Monaghan delivers slapdown

Splitsville for Erie County's 'Dynamic Duo'
Andy Ouriel
May 29, 2014

The honeymoon is over.

A heated exchange between Erie County commissioners Bill Monaghan and Pat Shenigo on Wednesday might mark the end to one of the most enduring and effective local political partnerships in recent history.

Monaghan shut down Shenigo when Shenigo began sharing his views on a pending $8.5 million water lawsuit pitting Sandusky, the plaintiff, against Erie County, the defendant.

The banter centered on Shenigo believing the public’s entitled to an update with Monaghan contending all details should remain private.
“When someone makes me mad, I express my opinion,” Monaghan said. “I’m angry that he brought something to the table that he shouldn’t have. When Mr. Shenigo questioned my integrity, that is when I get pissed.”
But the testy back-and-forth revealed a greater underlying problem between the two men, who in the past were sometimes referred to as the "Dynamic Duo" for the united front they often displayed.
Since 2009, when Shenigo entered office and two years into Monaghan’s first term, the pair teamed up to implement a hyper-focused plan to make the county fiscally responsible.
Each man, both coming from business backgrounds, supported one another on cost-cutting measures that reduced the county’s debt from a peak of $116 million in 2008 to $93 million entering this year.
The partnership appears to have started going south about six months ago, however, when Monaghan still faced the possibility of two challengers in two separate commission races this year: a May primary and the November general election.
Monaghan said he expected he would see a primary challenge from Sandusky city commissioner Julie Farrar in the Democratic primary, but that didn't happen. 
No other Democrat challenged Monaghan, and no Republican filed to contest the two-term incumbent commissioner. The only possible challenge left for Monaghan in seeking re-election this fall is if an Independent files to run against him.
As Monaghan’s political landscape crystallized, he began to distance himself from Shenigo and align with the third county commissioner, Tom Ferrell. The new alliance between Monaghan and Ferrell appears designed to ice out Shenigo and is a 180 for Monaghan.
For years, Monaghan blamed Ferrell as the main culprit — the common denominator on county commission, who's served since 1989  — responsible for mismanaging county government and making decisions that skyrocketed the county's debt to $116 million.
Ferrell led the charge, Monaghan claimed, approving numerous flawed and costly projects involving landfill; land purchases; and water lines and sewer pipe initiatives.
But in 2014, Monaghan shifted his focus and Shenigo landed in his crosshairs.
The chill between Monaghan and Shenigo became a deep freeze, with Monaghan complaining that Shenigo "stopped talking to me."
But Shenigo said he's repeatedly reached out to him. 
Monaghan seems to have adopted an attack mode when it comes to Shenigo, and he's embracing officials he once demonized, including county sanitary engineer Jack Meyers.
Monghan once said, and repeated, that Meyers used "chameleon accounting" to justify irresponsible and costly past decisions by the county, including specifically Meyers' past work on the same water issues central to the city's lawsuit.  
Despite the history of animosity, Monaghan brought Meyers back into the settlement negotiations for the city's water lawsuit, demanding Shenigo keep out and hush up about it.
Monaghan also lobbed criticism at Shenigo in April after Shenigo solicited private donations to restore cable TV service for Cleveland Indians games at the county’s nursing home after cable providers raised rates. Ferrell also sought a private solution and said he supported the outcome from Shenigo's effort. 
Monaghan also attacked Shenigo's decision to lend aerial view displays of various overviews of the county for a nonprofit gathering of the county Democratic women's group. The displays had been previously donated to the county by Shenigo.
Shenigo said he did not know in January that Monaghan planned to remain commission president with a vote from Ferrell. During commission's organizational meeting, Ferrell opened by nominating Monaghan president of commission and Monaghan quickly accepted.
Shenigo, who is in his second term, has never served as commission president, a position Monaghan has held for the last six years.
But who is serving as president isn't what's bothering him, Shenigo said, giving Monaghan a thumbs up for his past success in the role.
He's more concerned with his former ally's about-face on important issues — including the water lawsuit and any subsequent agreement that might be achievable — and Monaghan's iron-fist approach to communicating with him and the public. 
“I have reached out to Bill and tried to understand why this isn’t working,” Shenigo said.
The severed relationship could derail a budding cooperation among local governments, according to others involved in that effort.
One official said Monaghan's over-the-top criticism of Shenigo was "bully-like" and "counter-productive."



Why should the water deal agreement be a big secret and kept from the public? An update as to where the lawsuit stands is overdue. Either there will be a settlement, or it goes to court where details will become public.

Perkins Resident

Monaghan lost what little, If any, respect anyone had left for him. Finally, people are seeing his true colors.


agree and add to that his swearing in public which is really showing his true nature and 'what's in it for me' attitude. If he can't get his point across without verbal abuse, he is abusing others in some passive aggressive behavior, I imagine. If one is going to be a public servant, serve the public and get the massive egos out of the equation!

From the Grave

It's all about them. So much for public service. Of course, we already knew that.


Good job Bill!!! If everyone only knew the behind the scenes stuff Pat does with his company and the County...then people would see the real Pat.


would you care to name names or give details? no? thought so.


I could as I have personally seen it. But the info would probably be deleted with the Register. Why are you worried about it?


Erie County Care Facility...there you go!


Where is the slapdown? The headline promised physical violence. I never thought that someone would stoop as low as using an over exaggerated misleading headline to garner interest in a story...

Does this mean that Monaghan is entitled to one free slap at the next meeting?


Look up the definition of slap down. It's #3. Catch your audience with the headline. That's what they did. No stooping.

Truth or Dare

Awww, trouble in Paradise? I'm with Darkhorse, as the lawsuit should be public knowledge, whether settled out of or inside a courtroom. After all, John and Joan Q. Public, the taxpayers are the one's footing the bill!


Well it is time for both to go, they are wealthy and only are in it for the pension and benefits.


It's interesting that Monaghan may have made much of his money the old fashioned way in Erie County: alleged legal fraud in a probate case involving his wife's parents' estate. The City of Sandusky would have benefitted from that estate had all the assets of the estate been disclosed and not allegedly hidden.


With that comment, you are cruising for a defamation law suit. Your name should be Babble, not Babo, because that is all it is, more babble and no facts.


There's a very high standard in defamation cases filed by public officials such as Monaghan. He must prove that the factual allegation (not opinion) is false and that the person made the false factual comment with knowledge of its false nature or with reckless disregard of the false nature.

Mr. Monaghan cannot afford the exposure that would attend a lawsuit and the discovery process. The truth has a way of surfacing even after many years.

Steve P

babo, your are alleging acts before he was a public official and unrelated to his office from his private life, might want to reexamine the standard need for defamation.


I'm not worried at all as it was a matter of public concern and the same legal standard applies. For example why and how did that probate case become sealed? In any lawsuit those documents would become public record again.

Julie R.

I'm still trying to figure out how the probate court and that rent-a-judge Cirigliano got away with sealing the records in the probate estates of Dr. Baxter & his wife when the law says the only records that can be sealed in probate are a decedent's medical/mental health records. If records in probate could be sealed there wouldn't be any properties in Erie County sold because no title company around would ever give out title insurance if they were prohibited from searching probate court records, which means no bank around would ever give out loans.

Steve P

Why is it "public concern" ? Don't be so sure that they would be unsealed, the burden would be on you to prove your allegations were true and without malice or reckless.


Ummmm fraud in a court proceeding is a public concern as court proceedings are deemed to be open and the integrity of court proceedings is a matter of enormous public concern. Also you have the burden of proof a defamation case the burden is upon the plaintiff to prove the allegations are false.

Steve P

Good luck with that.. So lets say I accuse someone in the newspaper of having a inappropriate relationship with farm animals, they file litigation ageist me for my statement, in your world they have to prove that they didn't have the relationship? Not all court proceeding and the sealing of records are open.


Yes, the newspaper person would have to prove your statement is one that is a false statement of fact.

Further, if your newspaper person is a public person such as an editor or reporter they would also have to prove that you knew the false statement of fact was false at the time you made it.

You would also argue that the statement is hyperbole/opinion and not meant as an actual false statement of fact. You might win a dismissal on that basis even if the statement is not actually true.

Finally, regarding your statement concerning openness of court proceedings and records: There are very few exemptions to the constitutional requirement of openness in court proceedings and records; and sealing the assets in a probate case record is not one of them.

There's a legal opinion from the Sixth District Court of Appeals in a libel case involving Kevin Baxter v. this newspaper. (He lost) It lays out the law of libel if you're interested in learning more:

Steve P

Seem like someone has a vested interest in the case, still think your are incorrect, but we will only agree to disagree. If the records are so easy to obtain, why don't you stop by the probate court on Monday and pick up the copies of the case file?


No vested interest other than good government through vigorous exercise of First Amendment rights. You seem to be suggesting actions that chill those rights by suppressing criticism of public officials and secrecy in court proceedings.

Regarding the records, Mr. Shenigo should request them. He's going to need some evidence because all of Monghan's cronies in the D party and the legal system are clearly out to end his political career for asking too many questions.

Julie R.

Assets in the estate of Monaghan's wife's parents were allegedly hidden?

I believe it. As I've said many times over the probate court gave those dirt-bag attorneys, that crook Huron insurance agent and the manager of a Huron bank two years after my mother's death to get all assets left from criminally changed contracts out of her name before a snake Lorain County attorney filed that forged Will for my mother's Huron attorneys, which was different than the forged Will they filed with Medicaid. The probate court also helped them hide assets from Medicaid to conceal all the Medicaid fraud the trash pulled off.

Steve P

No one really cares about you disinheritance.

Julie R.

Those are crimes, sweetheart, that your jokes at the courthouse are assisting in ..... and by the sounds of it, it's been going on for a looooong time.

Steve P

The joke is your constant fanstay rants and rational for being disinherited that's been going on for a loooooooooonger time....

Julie R.

Looks to me like the probate court has been assisting in the concealment of embezzled assets for a loooooooong time.


It appears that way. One of the earliest cases involved the father of the late Chief Justice Tom Moyer. He was an attorney and killed himself in Cleveland after massive fraud was found in several of his probate cases. Guess the local bar learned how to better cover their tracks after his death.