is that which averages $25-$27 per day in local homes within a thirty-mile radius. Nevertheless, his experience at JFS has been “baptism by fire.” Placement costs which involve intensive treatment without the preferred assessment for individual children can cost up to $450 per day, particularly when placement is possible in Beachbrook and Bellefaire, facilities that can provide intensive treatment on a twenty-four hour basis without the requisite assessment in place.

Swenson several times referred to “surprise” situations in which JFS has not received prior notice of an impending judgment or a disregard of recommendations made by JFS upon the final court order. “ There are times when we have to have 24-hour care. Unfortunately, we have had a lot of these. Since these are court-ordered mandates, we have to follow orders. If we can prepare, we can be ahead of the the curve. Otherwise, we have to have placement without the benefit of assessment, usually at $450 per day.”

“There are issues that did not exist in 2010,” such as a recession and the Chardon High School shooting.

“You've done a great job,” commented Claypool. Following this comment and signs that Swenson's presentation was at an end, attendee Kim Laurie, officially known as the Liaison of Juvenile Court Judge, Timothy Grendell. She presented two questions. It was only upon Commissioner Rear's comment that “the debate” could occur outside Commissioner chambers that Laurie identified herself without stating her title.

“Are you suggesting,” she asked of Swenson,” that children are being removed from home unnecessarily?” Swenson responded that orders imposed by the court complicated the job of Job and Family Services without actually answering the question with a “No.”

“Is it fair to suggest that the judge is receiving information from other agencies?” Laurie quickly asked. Swenson suggested a negative answer but added. “We have made upwards of 50 phone calls before placement of an individual child. In the end, without assessment and/or better assistance from the court, placement has needed to be at the institutional level, particularly in situations where the individual child's safety and well-being are at imminent risk. Nevertheless, Swenson said, : I think that the court errs on the side of caution.”

Swenson indicated he would be returning in about a week to follow-up on procedure to authorize the placing of the additional .7 mill levy on the ballot.

Published July 12, 2015

Some townships are being very responsible with taxpayer dollars and proper decorum. At the latest Geauga Township Association meeting of July 8, we witnessed a Chester Township elected official hand a check to Troy Township personnel to cover the cost of two GCTA dinners so that two Chester Township elected officials could attend. So what's the big deal about township officials paying at the last minute? The point is, that Chester taxpayers paid for two representatives to attend, and exactly two attended.

Compare that situation with Auburn Township elected officials. On March 16, appointed Auburn Fiscal Officer Fred May, who was hand-picked by former Fiscal Officer and current sextant, Susan Plavcan, to succeed her back in late fall 2013, issued check number 2236 to Geauga County Township Association for $100 ($25 per head is the cost of GCTA dinners) so that four Auburn officials could attend the April 8 Geauga County Township Association dinner meeting sponsored by the Thompson Trustees. The two Auburn Township attendees who wound up attending April 8 were Trustees Michael Troyan and John Eberly, neither of whom is up for election in November 2015. Trustee Cavanagh and Fiscal Officer May, both of whose dinners were paid for by Auburn taxpayers, and both of whom may choose to run for the November 2015 races for Trustee and Fiscal Officer respectively, did not attend. According to the written explanation furnished by FO May in response to my query, Trustee Cavanagh could not find “help” at the farm to allow him to attend and he, Fed May, had to babysit his own children because his wife had other responsibilities. So why were Auburn taxpayers cheated out of $50?

On June15, 2015, Auburn Fiscal Officer Fred May issued check number 2398, again made payable to the Geauga County Township Association, for $125, which is payment for five dinners at $25 each for the benefit of Trustee Cavanagh, Trustee Eberly, Trustee Troyan, Fiscal Officer Fred May, and Auburn Fire Chief John Phillips. That dinner meeting occurred in Troy Township at the Welshfield Inn on the evening of July 8. Guess which two attended, resulting in the waste of $75 of Auburn taxpayer money? They were Trustee Troyan and Fire Chief Phillips. Cavanagh did not attend for the second time in a row and May did not attend for the second time in a row. Trustee Eberly did not attend either.
For township trustees who do not know how the township is going to pay for a $2 million +, 18,000 square foot building for the Road Department but who are going ahead with plans to hire both an engineering firm and a project manager to make this building possible, why is it necessary to squander taxpayer dollars so that a new levy becomes the means of payment because Trustee Cavanagh has said that financing the new building legally with funds from the November 2014 road levy “is not ethical”?

There is yet another matter that appears to involve family nepotism. Last summer this writer noted that Kendra Kwasniewski was receiving payment for cleaning Adam Hall. When this writer mentioned that Kwasniewski is the live-in partner of Cavanagh's son, Alex, Cavanagh did not dispute or deny that statement. Instead, he said, “Don't you have better things to do with your time?” So here it is July 2015. Kendra Kwasniewski, home for summer hiatus from college, is again on the payroll for cleaning Adam Hall. On July 3, 2015, Fiscal Officer Fred May issued check 2425 to Kendra Kwasniewski for $925, which seems to imply several launderings of Adam Hall at Auburn Township taxpayer expense.
Wouldn't it be great if, as an elected Auburn official, you could count on an apparent family member to be on the Auburn Township payroll?

While we're at it, we will express our concerns for the whereabouts of the following Auburn Township checks under the purview of Fiscal Officer Fred May. These checks do not occur in payment listings, have not been voided, and are not noted in Payment Listings to be out of sequence: 2253, 2288, 2335, 2386, 2388, 2392, 2396, 2420, 2456, 2457, 2458, 2459, 2460, 2461, 2462, 2465, 2466, 2467, 2468, 2469.

This is the time to be alert and awake—Auburn tax money and ethics, having been referenced very recently by Trustee Cavanagh, are clearly at stake. Chester Township Trustees, well aware of the rogie fiscal officer Michael Spellman, who was able to abscond with at least $4.286,893.46 belonging to Chester taxpayers and still be a free man ten years later, won't let that kind of fiasco befall their constituents again.

Whether Auburn Township Trustees have the ability or desire to be good fiscal stewards of Auburn Township taxpayer money is open to plenty of speculation, based on past evidence.

Published June 21, 2015

About one and a half hours into the June 16, 2015, Geauga Commissioner Meeting, Chester Township Trustee and former Geauga Park Board Commissioner, Michael Petruziello directed a question to Commissioner Blake Rear as a result of Rear's walking out of the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency meeting in downtown Cleveland on Friday, June 12. According to Rear, a discussion and vote at NOACA that day was to result in a reduction of representation for Geauga County from three votes to two votes. Small counties like Geauga, Medina, and Lorain are represented by only a few appointed members from those counties while the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County have a huge number of votes among the forty-five members who cast votes on policy issues.

Mr. Petruziello asked if in light of Rear's walking out of the June 12 NOACA meeting, he would “help us with [U.S. Representative from the 14th Congressional District] Joyce and [Ohio State Senator from Geauga County] Eklund to get out of NOACA?”

Rear responded, “I walked out when NOACA reduced membership for Geauga and Medina. If they reduced representation to two votes, would my vote [as the third member] be legitimate?” NOACA, he further alleged, is very problematic, For example, how are Geauga dues assessed? On 93.000 people in Geauga County, not the 23,000 in urbanized areas of Geauga. “What do I tell the 70,000 who pay the dues and get nothing?”

The problem, according to Rear, was that Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri, instead of appointing Geauga County Engineer, Joe Cattell, as his alternate, appointed Lake County resident Kimberly Laurie earlier this year.

“The only way that Cattell is on the [NOACA] board is if Spidalieri appoints him.”

In quick response Spidalieri said, “I went ahead and talked to both Joe and Kim. I put our County Engineer on the board. Unfortunately, he had some medical issues.” The issues that Spidalieri referenced had to do with motorcycle injuries sustained by Cattell about a year ago. These injuries have resulted in rehabilitative therapy and may yet result in surgery to correct pain issues for Cattell.

Commissioner Claypool, a fervent proponent of leaving NOACA early in 2015, stated,” Getting out of NOACA gets us little. If we leave NOACA, we leave $2 million on the table. I have checked with [Prosecutor] Flaiz. We do have some action. We have to submit communication regarding NOACA's violation of its bylaws.” He asserted further that it was important to have talks with Ohio Representative Sarah LaTourette and State Senator John Eklund in order to effect some action with NOACA.

Commissioner Rear had more information about NOACA to share. “I received a call from the [NOACA] Director [Grace Gallucci]. She acknowledged errors. There is a discussion about establishing a minimum membership of three [votes per county].”

“We have already mentioned the need for the County Engineer as a member,” added Commissioner Claypool.

“What they [NOACA] are suggesting is a number in excess of 45 members,” said Rear.

Concluded Mr. Petruziello, “Our tax dollars go to a bunch of appointed people. They tell us what to do with our tax money.”

Published 6/21/15

Early in the Geauga Commissioners' meeting of June16, 2015, the Department of Water Resources explained that the Troy Oaks sanitation project completed in the 1960s is in desperate need of replacement as sludge comes out of the ground. Consequently piping from Troy Oaks will be transported 600 feet across Lake LaDue in Auburn Township. According to Jerry at the Department of Water Resources, this move will upgrade the sanitation at Auburn Corners. If this piping can be accomplished without any negative consequences, then further piping will occur in Auburn Corners. There will be directional drilling around the bridge supports at Lake LadDue and two lines with casing pipe up to twenty-four inches in diameter with fused joints. Legal advertisements for bids were advertised on Friday, June 19, and will appear again on June 26 for this project.

Published June 17, 2015

I would like to commend Auburn Township Trustees for their prompt attention to a gross error on the township website. One of the four Request for Proposals for the new road department service garage referred to the 2010 fire department addition. Though I received a shrug of the shoulder when I brought it to their attention at the June 15th meeting, it only took 24 hours for them to correct the information.

The website maintenance is sloppy, as one can see if he/she checks the Request for Proposals and looks at the titles on the tabs on the top of the browser. One can see the title of three of the four tabs is “Fire-Rescue Station Addition.”

I asked, “When do you plan to have a public hearing on the proposed road department garage, and how many mills will the levy be?” The answer from Mr. Cavanagh was, “There is no discussion of millage yet and no discussion of a public hearing either.”

The 3.5 mill fire levy was approved by voters on November May 4, 2010, for first collection in 2011. This levy was passed as a continuing levy with no expiration. The levy replaced an expiring 1.67 mill fire levy. In 2011 the levy generated $792,573.65 in real estate taxes (before fees) and $113,226.25 in state reimbursements prior to state deducted fees for a total collection of $905,799.90.

The 2.0 mill road & bridge levy that was approved by voters in November 2014, is expected to generate approximately $496,900 in revenue annually per Auditor Frank Gliha.

It does not take an Einstein to see it will take a 3 to 3.5 mill levy to fully fund the proposed garage.

Published June 10, 2015

At the May 4, 2015, Trustee Meeting bids for the resurfacing of Stafford Road were opened with the following results:
        Burton-Scot for $1,098,381.66
        Chagrin Valley Paving for $970,458.58
        Ronyak Paving, Inc. for $972,647.03

At the May 18, 2015, Trustees announced that the contract had been awarded to Ronyak Paving, Inc.

When asked by an attendee why the project was awarded to Ronyak when the bid price was about $2200 more than Chagrin Valley Paving, Trustee Troyan said, “. . .cheapest and best “ and referenced Joe Cattell, the County Engineer. We subsequently followed up with Frank Antenucci in the Engineer's Office.

At the June 1, 2015, residents Diane Jones and Dale Ryan (of Stafford Road) referenced the same contract award. Mr. Ryan reminded Trustees that Ronyak Paving did not have a good record with the Engineer's Office, as a result of too many jobs to complete and too little time to do so. Mr. Ryan referenced comments made by a Deputy Engineer during a visit this spring to a Trustee meeting. At that meeting the Deputy Engineer commented about Ronyak's less-than-sterling performance.

John Eberly became very insistent: “That was not Ronyak!” Almost instantaneously, Cavanagh and Troyan chimed in, “That was not Ronyak! That was not Ronyak!!”

On June 2, 2015, at approximately 9:15 A.M. we spoke personally with Geauga County Engineer, Joe Cattell, and his other Deputy Engineer, Nick. Both assured that Ronyak Paving was so problematic with at least one Geauga County job (Stafford Road in Bainbridge Township) during 2014 that it has become necessary for the County Engineer to demand that the company make corrections before the County Commissioners will issue payment for the shoddy work completed.

Once again, Auburn Township Trustees put their mouths in motion before putting their inadequate brains in gear. Gross mechanical failure.

Published May 18, 2015

Showing up at the Geauga County Republican Central Committee on Saturday, May 16, 2015, Ohio Senator John Eklund saw that most Central Committee members had other things to do than to tend to Geauga County politics as usual. Nevertheless, Mr. Eklund presented a pretty thorough review of the bills that he is sponsoring on behalf of Geauga County.

Mr. Eklund reviewed the progress of the Senate System Bill, introduced very early in 2015. Essentially the language states that any health district with a good record of septic system standards should be okayed and grandfathered so as to avoid the horrendous expense of septic system regulations which went into effect in the State of Ohio on January 1, 2015. Since septic system passage runs at 98%, Geauga County is well-qualified to be grandfathered. The bill is currently in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The Ohio Farm Bureau lobbies proved a large challenge to the proposal of this bill.

Mr. Eklund introduced Senate Bill 57 “to enact section 305.50 of the Revised Code to authorize counties to adopt resolutions regulating motor vehicle traffic on county and township roads.” The bill is co-sponsored by Seitz, Patton, Uecker, Tavares, Hite, and Skindell. Section 305.50 gives permission to a board of county commissioners to carry out the following activities on county and township roads:
1) regulate the stopping, standing, or parking of vehicles
2) regulate traffic with deputy sheriffs and/or traffic control devices
3) regulate,prohibit processions on said highways
4) designate one-way roads
5) regulate vehicle speed in public parks
6) designate through highways and those with stop signs
7) regulate vehicles regarding passing to the left of safety zones
8) regulate the operation of bicycles on said highways
9) require bicycles to be registered and licensed with a standardized fee schedule
10)regulate the use of certain roads
All rulings of the board of county commissioners shall be in compliance with section 4511.071 of

Further, Senator Eklund stressed the importance of Senate Bill1, now in the Ohio House of Representatives. The largest impact of this bill is that agricultural interests in northwest Ohio must comply with methods to control the algae bloom issue in Lake Erie in that portion of the state.

Published May 9, 2015

The Geauga County Commissioners have found themselves in a couple of legal situations where County Prosecutor cannot legally represent them because of a conflict. One of these is extant litigation involving Juvenile Court Judge Timothy Grendell and Republican Chairperson Nancy McArthur. Another is the conflict between the Commissioners and the Geauga Board of Mental Health. At the May 5 Commissioners' Meeting, the Commissioners thought out loud about the prospect of signing an agreement with a legal firm to represent them when there is a conflict between the Commissioners and another agency or entity within Geauga County government.

As an addendum to the consideration of two legal professional agencies, President of the Board of Geauga County Commissioners, Walter Skip Claypool had several comments. “these contracts [one from Walter Hatfield and the other from Tim Reed] commit us to nothing. They simply establish a relationship. Sometimes we need to separate ourselves.”

“They [the two contracts] are considered confidential.

Commissioner Blake Rear explained, “Us entering into an agreement with these people [two legal professional agencies] is a contract.”

County Administrator Dave Lair calmed Rear's concern by adding, “The prosecutor will look at all contracts.”

Rear added, “The last thing we need is to run up legal bills [a reference to Judge Grendell's hiring of outside attorney Abraham Cantor of Concord in regard to Grendell's conflict with Chardon Vice Mayor, Nancy McArthur.

Claypool stated, “We have the right to seek outside advice. I would like legal advice on court and contract process. There is no cost in having these agreements.

Rear: One of those outside attorneys “have already cost us $12,000.” This was a reference to two separate bills submitted thus far in 2015 by Cantor as attorney for Grendell in the litigation filed by Nancy McArthur at the Eleventh District Court of Appeals known as 15G-00002 against Timothy J. Grendell, Geauga County Juvenile Court as a result of Grendell's subpoena to McArthur to appear in his courtroom. The $12,000 bill represents Grendell's motion to have McArthur's litigation dismissed and to ask for the appointment of judges other than the Eleventh District of Appeals slate of justices. Three outside judges, William Klatt of the Tenth District Court of Appeals, Sean Gallagher of the Sixth District Court of Appeals, and Patrick McGrath, retired from the Tenth District Court of Appeals; have been named to officiate in the case.

Rear continued, “ We have to have more input from. . .the prosecutor's office. . .I say this is good discussion, [but] I have to have an opinion from the prosecutor' office.”

Claypool: “Let's send it to the prosecutor's office.”

With that statement being made, the commissioners went into executive session to discuss possible disciplinary measures with regard to an employee of the Department of Aging with Department of Aging Director, Jessica Boaldt, and County Liaison, Linda Burhenne. Said employee was suspended three days without pay when executive session was terminated.

Published on May 6, 2015

A case known as BZA 14-02v heard by the Auburn Township Board of Zoning Appeals about May 2014 , in regard to stockpiles of concrete being stored by Eclipse Companies, LLC , on two Ravenna Road parcels owned by Curt Huffman, is in the courtroom. It seemed like a friendly enough situation at the time between Assistant Prosecutor Matheney, a brief former employee of Taft, Stettinius, and Hollister, LLP, and Eclipse attorney, Gregory O'Brien, a current litigator at the same legal organization. When the BZA rejected the claims of Eclipse Company about the need to stockpile broken concrete, Eclipse, under the ownership of Auburn Township resident, Tom Agresta, filed an administrative appeal in Geauga County Common Pleas Court styled 14A000484 with Judge David L. Fuhry.

As early as September 12, 2014, “the parties jointly moved for an enlargement of time, until November 3, 2014, to file Appellant's Brief, and file all subsequent briefs in accordance with the Court's Order dated August 19, 2014. . .Subsequently, the parties have repeatedly conferred individually and through their respective attorneys, and as result are in the process of finalizing a proposed Consent Judgment and Agreement ('Judgment') for consideration by the Court.” (Joint Motion for an Additional Enlargement of Time to File Appellant's Brief, filed in Geauga County Common Pleas Court on Oct 28, 2014)

Things were so pleasant that the following Legal Notice, submitted alternately by Gregory O'Brien and Mrs. Matheney, appeared in local publications:
“Please take notice that it is the intention of the Applicant Eclipse Cos. LLC and the Auburn Township Board of Trustees and the Auburn Township Board of Zoning Appeals, Appellees, in Case No. 14A000484 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 and 17954 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.”(NOTICE OF SETTLEMEN T AGREEMENT, November 27, 2014).

On December 22,2014, a Consent Judgment Entry and Agreement, subsequently labeled A-7, was filed with the following “terms and conditions, which are binding on the Appellant:

a. . . .Appellant shall adhere to and act in accordance with the site plan including soil and water management for the Properties. . .

b. Appellant has transported concrete/ashphalt materials (collectively 'Aggregate' ) excavated from the Ohio Department of Transportation Project along U.S. Route 422 between State Route 306 and State Route 44 in Bainbridge and Auburn Townships to the Properties;

c. Appellant agrees that no additional Aggregate will be brought in and/or stockpiled on the Properties;

d. Appellant agrees to stockpile the Aggregate on the Properties, as depicted in the Site Plan, to form a temporary visual and sound barrier around the processing equipment, which is more fully described in Exhibit C, attached hereto and incorporated herein by reference ('Processing Equipment'), before it begins operating the Processing Equipment;

e. Appellant shall operate the Processing Equipment on Mondays through Fridays between the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. commencing on December 29, 2014, through March 31, 2015, provided, however, that Appellant is prohibited from operating the Processing Equipment on the Properties on any Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday.

f. Appellant shall be permitted to retain the processed Aggregate on the Properties through October 31, 2015. All Aggregate, processed Aggregate, and/or Processing Equipment shall be removed entirely from the Properties by November 1, 2015.

g. On or before December 29, 2014, Appellant agrees to submit a surety bond in the amount of $250,000.00 naming Auburn Township as the obligee in the event that Auburn Township roads are damaged from December 29, 2014, through October 31,2015, and that damage is proximately caused by Appellant's transportation of the Aggregate or processed Aggregate to and from the Properties;

h. Appellant agrees to submit to the Auburn Volunteer Fire Department a traffic control plan depicting its proposed truck routes for transporting the Aggregate or processed Aggregate from the Properties. Appellant agrees that the proposed truck routes for transporting the Aggregate or processed Aggregate from the Properties shall be exclusively State Route 422 and Route 44. Appellant agrees should the foregoing proposed routes change for any reason, Appellant shall provide advance written notice identifying any additional proposed routes to Auburn Township's Zoning Inspector for approval.
The Auburn Township Zoning Inspector's approval for any alternative truck routes shall not be unreasonably denied or delayed;

i. Appellant agrees to comply with Auburn Township's Maintenance Standards, which are codified at Section 3.02 of the Resolution;

j. Appellant agrees to comply with all riparian setbacks and regulations provided in the Resolution that are applicable to the Properties;

k. Appellant agrees to comply with the requirements in the approval letter/report from Geauga County Soil and Water Division for the temporary use of the Processing Equipment to process the Aggregate on the Properties, a copy of which is attached hereto and incorporated herein by reference as Exhibit D; and

l. At all times herein, Appellant agrees to comply with all state, local, and federal law, rules, and regulations.”

At the May 4, 2015, Auburn Township Trustee Meeting, Trustees and Zoning Inspector referenced the violation of Eclipse Cos. LLC of the Judgment Entry, noting that the Processing of Aggregate, which was to have ceased on March 31, 2015, is ongoing. All those goody-goody relationships between two attorneys apparently have gone awry as Eclipse Cos LLC appears to do as it wishes. As of April 17, a Show Cause hearing was filed in Geauga County Common Pleas Court, with the hearing to commence in July. Let the pissing match begin.

Published April 24, 2015

After a lengthy presentation about the Western Reserve Land Conservancy that began about 9 A.M.,, the Board of Park Commissioners got down to serious business about 9:40A.M to discuss two issues: playground equipment and deer control in the parks.

The issue of adding and maintaining playground equipment at Headwaters Park brought some confusion about language in two motions. The major issue was whether to remove all anticipated playground equipment or only part of it. The rationale for eliminating all or part of the equipment was that playground equipment can always be added in the future by contracting with suppliers/installers.

Mr. Gertz made the motion to remove all the playground equipment, adding, “$18,000 for a Turtle? C'mon, folks!”

Commission President Shumway followed up with the clarification that the construction of the shelter structure was to be about $337,000, as stated in the proposal from Hummel Construction, who was awarded the contract. The contract was to include the elimination of the Turtle at $18,000 and clearing of the grounds. Mrs. Shumway then seconded the motion at hand. Said motion was unanimously approved.

The second motion called for the elimination of the playground equipment in total at a savings of $80,000 by rescinding a motion made earlier in the year by the Commissioners to approve $80,000.
Like the first motion, this action passed unanimously.

The second topic for discussion was controlled hunting in the parks. Mrs. Shumway noted that the topic had been covered in the previous meeting. Employee Paul Pira noted that there was disagreement about actual deer population and that the numbers could vary significantly from park to park.

Commissioner Orndorff asked Paul Pira to explain the methodology/technologies used to determine actual deer populations. Pira responded that the GPD could use infrared equipment, helicopters, reports of deer-inflicted damage on park vegetation. These vegetation studies have been implemented right after the snow-melt. Mr. Pira, upon further inquiry from Mr. Orndorff, noted that it was too late this year for the vegetation study. Mr. Pira further acknowledged that vegetation surveys are “tricky to interpret.” He agreed to provide a plan and an anticipated budget amount within the next few weeks.

Mrs, Shumway favored the use of free infrared, an option that Mr. Pira noted he has not had time to examine. Mr. Orndorff, reinforced by Mr. Pira, noted that infrared detects bodies other than deer.

When asked by Walter Skip Claypool to hazard a common-sense guess about the size of the deer population as small, medium, or large, Mr. Orndorff volunteered that there were significant differences between individual parks, while not offering a direct answer.

Mr. Claypool responded, “Why are we going through all the mental gymnastics” to judge the size of the deer population.

Paul Pira responded,”We need solid data.”

Commissioner Gertz gave anecdotal evidence about the deer population on his own 135-acre farm, which he has owned since 1953. He asserted that the deer population is as large as it has ever been so that the only crop he can grow that will not be damaged/destroyed by deer is grass (hay). He claimed that the way he controls the deer is through the private engagement of about six hunters during deer season. He provided a graphic description of seeing about 100 motionless deer in the open grass one season when there was an earthquake about twenty years ago.

Paul Pira promised a presentation for the May 12 regular GPD meeting to discuss the hunting of white-tailed deer.

At 10:05 A.M. the Commissioners invited Keith McClintock of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy into executive session to discuss possible land acquisition.

Published April 16, 2015

Before Geauga County Commissioners went into executive session at the April 14 Commissioner meeting, resident and parent Jeff Kline introduced the Vocational Director of the GCESC to those present to explain the mission, philosophy, and structure of the Vocational Consortium for students with disabilities in the Berkshire, Cardinal, Chardon, Kenston, Ledgemont, Newbury, and West Geauga School Districts. Jaina Gandolfi's headquarters are located at Building 2 at 470 Center Street, Building 2, in the same complex that houses the Commissioners, the Board of Elections, the County Engineer, the Department of Water Resources, the Planning Commission, and the County Archives.

Mrs. Gandolfi explained that students enrolled in the program work five half days a week without paid compensation, with three to five students working under one supervisor to learn learn and practice job skills. Students are identified by the GCESC logo on their shirts. Students can work up to 15 hours per week and earn 3 credits per school year during their eleventh and twelfth grade years.

Students perform a variety of tasks at these assignments and learn and demonstrate skills in inventory assessment, cleaning and maintenance, food preparation, landscaping and grounds maintenance, clerical services, opening and closing responsibilities in a retail setting. Additionally, in specialized settings, such as Therapeutic Riding Center at Fieldstone Farm and at Rescue Village, participants learn to repair and refurbish tack, clean stalls and animal cages, walk horses and dogs, and brush and groom animals. As many of us know, these students also achieve the benefit of gaining the trust, affection, and cooperation of animals known for their therapeutic value to humans.

There are many employment sites in the area:
Weils Assisted Living/Bainbridge
McDonalds and Burger King in Chardon
Anna Maria Nursing Home in Aurora
Custom Materials
Burton Family Restaurant
Cleveland Pizza
Asian Sun
Heinens in assorted locations
MK Industries
Montville Plastics
Drug Mart in assorted locations
Pizza Hut in assorted locations
Subway in assorted locations
Noce Pizza
Holly Hill Senior/Assisted Living Center

These establishments offer wonderful opportunities for the enrolled students to gain marketable skills, communication skills, and improved self-confidence and risk taking.

For more information or assistance, please contact Jaina Gandolfi at 440-313-8027 or 440-279-7106 or

Published March 26, 2015

As a result of a vacancy created in the Geauga County Planning Commission and an upcoming expiration of term of a current sitting member of that board, discussion about new appointees occurred at the March 24 Commissioner meeting. Cathy Cotman, civil engineer from Chester Township, was approved to succeed retiring Planning Commission member Margaret Muehling, also of Chester. Additionally, Commissioner Skip Claypool noted at least four candidates vying for appointment to the Planning Commission in the midst of at least one expiring term. Claypool noted that some of the candidates under consideration are from the Amish Community, thought to be unrepresented in county planning decisions.

Commissioner Blake Rear, expressing concern over the possible outcome of this situation, remarked,
“You two [Claypool and Spidalieri] are going to do what you want.”

Claypool: “I want to see more diversity on this board.”

Rear: “I have a problem with the process. We are throwing her [Tracey Engle is a male residing in Auburn Township] under the bus 'to accomplish social engineering.' ”

Commissioner Spidalieri also repeatedly referred to Mr. Engle as “her” during the course of the discussion.

Claypool: “We have had some of the same people doing the same planning over and over.”

Rear: “Replacing people just to replace people is a dangerous thing.”

Spidalieri: “We never give someone new a chance. . . .Ask Jim Flaiz about the number of terms. At [the Department of] Mental Health there is a law about term limits. . .We need to look at this.”

Claypool: “The outcomes I see I don't like. President Dave Detriech [head of Planning Commission] is not in control. . . Jim Adams [head of the Department of Mental Health] works for you.”

Rear: “Getting better outcomes is objective.” County Administrator David Lair quickly interjected the remark, “You mean subjective.”

Claypool: “Townships get to choose their own zoning. We need fresh thinking.”

Rear: “A regulation that I think is ridiculous my neighbor may like. Who is to decide? . . . I got the first roll call [vote] at N.O.A.C.A. [ with a smile].

From the audience came the comment from regular attendee Walter Leagan of Munson: “The only thing constant is change.”

After noting that there are a total of 11 members of the Planning Commission, Geauga Commissioners ended discussion of Agenda Items 15 and 16 to enter a lengthy executive session which resulted in the creation of another step in the pay scale for county employees. The meeting, begun at 9 A.M., adjourned about 11:30 with two county residents in attendance.

Published March 25, 2015

After a lengthy discussion involving both Commissioners Spidalieri and Claypool, the vote to approve 2015 membership in the Geauga Growth Partnership at a cost of $2500 resulted in a 2-1 defeat. Commissioner Rear was the affirmative vote.

Commissioner Spidalieri noted that his concerns were the result of a constituent bringing written documentation concerning Geauga Growth Partnership's affiliation with entities not involved with governance of Geauga County. Although Commissioner Rear noted that “our donation helps Geauga Growth aid in job growth,” Spidalieri asserted that in spite of doing “a lot of good things,” the prospective membership on the part of the Geauga Commissioners is a situation where “we may be paying twice.”

Commissioner Spidalieri noted that he learned from meeting with a number of local business members that Geauga Growth membership initiatives attempted to intimate that the business of non-Geauga Growth members might suffer. Further, Claypool referenced a situation involving a Bainbridge property owner put at a disadvantage as a result of Geauga Growth involvement with rezoning. “Some of what I'm hearing makes me want to be at arm's length.”

Commissioner Rear noted that the issue referenced by Claypool deals with Cedar Fair's ownership of the large parcel [formerly known as Geauga Lake] zoned for amusement park, “but not for any other use. We should be concerned about using the property for multi-use. We need 'responsible' zoning.”

This response brought the following response from Claypool: “We shouldn't use tax dollars to influence local zoning. The [Bainbridge] landowner did not have any voice. Government dictated zoning.”

“Are we going to do this [vote on the motion, Agenda Item #15] or not?” Rear quipped.

An attendee of the meeting, Dal Lanese, from Chester, asked,” Is Geauga Growth 'not for profit'?”
The answer was “Yes.”

Thereafter the vote was taken, making this outcome the first time in this writer's memory that the Geauga County Board of Commissioners has decided to skip membership in Geauga Growth Partnership

Published March 18, 2015

On February 27 of this year we announced that the Geauga Commissioners by a vote of 2-1 approved a motion to hire Mansour Gavin LPA as an attorney in anticipation of possible legal action against the Board of Mental Health. That action upped the action in a tension-filled relationship over the past year with the Board of Mental Health, which has been the distributor of a survey geared to both elementary and secondary students in Geauga public schools. Late in 2014 we provided at this website a copy of the survey for reader examination and thought. Several members of the community, including Commissioner Spidalieri and Commissioner-elect Walter Claypool noted topics on the survey which they identified as invasive of family values and as possible encouragement to illicit-drug experimentation.

The January 21 meeting of the Board of Mental Health was consequently packed by attendees who expressed overt disapproval with the entity's insistence on using passive approval on parental forms. Passive approval results when parents do not produce a signature specifically denying the survey-giver ( public school systems in Geauga County, such as Kenston, West Geauga, Chardon, Middlefield,etc) and the survey-distributor (Geauga County B of MH) the right to subject their child(ren) to the survey-experience.

We were among the videographers present for that Board of Mental Health meeting. We witnessed Board of Mental Health Director, James Adams, appearing to promise cooperation with the hordes of attendees and more transparency with respect to parental-consent forms. Commissioner-appointed B of MH member, Jeff Kline, was successful in getting Adams and the rest of the board to re-design the parental consent form so that absence of parental signature automatically signaled that students would be exempt from participation in the survey after Job and Family Services Director, Craig Swenson, indicated that failure of the B of MH to be less invasive of student and parental rights could lead to legal action by the Geauga County Commissioners.

The February 27 action by the Geauga Commissioners was followed by a period of quiet. There were rumors as early as Christmas 2014 that Adams and the Board of Mental Health were considering legal actions of their own against the Commissioners. Those rumors were verified by the appearance of Geauga County Prosecutor, Jim Flaiz, at the March 17 meeting of the Commissioners. He presented agenda item #20, “requesting the Board approve and authorize the President of the Board [of Commissioners] to execute the Application of Prosecuting Attorney and Geauga County Board of Commissioners for Appointment of Counsel, pursuant to ORC 305.14(A) for an order authorizing the Geauga County Board of Mental Health and Recovery Services to employ legal counsel to represent them in the defense of any claims advanced by the Commissioners. “

The dialogue that ensued became so lengthy that Geauga County Auditor, scheduled for presentation of Agenda Item #26, was no longer present to answer questions or concerns about that issue. “At this point,” stated Flaiz, “the Board of Mental Health is at a disadvantage. They want the same opportunity as the Commissioners. Once the Commissioners request counsel, the Board of Mental Health deserves the same. . . If the Commissioners do not approve this request,” continued Flaiz, the Prosecutor's Office will get a court order to enforce the provisions of ORC 305.14(A) against the Board of Commissioners.

Commissioner Claypool stated, “This is about putting kids at risk. It is not necessarily a legal risk for the Board of Mental Health.”
Flaiz: “If you are going to consult a lawyer about the budget, it is an adversarial action.”

Claypool: “Why can't the Board of Mental Health use its appropriated funds?” [to hire an attorney]

Spidalieri: “Who pays for the Board of Mental Health [legal] action?

Flaiz: “Unclear. . . Probably the Commissioners. . .Under statute I represent JFS, Maintenance, the Coroner . . .”

In response to Spidalieri's voiced concern that the cost of an attorney for B of MH provided no written upper limit on the cost of such services, Flaiz explained, “Your $10,000 cap [on the approved motion of February 26 to hire Mansour Gavin] is self-imposed. . . [Sheriff] Red Simmons [ in a legal conflict with the Commissioners about 2001 until Simmons' death about 2003] accrued seven figures. There is no cap.”

Rear: “If there is no equitable judgment, it goes to Warren (Eleventh District Court of Appeals).”

Flaiz: “Without the services of your own lawyer, then Board of Mental Health does not have [legal] issue.”

Spidalieri: “We're putting dollars ahead of principle.”

Towards the end of the dialogue, Flaiz noted, “I always try to mediate.”

When the vote was taken to approve the Board of Mental Health's approval of outside counsel, the results dictated that Flaiz would be taking the next action with Geauga County Common Pleas Court.
Spidalieri and Claypool voted no; Rear “reluctantly” voted yes.

Watch for the next step in this upward spiral.

Published March 4, 2015

Joe Cattell addressed the Geauga County Commissioners at the March 3, 2015, session to request approval of two motions related to the inception of the long-awaited salt storage facility to serve both the county and townships during severe winters, such as those that Geauga County has experienced in 2014 and 2015.

Per the first item, the County Engineer's Office and the Board of Commissioners accepted the Agreement regarding construction and maintenance of the above-mentioned salt storage structure to be located at the Engineer's Highway Maintenance Facility on Merritt Road. The second item for consideration, approved unanimously (just as the first) the bid of $485,780 from Miller Builders LLC for the construction of the above-mentioned salt storage facility .

Engineer Cattell related that he looks forward to purchasing road salt for county and township usage at the rate of $37 per ton. This amount represents considerable savings over the nearly $50 per ton rate that some townships, notably Auburn Township, have claimed they have been able to achieve. Other townships have noted particularly higher rates, especially when they are forced to purchase road salt in high winter demand during periods of excessive and continued snow in northeast Ohio.

“If I didn't know I had the building, I could not get the [purchase] deal,” said Cattell. “Getting salt in the summer is not the issue. In the winter reserves are gone and only so much [salt] comes out of the mine every day. . .Last year the contract limit date was October. The price was so high, the cost was $200,000 more than I had budgeted for. . . I want to help the townships. . .I'm paying for it all up front.”

Published March 4, 2015

Blake Rear was not shy about communicating his views on two different topics in Geauga County news in early 2015 during the March 3, 2015, Commissioner meeting.

In response to the approval and execution of Resolution #15-026, Rear seemed to want everyone to understand his opposition to the supplemental appropriations submitted by Geauga County Common Pleas Juvenile Court Division. The items requested by Judge Timothy Grendell were in the hands of the Geauga County Commissioners as early as February 26 and were cited in the evening Commissioners' meeting during that evening's public meeting. Commissioner Blake noted that he voted to approve all the items in the Resolution EXCEPT those presented by Grendell. The vote was a symbolic gesture only because Commissioners Claypool and Spidalieri voted to accept all of the financial items in their entirety.

At the end of the meeting when Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency became a topic of conversation, Mr. Rear, who had previously committed to attend the February 27 NOACA session in Cleveland, thereby freeing up Engineer Joe Cattell's appearance as stand-in for non-attending Commissioner Spidalieri, revealed that he had attended Geauga Township Association's fundraiser for the benefit of the Burton campus of Kent State University that same morning from 7:30-9 A.M. Inasmuch as the February 27th session of NOACA was to begin at 8:30 A.M., it seemed clearly evident that the fundraiser became a convenient rationale for missing part or all of the NOACA sessions that he had earlier stated he would attend. For the record, Commissioner Rear earlier in 2015 named former Commissioner Samide, defeated in the 2014 Republican Primary Election for Commissioner by Commissioner Walter “Skip” Claypool, to be his NOACA alternate. Many members of the public expressed their disappointment in and opposition to that appointment at an evening Commissioner meeting held January 27, 2015. Mr. Rear reacted somewhat defensively to the public's concerns and showed no inclination to modify his decision.

Published February 27, 2015

In a 2-1 vote taken during the evening meeting of the Geauga Commissioners on February 26, 2015, the Geauga County Board of Commissioners are authorized to employ Mansour Gavin LPA a maximum $10,000 without prior approval for services during 2015. This action is in conjunction with ORC 309.09(C). The dissenting vote came from Blake Rear, who stated he was not in favor of spending taxpayer moneys for resolution of ongoing issues involving the Board of Mental Health.

Published January 28, 2015

Auburn Township, Geauga County, in the time period of 2009-2013 engaged in behaviors initiated by its three elected trustees to disregard and violate Ohio Revised Code as 519.21 pertains to agriculture in Ohio townships. Two farms, Auburn Twin Oaks Winery and A Wind in the Woods (aka Windt im Wald Farm) were respectively entitled to engage in grape growing/wine production and the installation of a 10 kw wind turbine for production of energy for a horse farm.

In spite of 519.21 Auburn Township elected trustees and zoning inspector systematically accused both farm owners of being in violation of Auburn Township zoning code when that zoning code had no provisions to prevent/regulate farming activities connected with either farm.

The Auburn Trustees were aided and abetted in their actions by the Geauga County Prosecutor's Office, specifically Mrs. Bridey Matheney, who completely ignored ORC 519.21 to help Auburn Township stall the operations for each farm for approximately three years each. With regard to each of the farms, Geauga County Common Pleas Court Judge, David Fuhry, ruled that neither farm was a farm. In the case of A Wind in the Woods, Judge Fuhry ruled that the wind turbine to be installed made A Wind in the Woods, in Geauga County Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV) administered by the Auditor's Office since 1999, created a “wind farm” under ORC 519.213. Since Auburn Township had rejected any wind turbine regulation as part of its zoning code and because Judge Fuhry never chose to consider that A Wind in the Woods was a legitimate farm, Judge Fuhry committed judicial error.

The Eleventh District Court of Appeals was required to set the correct judgment for each of the two farms, overturning Geauga County Common Pleas Court each time.

Now the 2015 Ohio Township Association's 2015 Winter Conference, held January 28-January 31, 2015, feature two workshops dealing with zoning behavior that Auburn Township should have avoided.  The two OTA workshops are Zoning Case Law Updates and Zoning and Agriculture are being presented to avoid Ohio townships the disgrace and embarrassment that Auburn Township brought upon itself by its unsuccessful attempts to deprive farm owners of their property rights.

Published January 27, 2015

Geauga County Engineer Joe Cattell qot quick approval at this morning's Geauga Commissioner meeting for the plans and specifications for the proposed Salt Storage Structure at 12665 Merritt Road, Claridon Township. With approval of this motion also came permission to advertise for bids. Cattell announced that he was hopeful of receiving at least three bids. Nevertheless, it is possible, he speculated, that there could be as many as 15 bids because of the large amount of concrete needed for the structure. Permission to advertise for bids will occur on January 29 in the form of legal notices and on the Geauga County website. The bid opening will occur on Wednesday, February 18, 2015, at 2 P.M.

Published January 20, 2015

Running through fourteen items on the agenda in about twenty-five minutes, the Geauga County Commissioners, led by newly-appointed President of the Board, Walter “Skip” Claypool, spent a great deal of time talking about the upcoming meeting of NOACA (Northern Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency), the Metropolitan Planning Agency that distributes project money from the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Claypool's resolution for the January 23 NOACA meeting calls for approval of a minimum vote for each of the four counties represented in NOACA (Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lorain, and Medina) to three Commissioners and the County Engineer for a total of four votes. Currently, Geauga County is represented in NOACA by three Commissioners but NOT the County Commissioner.

In spite of some concerns expressed by Commissioner Rear that “we voted on this a year ago” without success, he insisted that he does not care which MPO Geauga joins, just as long as the $2 million or so that Geauga receives continues to flow into the county from Ohio Department of Transportation funds.

Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri expressed more negativity. “I don't see the point of sending this down . . . Why is this year [as opposed to events at NOACA during 2014] gonna be different? . . .

Claypool responded, “The strategic NOACA plan is wrapped around NEOSCC (Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Coalition) and not Roads and Bridges. It has nothing to do with Roads and Bridges. It is built on lies, manipulations, and distortions. . .There are at least two of us on board,” replied Claypool. “I am the most persistent person in this room. I never give up. I will go down fighting.”

Spidalieri: “I don't think we are on the same page.”

Kim Laurie, a Judge Grendell court liaison and alternate to NOACA for Spidalieri, pointed out some apparent deceptions that NOACA has been utilizing. A member of the public responded, “Why is Geauga County in NOACA? Maybe we should be in another MPO.”

Before joining the unanimous vote to present the resolution at the NOACA meeting, Blake Rear concluded, “I called Grace Gallucci (NOACA's Executive Director) last week. She asked if Geauga County wants out. She said, ' We'll let Geauga go.' “

The NOACA Board of Directors meeting is an event open to the public on Friday, January 23, from 9 A.M until 1 P.M.

Published January 8, 2015

A year after unsuccessfully proposing the merits of a larger salt-storage building to Commissioners, Engineer Cattell found a more receptive audience with the new triumvirate of Skip Claypool, Ralph Spidalieri, and Blake Rear. The January 6 meeting of the new board of Commissioners was the first since the departure of Mary Samide, who was defeated in a primary run-off against Claypool for the office of Commissioner back in May.

After noting that repairs to the current storage building will cost $80,000 to add limited extended life, Cattell reviewed his 2014 estimate of $450.000 for a replacement building, which would be about 80 feet by 110 feet. He noted that there would be a 15-year warranty on construction materials and that recoupment of construction costs on a new building would occur within two years. Having such a building available, Cattell stated, will provide the opportunity to buy salt in the summer at a cost of $55 per ton, as opposed to paying the current winter rate of about $120 per ton right now. He asserted that a new building would enable the county to help five townships in Geauga County by selling them needed salt at the rate of $65 per ton. Such an arrangement would help Geauga townships cut their salt bill just about in half while enabling the Engineer's Office to be self-sustaining by raising a small profit margin over the county's cost of buying salt. Mr. Cattell noted that Geauga County uses 8000-12,000 tons of salt per winter by virtue of executing 90-110% of its contracted salt allotment. Since the average Geauga township utilizes 500-1000 tons of salt during the winter season, the larger new building would permit storage of salt to be allotted to these townships. The trustees of at least one township, Auburn, have indicated repeatedly at public videoed meetings of their need to stock 1800 tons of salt during the winter season.

Commissioner Claypool talked about the need for a central location of such a building to permit ease for all townships to access the salt. Commissioner Spidalieri voiced enthusiasm for the construction of a new building and urged that Cattell “get moving,” County Administrator David Lair noted that construction of the building appears to provide a “compelling return on investment,” but it also involves “prioritizing use of carryover,” Spidalieri added that successful financing could provide ample cash flow, unlike the policy of the previous board of Commissioners in paying down the debt of the updated radio tower that prohibited the opportunity to undertake new projects that could ultimately save the county lots of money over the long term. Further, Spidalieri discussed the possible value of a 5-year refinance program to enhance cash flow in the county.