And so, dear reader, we are witnessing still another bizarre episode in the years-long attempt to discredit the Plusquellic Administration of Akron by a Republican federal judge. It arrived by way of a compelling article in the Sunday Beacon Journal that told us of Judge John Adams' decision to hire a friendly environmental law professor from Oregon at $450 an hour to examine the city's ongoing plan to clean up a serious sewage drainage problem.
I don't question the expertise of the hire, Craig N. Johnston, from the Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland , Ore., although I do have to wonder why Adams had to go all the way to the West Coast to hire an expert when there surely must be one in Ohio as qualified as Adams' notion of his own expertise in the long and costly saga that continues to run up a huge bill for the city.
Indeed, the BJ reported that the U.S. Justice Department for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Ohio Attorney General's office for the Ohio EPA described Adams' move as "unneeded and unwarranted". The paper said that the three parties - city, federal and state - objected to the hourly rate as excessive. Adams, of course, disagreed.
Adams emerged as a severe critic of the mayor when the city supported a plan by a private contractor to put up an office building next to the downtown federal building. He insisted that it would endanger judges with a possible terrorist act. The controversy began more than six years ago and the building was never erected. Meantime, Adams protested that the city was, of all things, dragging its feet in acting on the problem!
What is the court's obsessive determination to block the city's sewer plan?
There are building blocks in the back story that have pointed to Adams' personal enmity toward Plusquellic. And one of the arteries that has pumped poison and passion into the Plusquellic tenure is Summit County Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff, who years ago was whispering to folks that the mayor would be indicted for some mythical federal crime. (Before that, it was Hillary Clinton who would be indicted. ) It was the height of the chairman's frustration that he couldn't come close to defeating the long-serving Plusquellic on election Day. Nor will he ever.
Dave Lieberth was Akron's deputy mayor at the time and today he scoffs at the original fear of terrorists. "It's a stupid argument," Lieberth says, arguing there are other ways terrorists could attack even without access to a nearby building.
And Max Rothal, the former city law director who had an upfront view of the case, recalls that when the U.S. Attorney's office filed suit to have the city "accelerate a remedy for the sewage problem," Adams promptly set a date for a status hearing before the deadline for the city to choose its own outside lawyer.
"When I complained that we hadn't had enough time to choose our lawyer, I was told the court thought we would hire somebody from Roetzel and Andress," Rothal said. That's the big Akron law firm that has long been targeted by Arshinkoff as a Democratic beehive. A laughable notion, to say the least. Arshinkoff complained that Democratic Chairman Wayne Jones' was with the firm. But so was Jones' friend and colleague, Atty. Pete Kostoff, the former Republican mayor of Fairlawn.
Arshinkoff played a strong role in Adams' appointment by President George W. Bush to the Federal bench in 2003. So his political scheme is paying off.
If all of this sounds a tad harsh, I'm merely connecting the dots in the linkage between the court, Johnston and the mayor. Under different circumstances Arshinkoff would have called it an "epic of Biblical proportions".
I'm merely calling it a court-inspired fiasco.