July 24, 2016

Partly cloudy

County treasurer candidate’s name appears on gas pumps

MEDINA — Joan Heller’s name is on lawn signs across Medina County promoting her campaign for county treasurer.

But Heller’s name also is prominent in hundreds of other places — on state-required inspection labels certifying the accuracy of gas and diesel pumps at service stations and the scales and scanners in groceries and other stores.

Joan Heller

Heller’s name is on the labels because she is county Auditor’s Michael E. Kovack’s chief deputy auditor and he put her in charge of the weights and measures department, which is responsible for inspecting the devices, in late August.

Since then, her name has gone on 1,000 labels on devices as they are inspected, Kovack said.

Past practice was to put only Kovack’s name on the labels.

Asked if the change was aimed at helping fellow Democrat Heller’s election campaign, Kovack said, “Absolutely not.”

Heller, who has been Kovack’s chief deputy for 17 years, is trying to unseat incumbent Republican Treasurer John Burke in next month’s election.

Burke declined to comment.

Kovack said the new labels, which cost $125 for a roll of 500, reflect her new duties as head of the department that inspects the pumps, scanners and scales and are aimed at improving the handling of phone calls about the accuracy of the devices.

“When gas prices spike is when we get more phone calls,” Kovack said. “We made the decision to put Joan’s name on there so that those calls would be directed to her when they came in.”

Before switching the names on the labels, Kovack said he contacted the County Auditors’ Association of Ohio and learned that at least 24 other counties put the name of the deputy auditor or the lead inspector on the labels.

Kovack said Heller was put in charge of the inspections after two employees left his office during the summer only one now is being replaced.

“At that point in time, we took a look at the staff situation, and we did shift Joan Heller into taking care of our Weights and Measures program,” Kovack said.

Another reason for delegating the responsibility for the inspections, Kovack said, was because the state-mandated reappraisal was taking up a large part of his time.

The reappraisal of all 80,000 parcels of property in the county is done once every six years.

Kovack added that Heller, whose salary is $50,024, doesn’t get any additional pay for the increased responsibility.

If she wins the election, Heller’s term would begin the first Monday of September 2013.

Contact Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com.