Council chief in Struthers to quit early
Two incumbent councilmen, including the president's right-hand man, lost re-election bids.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
STRUTHERS -- The longtime city council president, who acknowledges that his comments about the mayor were a major factor in his defeat, plans to turn in his resignation today.
Michael Orenic, a nine-term council president, lost by 78 votes to Councilman Danny Thomas Jr., D-1st, in Tuesday's Democratic primary. Thomas has no opposition in the Nov. 6 general election.
"If the community wants this guy so badly as president of council, he can start tomorrow," Orenic said Tuesday night, referring to Thomas. "My resignation will be on the mayor's desk in the morning."
Thomas, a two-term ward councilman, said anyone who was on the fence as to whether to vote for him or Orenic was pushed to his side when the council president left a message last week on Mayor Dan Mamula's voice mail.
Message content: Orenic, a Catholic school principal, said in the message that he would pray to God ev ery night that the mayor's children and grandchildren get hooked on drugs. He also told the mayor that Mamula had sold out to the devil.
Orenic was referring to Mamula's support of Thomas, convicted in 1987 of using a telephone to distribute cocaine. Thomas received a pardon from President Clinton in December 1999.
As of late this morning, Orenic had not submitted his resignation, Mamula said.
Orenic, who described his statements as a case of "my-foot-in-mouth disease," said he is sorry for bringing Mamula's family into it, but not for his statement about the mayor's involvement with Thomas.
"People don't vote for mean," Thomas said of Orenic. "He promised my mother that he wouldn't use it as a campaign issue, and he played it to the hilt. This is a rejection of old-style politics. People want new blood, and this is their message."
If Orenic does resign, Councilman Terry Stocker, D-4th and president pro tempore, would be council president through the end of the year, Thomas said. Stocker, who ran unopposed Tuesday, would resume his council seat in January 2002. In the meantime, 4th Ward Democratic precinct committeemen would have to fill Stocker's spot for the remainder of 2001.
Also tossed out of office Tuesday was Robert D. Carcelli, a 12-year Democratic councilman at large. Carcelli, Orenic's right-hand man on council, finished last in a four-man race for three at-large council seats.
FBI probe: City officials say FBI agents investigating contracts awarded to two companies by the city have asked if Carcelli had any involvement in the decisions. Carcelli has denied any wrongdoing related to the investigation.
Re-elected were Ronald Mathews, the top vote-getter, and Dexter A. Hollen, who finished in third, 97 votes ahead of Carcelli. In second was Jerry Shields, a former 1st Ward councilman and an ally of Thomas' and Mamula's.
Shields said he did not know if the federal investigation was the primary reason Carcelli was ousted.
"Most people told me that [Carcelli] was there for a long time, and they were not happy with his performance," Shields said.
Also ousted: Councilman Mark A. Sandine, D-2nd, a Thomas ally, will not be around to enjoy Thomas' reign as president next year. He was handily defeated by Bert R. Cene Jr., who served in that position in 1997.
All the winners of Tuesday's Democratic primary in Struthers, except Anthony R. Protopapa Jr. in the 1st Ward, have no Republican or Independent opposition in the Nov. 6 general election. Protopapa will face Republican William Sicafuse.