Wednesday, November 4, 2009
By David Skolnick
An embattled Austintown trustee finished last in his bid for re-election.
It wasn’t a good time to be an incumbent township trustee in Mahoning County.
Incumbents in Boardman, Canfield, Austintown, Coitsville, Ellsworth, Goshen and Milton townships lost Tuesday. Also, longtime Campbell Mayor John Dill lost a re-election bid to George N. Krinos.
Robyn Gallitto and Kathy Miller, two trustees who’ve overseen Boardman Township government during a rough financial time, were soundly defeated, finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, in a seven-person race.
“The voters looked for someone to blame for the [township’s financial] situation we’re in,” Gallitto said. “The voters were upset and wanted to clean house. The situation has been bad, but it came to a head on my watch. I don’t think I caused it. The public is looking for someone to be made at. Putting two new people in those seats won’t increase revenue.”
Brad Calhoun, who unsuccessfully ran for trustee in 2007, and ex-Trustee Thomas P. Costello, ousted in 2005, finished first and second, respectively, in Boardman.
Voters were looking for change, Costello said.
“The township has gone off the tracks in the past four years,” he said. “We need to bring stability to the township. There’s some serious challenges we’re facing, but I believe we can make it work. People weren’t happy with the direction of the township and they had enough.”
The state auditor’s office last month released a draft of a fiscal analysis of the township. It concluded that while the township doesn’t meet the criteria for a fiscal-watch designation, there won’t be a general fund carryover at the end of the year.
A 2.2-mill police and fire levy approved by township voters in November 2008 carried with it a pledge by trustees to hire more police officers and recall laid-off firefighters. But three firefighters remain off the job, and only one police officer has been hired since the levy passed.
Miller said the incumbents received most of the blame for the township’s financial challenges, which showed in the election results.
“We weren’t able to get the finances turned around,” she said.
Embattled Austintown Township Trustee Warren “Bo” Pritchard finished last in a four-man race for two seats.
Pritchard received only 8.53 percent of the vote.
David Ditzler, the other incumbent running for re-election, was the top vote-getter with 39.05 percent.
“It’s a little surprising,” Ditzler said of his strong victory. “The longer you’re in office, the more enemies you make. It’s tough to get re-elected in Austintown.”
Ditzler said Pritchard’s bad loss was “unfortunate because he served the community for so long.”
Pritchard is heading to Columbiana County jail Nov. 25 for a conviction of operating a vehicle while impaired.
Also, the Mahoning County Bar Association filed documents last week with the Ohio Supreme Court accusing Pritchard, an attorney, of multiple counts of misconduct including not providing services to clients who paid him money up front and for his failure to show up for court appearances.
Pritchard couldn’t be reached to comment Tuesday.
Jim Davis, running for office for the first time, captured the other trustee seat, beating Sam Swoger III by 237 votes, according to final but unofficial votes tabulated by the Mahoning County Board of Elections.
“I couldn’t feel better,” Davis said about his victory. “We did everything we could do to win.”
When asked if Pritchard’s problems were a factor, Davis said, “He’s unfortunately made some mistakes, and it might have cost him.”
In Canfield Township, voters ousted Trustees Randy Brashen and Richard Puerner. Brashen was running for a full four-year term while Puerner was seeking to fill out the remaining two years of an unexpired term he was appointed to last year. Trustee Bill Reese opted not to seek re-election.
Brashen finished third in the four-person race for the two four-year township trustee seats.
He lost to Marie Cartwright, the top vote-getter, and Tony Bettile, who finished in second.
“I think people are ready for a change,” said Bettile, who ran unsuccessfully in 2007 for trustee.
Puerner finished last for the unexpired term, losing to Martha C. Zarlenga, a former 23-year school board member, who received 46.5 percent of the vote in a three-person race, according to complete but unofficial election results.
When asked why he was so badly defeated — Puerner received 19.94 percent of the vote — he said: “I have no idea at this point; no idea at all. It’s not the number I was looking for.”
It wasn’t all bad news for trustees in Mahoning County.
Voters in Poland re-elected Trustees Robert Lidle and Mark Naples over challengers Felix Carbon and Albert Sciulli.