Getting down into the weeds

by Dave Partington

There has been a world of misinformation and mis-statements regarding Protect Geauga Parks, Geauga Park District and the park’s relationship with Auditor Charles Walder. Before we start  we want to reiterate that the Park is controlled by Judge Timothy Grendell through Park commissioners  who are appointed by him  and who serve at his pleasure. The other thing to know is that the wife of Judge Grendell is running for auditor against current auditor, Charles Walder, in the May 3rd Republican primary.

Much of the misstatements that surround the Geauga Park District’s chaotic separation from the countys services sound a lot like hiding and covering up inconvenient facts.  On March 3rd I penned a letter to the editor explaining the separation and how it occurred. Having attended all the Park board meetings and having read all the documents presented at those meetings I felt secure with my facts.

I was pleased when I discovered that auditor Charles Walder had created a website containing all of the documents that I am referencing including correspondence between the parties involved.

Here is a link to that website.

In addition I am reprinting my letter to the editor. I hope you will read it and consider it a reasonable summary of what has been going on in the Geauga Park District.

Make no mistake our  parks are incredibly beautiful natural places for us to enjoy. They improve our environment and our climate and they are a great source of peace and calm for those who visit them.

Below is  a reprint of my letter  about the park’s separation from county services.

Letter to the Editor the Chagrin Valley Times March 5, 2022

There have been many misstatements regarding the separation of the Geauga Park District from Geauga County’s fiscal oversight. On June 28, 2021 the Grendell controlled Geauga Park District unwisely chose to separate  from the county’s services and operate independently. Their decision meant that the park district would lose all the services the county had been providing for little or no cost. This included phone service, financial accounting services, payroll and assistance with other accounting services. 

In January 2021, when the park district announced that it would sever ties with the county, the County auditor, Charles Walder  made it clear in a letter to the park district that the county, upon separation, could no longer legally  provide services to the park district. The auditor communicated to the park district in the letter the many things that they would want to accomplish to have a smooth separation from the county. This was in February 2021. By May 2021 it appeared that the park district had done no planning for separation from the counties’ services. Again Auditor Walder alerted them that there would be problems that would impair the park’s functioning if they did not have a planned strategy. Walder repeated to them that services they were receiving from the county would be terminated because they were no longer part of the county. Walder was bound by law not to provide these services. 

Again the Park commissioners appointed by Grendell ignored this. They announced that on June 28 they would separate, which they did. Walder alerted them that the many free county provided services must now be terminated. The Geauga Park administration was turned into chaos and three days later they nearly missed employee payroll and had to pay employees by paper check. It remains unclear whether they were able to make timely payments into the employee retirement system and  employee insurance. Then a giant accounting error made by their new fiscal officer cost the Park District 1.9 million of our money. These funds could have been spent on park services.

None of this had to happen. Working inside the county system provided the Park District with services that functioned at a high level. Moreover using the counties data-processing insured a highly secure computer system free from ransomware and other cyber attacks. That security is now gone. The blame cannot be passed to auditor Charles Walder. It clearly rests upon the shoulders of Grendell’s handpicked park commissioners. They chose foolishly to separate and then to do so in a totally unprepared way. Blaming the park fiasco on the auditor won’t wash. The inattention by the park commissioners to the parks business is what created this ongoing chaos.

It is still not clear if the situation has been rectified. How sad. It didn’t have to be this way.

Categories: Commentary, News

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