WESTERHOLD: Vote to fix what's wrong

Managing editor, Sandusky Register The courageous 2-1 vote Wednesday by the Sandusky Civil Service C
Matt Westerhold
May 24, 2010


Managing editor, Sandusky Register

The courageous 2-1 vote Wednesday by the Sandusky Civil Service Commission reinstating police Chief Kim Nuesse might go down in history as the moment the city's fortunes began to change.

Change is happening despite the last-minute desperation tactic pulled by the city's hired attorneys to remove Janice Warner from the Civil Service Commission; despite the appeal of the decision they filed just hours after Nuesse's reinstatement; and despite city manager Matt Kline's decision the same day to put Nuesse on paid administrative leave, again.

Change, baby, you have to love it.

Read Matt Westerhold's blog HERE.

Video of the Civil Service Commission vote HERE.

For more opinions, yours and ours, click HERE.

And the biggest change in store is that which is beginning to hit the Good Old Boys network. Cracked at its very foundation, the shell-shocked GOB has no idea what to do next. Every path before them is fraught with danger, and the obscene process they brought down on this city is coming to an end.

Here's the fourth-quarter update: Nuesse is once again police chief; Kline, once again, put her on paid administrative leave; the federal lawsuit against Kline and the city remains intact; the city's hired attorney, Margaret Cannon, filed a notice in Common Pleas Court that she intends to appeal and seek to overturn the Civil Service Commission's decision; the Sandusky city commission scheduled an emergency meeting for Tuesday; and Nuesse remains a candidate on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Cannon is appealing

You might ask why Cannon decided to appeal the decision to reinstate Nuesse, and on what grounds. The easy answer is the $300 per hour she bills. On Wednesday, Cannon spoke not one word during the Civil Service hearing, but she likely billed out more than $1,500, easily, and a second attorney from her firm probably snagged another $1,500, or more.

Taxpayers, who are ultimately footing this bill, might never know for sure, however, exactly how much the law firm invoices or the total costs. Cannon refuses to release any information about the bills she sends to taxpayers, but the appeal process could generate another $500,000 in litigation expenses, in addition to the estimated $1 million tab taxpayers already got.

It's worth noting that attorneys representing the Erie MetroParks in the Huron River Greenway litigation billed taxpayers $300,000 THIS YEAR, a full 15 years after that disaster litigation was launched with a ruling by ... judge Joseph Cirigliano. The lawyer fees alone billed to taxpayers over the past decade for that disaster -- not including the damage awards and restitution costs -- are likely approaching $5 million, in my estimation.

Do you see a pattern here, where visiting judges get appointed but do not serve; where taxpayers get billed but are not served; and lawyers get job assignments that, in the end, serve only them?

"Oh, heavens no," it couldn't be that.

And while some lawyers feed at the taxpayer-funded trough like gluttons, the budget for the local agency that protects children from pedophiles and helps financially strapped families during hard economic times gets cut to the bone, forced to lay off child advocates and job counselors. It's a very disturbing picture of government gone bad.

But the lawyers who specialize in "helping" governments are all happy. Very happy, indeed.

We're all related

The only possible basis that comes to mind for an appeal of the Civil Service Commission's vote reinstating Nuesse relates to the last-minute, last-ditch effort to remove one of the three members of the commission because her brother testified during the hearings. But in a county where so many leaders and bureaucrats are related to so many other leaders and bureaucrats, it just doesn't seem possible that will fly, or have any merit on appeal.

And Cirigliano gave Cannon everything, or almost everything, she asked of him during the Civil Service hearings. He even had Cannon "help" him write his opinion recommending that Nuesse stay fired, so its very unlikely she'll get any traction for an appeal down that path.

But had Cannon been successful in forcing Janice Warner to recuse herself from the Civil Service Commission vote, the final decision on Nuesse's fate would have been handed to -- "Oh, heavens no" -- Cirigliano. Thank God, Warner, a long-term member of the Civil Service Commission, had the courage to declare her impartiality and cast her vote. The community owes her a debt of gratitude.

Cracked foundation

Nuesse served as sledgehammer banging at the foundation of the GOB from the very day she was appointed police chief in August 2006. What could be worse for the GOB than a police chief they could not control and bring under their thumb? What could be worse?

The high-ranking bureaucrats and their entrenched leaders serve themselves, first and foremost, and have so much to hide. They realized rather quickly Nuesse was going to be a problem and planning for her demise commenced, almost immediately, with a parking ticket. They were united and thought it would be a cakewalk, so confident they did not even bother to develop a plausible story. The little lady would be forced to go away, unable to muster the strength, courage and cash to fight them because nobody would dare question their egos, authority and power.

But almost everyone (who is not a GOB) did. And those who questioned the obvious arrogance by which this all went down were swinging a sledgehammer at the foundation of everything that is wrong with local government.

The Civil Service Commission vote was also a swing of the sledgehammer, a mighty swing. And when residents go to the polls Nov. 3, they will be swinging their sledgehammers, and could cause the GOB to die quickly.

The opportunity for change -- the opportunity to escape the grip of arrogant, self-serving and ineffective leadership -- has never been greater.

Be sure to vote Nov. 3.

NOTE: The views expressed above are the opinion of the writer. His right to express his opinion is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. God Bless America.