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Dem leaders spar at meeting



Published: Thu, April 18, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



YOUNGSTOWN -- A subplot to the city council president vote played out Wednesday involving David Ditzler, the Mahoning County Democratic Party chairman, and Mark Belinky, leader of the Democrats of the 17th District, another political organization.

Ditzler bashed Belinky and the club through the night for their role in what preceded the council president pick.

Belinky bashed right back.

The spat started with events earlier this month.

City council members were ready to pass ordinances giving them authority to appoint a president or another member to any midterm vacancies.

They did that despite an opinion from county Prosecutor Paul Gains, who said precinct committee members should fill the council president vacancy because the city charter doesn't outline succession.

Public protest

There was public protest over council's actions, and Belinky filed a lawsuit seeking to block council from voting. The lawsuit was left hanging, but that same night, council reversed course and defeated the proposed ordinances, leaving state law to prevail.

Ditzler, however, asserted that his talks with council led them to drop their actions and defer to the party. Nothing else -- not the protests nor the 17th Democrats' lawsuit -- led to council's actions.

Ditzler said the 17th club doesn't speak for the party. "You have been and always will be the leaders of this party," he told precinct committee members. "You can't jump in front of the pack and call yourself a leader."

Belinky countered that the party leadership is out of touch with the committee people and that the party is dead politically.

The lawsuit, not the party, single-handedly stopped council, he said.

"They're having this meeting ... because of me, not Mr. Ditzler," Belinky said.

At night's end, as Ditzler finished a final criticism of the 17th club, Belinky came to the front of the room, pointed at the chairman and yelled that it took nerve to make such statements.




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