A hearing is scheduled for next Friday to hear
Wellington’s objections to another candidate.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN — One candidate for Mahoning County sheriff won’t be on the March 4 primary ballot, and the eligibility of another is in question.
The county board of elections disqualified Rick Alli, a former Youngstown police sergeant, as a Democratic candidate for sheriff Thursday. The board ruled he wasn’t eligible because he failed to file required paperwork by last Friday’s filing deadline.
In a Wednesday letter to Thomas McCabe, elections board director, Alli complained that elections officials never told him or those helping with his campaign about the additional paperwork.
On Thursday, Alli said the filing was filled with human error and poor communication. But “leadership dictates you accept responsibility. I will not be pointing any fingers of blame.”
Also, the elections board scheduled a hearing for next Friday to hear a protest from Sheriff Randall A. Wellington of Boardman against David P. Aey, a former sheriff’s deputy and the only other candidate on the Democratic March 4 primary ballot.
Wellington contends Aey, of Boardman, isn’t qualified under state law to run for the job.
Among the requirements to run for sheriff, a candidate needs to have at least two years of post-secondary education from an accredited college or university, or at least two years of supervisory experience.
Wellington says Aey has neither, something disputed by the former deputy sheriff.
Aey received an associate degree in criminal justice administration last year from Belford University, an online school. On its Web site, Belford advertises that a person can “add bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate degrees to your résumé in just 7 days and open avenues to promotion and better jobs.”
The Web site — belforduniversity.org — also has links to “order your degree based on experience,” and another that reads: “Dont [sic] have experience? Click here to take the online equivalency test.”
Aey said he spent about six to eight months working toward his associate degree from Belford and was then notified by the school that his “life skills” made him immediately eligible for an associate degree. After passing a test, Aey said he spent about $400 to $500 to get the degree.
“It is an act of desperation,” Aey said of Wellington’s protest.
But Wellington said Aey’s Belford degree “is a slap in the face to those who work hard for a degree. It’s a dishonest act and people don’t want a dishonest sheriff.”
Two people who applied for firefighter jobs in New York City were arrested for submitting what The New York Times called “fake degrees” from Belford, described as an “online diploma mill,” according to an Oct. 13, 2007, article.
The article states: “An investigator went to the Web site of Belford University and obtained a bachelor’s degree with highest honors in aerospace engineering for $509.15.”
After the investigator, who wrote that he was 12 years old, purposely failed an “entry exam,” the article states he was urged by the Web site to take the test again and was sent the answers.
When told of Belford, Aey said he had never heard it referred to as a “diploma mill,” and that “getting any additional secondary education doesn’t hurt anyone. I don’t see it as an issue.”
Wellington also contends Aey doesn’t have the required minimum two years of “supervisory experience.” Aey served as a field supervisor for more than three years for the U.S. Marshals Service’s Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force.
State law is silent when it comes to supervisory experience on the federal level.
But Aey said the job had him holding supervisory positions on the county and federal levels at the same time. Wellington, who appointed Aey to the position, disagrees.
Aey said Wellington is a “hypocrite” because the sheriff didn’t meet the qualifications when he unsuccessfully ran for the job in 1996 and when he was appointed to the post in 1999.
State law requires sheriff candidates to have held a valid peace officer certificate within the four-year period prior to filing nominating petitions to run for the job.
Wellington said because of his 40 years with the Youngstown Police Department, including 13 as chief, he had a waiver to the requirement because he “was grandfathered in by statute.”