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June 30, 2010

Stark County, Ohio Treasurer's Office Exemplifies Incompetence in Government

“Despite overseeing one of the largest acts of theft in government history, Stark Country Treasurer Gary Zeigler refuses to step down.”

In March 2009, a First Merit Bank employee called Stark County Treasurer Gary Zeigler to tell him that something was wrong with the county’s financials.  A few days later, the Canton Repository reported that chief deputy treasurer Vincent Frustaci, had allegedly stolen a few hundred thousand (I believe the initial amount was $250,000) from the county.  He was promptly fired.

Fifteen months later, on Friday, Frustaci appeared in federal court and admitted to stealing over $2.5 million from the county from 2003 to 2009.  All of this was under the noses of the entire county government!  An audit completed this week by the state auditor’s office revealed that nearly $3 million was missing from the county coffers.  That is nearly 15 times what the county treasurer’s office originally estimated.

And this entire time county treasurer Gary Zeigler not only has remained employed, but is insisting that he will not resign after this week’s findings.  It gets better.  Guess what the county government did in the middle of 2009 to raise revenue and make up for the missing money?  They raised the county sales tax without a referendum from the people.

Well, the people fought back through the first amendment (with a petition I’m proud to say I signed), and voted the sales tax out in the fall 2009 election.  Finally, a little humanity!  Now, it appears as if the same type of referendum is going to be needed to make Gary Zeigler unemployed.  Can I start that petition?

So what has Gary Zeigler done since he found out he oversaw one of the biggest cases of government fraud known?  He has sued the parent company of the local newspaper, the Canton Repository, for defamation of character.  I’m glad the honorable treasurer made good use of his time and found creative ways to close the plethora of leaks in his office. 

Let’s keep in mind that there’s still $500,000 of money unaccounted for ($3M missing, $2.5M was stolen).  Isn’t that missing money enough to justify a firing of everyone who has an ounce of responsibility at the Treasurer’s Office?

This story is an example of what happens when you introduce no accountability and then incompetence to any level of government.

You can read the account of this theft in the Canton Repository here and here.

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