Political dispute in Struthers turns personal on voice mail
The mayor said he made a mistake endorsing Orenic four years ago.
By PAUL WHEATLEY
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
STRUTHERS -- Mayor Dan Mamula says council President Michael Orenic has gone too far. And both men say they have lost respect for each other.
This following a message from Orenic, recorded on Mamula's voice mail about 12:30 p.m. Thursday in which Orenic said the mayor sold his soul to the devil.
"I'm going to pray every night that your kids get hooked on drugs, that your grandchildren get hooked on drugs and, honest to God, it'll make me happy because you are a number one pr---," said Orenic later in the message.
Orenic, who works as a principal at Byzantine Catholic Central School, Youngstown, also repeated several obscenities before hanging up.
Orenic made the call after reading a letter in Thursday's The Journal, written by Mamula, endorsing Orenic's opponent, Councilman Danny Thomas Jr., D-1st, for president of council in the Democratic primary.
Mamula has three grown children and three grandchildren and called the comments a vicious attack on his family.
"He made this personal, not political anymore," said the visibly shaken mayor.
Orenic said the message was personal and the mayor should have kept it to himself. He said the drug reference came about because he lost a cousin to drugs, another family member had drug problems at one time and he doesn't feel that Thomas, a convicted drug dealer, should be able to hold public office -- much less be supported by the mayor.
Thomas was convicted of a federal felony in 1987 of using a telephone to distribute cocaine.
Clear divisions: Political lines, which have become apparent in the last few weeks leading to the primary election Tuesday, are even clearer now.
Orenic said that it wasn't until Thomas and Councilman Mark Sandine, D-2nd, got into office that the problems started. "The mayor sold his soul to the devil for a higher position and power. I have lost all respect for him."
Orenic also said that Mamula threatened to come after him because of the political ties Orenic made in council, in a meeting between the two in Mamula's office Wednesday.
Mamula's letter to the editor the next day sided with Thomas.
It read: "We need a president of council who is willing to spend time actively working with all of the members of council, its committees and the mayor to promote our community's best interests."
Mamula said he endorsed Orenic for council president four years ago, a move he now calls a mistake.
Both men landed roles in Struthers politics about 18 years ago.
'Not worried': Orenic admits he's a bit worried about the effect the message could have on his job but said he isn't concerned it will affect his chances at re-election.
"I'm not worried it's going to change anything because it's the truth," he said.
Orenic also hinted that he would move from Struthers if Thomas wins the primary, saying he couldn't live in a city that elects a convicted drug dealer.
Thomas countered by calling Orenic a hypocrite.
"Nothing he can say can justify his words and the thoughts behind them," Thomas said.
Mamula said he's looking into his legal options surrounding Orenic's actions.