Exposing the Local Government Funds Debacle

By Brian Massie, A Watchman on the Wall

I attended the August 3, 2023 Commissioners’ meeting with the mission to let Lake County residents know what has been uncovered regarding the annual Local Government Funds distribution to the various political subdivisions.

What has been uncovered?

We will let the Prosecutor, and Budget Commission member, Mr. Charles Coulson’s own written words reveal the problem.

“Beginning in 2013, the Budget Commission no longer had the necessary approval to distribute the undivided local government fund pursuant to the alternative method because the Lake County Commissioners, by way of a resolution adopted on January 26, 2012, timely revoked the automatic renewal of its approval of the alternative method.”

Lake County Prosecutor, and Budget Commission Member, Mr. Charles Coulson

There has been an illegal distribution of the local government funds since 2013!

The Lake County Auditor’s office must have been listening to the Commissioners’ meeting because Auditor Chris Galloway made an appearance near the end of the meeting. Here is a video of his comments:

Auditor Galloway stated that Prosecutor Coulson’s opinion letter is just that – one man’s opinion – and they will ask the State for a ruling on the opinion. We now have what our friends “Holmes and Watson” would call a “sticky wicket”, a conundrum, if you will. [As a sidebar, I keep hearing from readers that they want Holmes and Watson to weigh in on this fiasco.] Why would one of the longest running Prosecutors in the State of Ohio give a WRITTEN opinion on an item that he had to be intimately familiar with since he has been the Prosecutor and on the Budget Commission since 1995?

Here is Prosecutor Coulson’s complete written opinion:

Why is this important?

There are millions of dollars at stake!

The following is the Lake County Budget Commission’s calculations for the 2023 Local Government Fund distribution based on the alternate formula that has been deemed, in our opinion, illegal by the Lake County Prosecutor, Mr. Charles Coulson.

Please note that Lake County Metroparks and the Painesville Township Park gets to “dip their beak” into the government trough. Metroparks currently has $19 million in cash, and does not need the money. How can a Township Park get 50% of what Concord Township gets with 20,000 people? Waite Hill, with 534 people, gets more than Concord Township. There had to be political favors paid in 1982 to get the alternate formula passed.

A few years ago we looked into the local government fund calculations when we heard former Concord Trustee Chris Galloway state that Concord Township is a donor community. By that he meant that significantly less money is returned to Concord from the State Funds because of the alternate formula. Back in 1982 when the alternate formula was developed, the Townships did not have a seat at the table. Therefore, no one was advocating for the best interests of the Townships.

Here is the 1982 Commissioners’ resolution establishing the alternate formula:

Here is the 2012 Commissioners’ Resolution rescinding the 1982 Alternate Formula:

We did some research a couple of years ago into the distributions made for the years 2010 – 2019. We compared the actual distributions against the formula we developed based strictly on population. Here is our worksheet:

If you look at the column labeled “Over / Short” you can easily see what has happened over the years. The Townships have been financing the balance of the County. Concord Township was the biggest loser by $6.4 million, followed by Painesville Township $5.1 million, Madison Township $4.3 million, Perry Township at $1.1 million and Leroy Township at $891,000.

Even Mentor City would benefit from a population based formula.

Auditor Galloway stated to me that the alternate formula cannot be based only on population since there must be a consideration of “need” baked into the formula. How does one calculate the “need factor” into the equation? Should we consider average income of the community, average age of the community, percentage of population based on race, male versus female, property tax base of each community, miles of local roads in each community, current funding for police and fire departments in each community, etc, etc. The “need factor” invariably will result in a redistribution of wealth with some communities being donor communities. Perhaps the most appropriate formula would be in direct relationship to the actual revenue received by the State from each community. After the County gets their percentage, whatever that may be, then the balance is given back to the community based on the funds received from the community.

However, if the State formula is used, currently only one County uses the State formula, the County would receive approximately 50% of the approximately $13 million each year. That will be enough to fund the new Public Safety Center (read: Jail), or will allow the Commissioners to fund their pet projects and/or dispense political favors.

We agree with Auditor Galloway that the Prosecutor should not be on the Budget Commission since there is a built in conflict of interest with the Prosecutor being the lawyer for the Commissioners and also Deepwood. However, this will require legislative action by our State Representatives or Senators. If the Prosecutor is ultimately removed from Budget Commission, we would support the addition of two citizens to be elected by the people to the Budget Commission as permitted by the Ohio Revised Code.

So where do we point the finger? Who is to blame for this fiasco? Commissioners, Trustees, Mayors, Councilmen, Councilwomen, Administrators?

There is a common denominator. Who had to know about the 2012 Commissioners’ resolution. and also sits on the Budget Commission?

Our only question: Is it nonfeasance or misfeasance while holding office?

Nonfeasance: The omission to perform a required duty or the failure to act when a duty to act existed. Nonfeasance can more loosely be defined as “not doing something which you ought to do.”

Misfeasance:  misfeasance is conduct that is lawful but harms another person financially or physically due to carelessness or an accident.

We will let the citizens of Lake County decide.

There is going to be a Budget Commission meeting on Monday, August 7th at 11:00 am in the Commissioners’ public meeting room. We plan to be there with our camera at the ready. Stay tuned…there is a lot more to report on this issue. It is a long way from being over.


Categories: Lake County - General, Lake County Politics, Uncategorized

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