Two former county commissioners are interested in the auditor's job.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- George Tablack's resignation as Mahoning County auditor isn't effective until July 31, but a number of people, some quite well-known, are already looking to replace him.
Under state law, the county's Democratic precinct committee members will select Tablack's replacement. That person would fill the remainder of Tablack's term, which expires March 8, 2007. A meeting must be held between five days and 45 days after Tablack's resignation to appoint a successor.
Lisa Antonini, Mahoning County Democratic chairwoman, said three people have contacted her about the appointment.
They are David Bozanich, Youngstown finance director; Michael Klim of Campbell, a former New Middletown mayor who runs MJK Financial Services in Poland; and Michael Fortine of Canfield, a certified public accountant who was a 2004 independent candidate for less than a week for county commissioner.
Klim said he is definitely seeking the appointment, and whether he gets it or not, he plans to run for the job during the May 2006 primary.
Klim has run the accounting, investment and insurance company for more than 15 years, and is the former president of the South County Democrats political club. Klim said he sees the county auditor's position as the ideal job to make his political comeback.
Klim spent four years as a New Middletown councilman before being elected mayor of the village in 1984. A special audit by the Ohio Auditor's Office in 1985 found him responsible for $5,286 in missing village treasury deposits dealing with the mayor's court, and he spent much of his four years as mayor fighting with members of village council.
"I was liable because I was the mayor and it was mayor's court, but I didn't do anything wrong," he said. "If there was merit to the charge, I couldn't have received a security or insurance license."
Bozanich said he is thinking about seeking the job, which pays $79,745 annually, but hasn't made a final decision.
Bozanich has been either the city's finance director or deputy director for about 25 years. If the city's new mayor, to be elected Nov. 8, and city council opt to remove him as finance director, Bozanich said he would become deputy director. That's because he is a civil service employee on leave from the deputy position. The finance director serves at the pleasure of the mayor and city council.
Federal law doesn't permit civil service employees to run for partisan political offices, said county Prosecutor Paul J. Gains. If Bozanich decides to seek the party's appointment, he would have to give up his civil service post, Gains said. Bozanich agrees, and said he has a big decision to make.
A certified public accountant, Fortine filed nominating petitions in March 2004 to run as an independent candidate for county commissioner. But Fortine quickly changed his mind and withdrew from the race less a week later.
Also, former county Commissioner David Engler of Canfield told The Vindicator that he is considering a run for the vacancy. Engler is an attorney and member of the Mahoning County Educational Service Center Board. Although Engler has said in the past that he wouldn't run for political office again, he said the county auditor job intrigues him.
"It's obviously an important position for Mahoning County," he said. "That job keeps the county moving forward with finances and accountability. You need a good administrator for that position and someone familiar with government. I haven't ruled it out."
Ed Reese, another ex-county commissioner, said he is interested in filling out the remainder of Tablack's unexpired term, but wouldn't run for the job in 2006. Reese is mulling runs for state Senate or the U.S. House next year.
Reese touted his 10 years of county government experience and his ability to serve as a caretaker until the 2006 election as reasons for him to be appointed auditor.
Wade W. Smith Jr. of Boardman, an attorney who lost last year's county juvenile court judicial race, said he's had people contact him about the job, but he hasn't given it serious thought yet.
Tablack, who held the position for 181/2 years, is leaving to become the chief financial officer of Palm Beach County, Fla.
Antonini said she expects others to seek the party's appointment for the auditor's job once Tablack's resignation takes effect.
"Qualifications are important, and electability, from the party's perspective, is important," she said. "This is a critical time for the county and we need someone with a strong work ethic."