WESTERHOLD: Secret documents, secret costs in Sandusky

In this age of "transparent" governments, I thought it would be good to compile a list of some of the public documents tha
Matt Westerhold
May 24, 2010

 

In this age of "transparent" governments, I thought it would be good to compile a list of some of the public documents that have not yet seen the light of day:

-- The report that led to Perkins police Lt. Al Jenkins' firing (estimated cost to taxpayers, $10,000);

-- The city report into allegations of sexual harassment against Sandusky city manager Matt Kline (estimated cost to taxpayers, $100,000);

-- The settlement documents that led to former Perkins police Chief Tim McClung's retirement (estimated cost to taxpayers, $200,000 including legal fees);

-- The state BCI report on allegations Erie County prosecutor Kevin Baxter used cocaine (estimated cost to taxpayers, $100,000);

n The transcripts of Baxter's testimony at the Kim Nuesse Civil Service hearing;

n Documents related to the Rev. Thomas Fant-Bill Dwelle lawsuit, (estimated cost to taxpayers, $50,000);

-- The disciplinary letters, if any, penned after the Sandusky Fire Department's firehouse-frathouse death threats against fire Chief Mike Meinzer investigation (estimated cost to taxpayers, $50,000);

-- Invoices and expenses for attorney Margaret Cannon and her team of two others from the out-of-town law firm representing the city (estimated cost to taxpayers, $100,000);

-- Invoices, expenses and payments to retired Judge Joseph Cirigliano (estimated cost to taxpayers, $75,000);

-- Expenses related to city manager Matt Kline's absences from daily duties because of the hearings (estimated cost to taxpayers, $20,000);

-- Correspondence between the city and its various insurers and representatives;

-- Discussion during closed-door executive sessions;

-- Craig Stahl's super-secret city budget plan that would cause chaos if it were to be revealed;

-- Videotapes of interviews with drug suspects;

-- Discovery from any or every court case;

-- Court documents that are "lost" in the system;

-- And, according to William Lang, yet another Cleveland attorney hired by the city of Sandusky to sandbag and defend the city's lack of transparency, a secret document is any document that an attorney handles. Lang called me earlier this week to let me know.

Whew.

In this age of transparency.

Let the sun shine in ... let the sun shine in.

Hitting where it hurts

The irony is just when you need them most, budget cuts for the Erie County Jobs and Family Services agency, and peer agencies across the five-county region, make it more difficult to deliver all the services agency workers would like to provide.

And many new clients of the agency have never before needed job search assistance or any of the other services caseworkers can obtain for families in distress.

"We're getting big increases in the number of phone calls and people coming in," agency director Judy Englehart said. "These are people who have never been unemployed before. They're not wanting to be here, but the door to the plant was locked and they have few choices."

A big percentage of the funding for the county agency comes from Columbus, Englehart said, and it's still not clear how much could be cut. "Right now it's like a shell game with the numbers changing and being moved around," she said. "It's hard to keep up with."

Erie County JFS could lose close to $600,000 in state funding this year, she said, and Huron County's loss might be $684,000. The unemployment rate in Erie County recently hit 14.1 percent, Ottawa County's was 17 percent and Huron County had the highest unemployment rate of all 88 Ohio counties at 18.3 percent. It's a perfect storm of bad news for everyone, and it seems we're in it together.

Reporter Tom Jackson's story March 8, "Will work for whatever," gave readers a lot more information, but there are billions of dollar bills being ordered up out of Washington to help. I only hope U.S. senators Sherrod Brown and George Voinovich, and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur take a hard look at this funding gap and find a way to put that money where it's needed most ... here at home.