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Vetting failed in YSU trustee selection

Published: Sun, November 29, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

By Bertram de Souza

Had Atty. Liz Bernard not resigned as a trustee of Youngstown State University, the governor’s office would, in all probability, have asked her to step down.

Why? Because of the controversy that was swirling around Bernard from the moment Gov. Ted Strickland announced Oct. 30 her appointment to succeed Dr. H.S. Wang.

On Nov. 2, this writer received a call from a veteran law enforcement official who posed the following questions: Do you know that Liz Bernard is involved with Phil Chance? Will Chance be accompanying her to YSU events and sit in the presidential suite during football games? Did the governor’s office know about Bernard and Chance?

The questions prompted telephone calls to Atty. David Betras, chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party and a former law associate of Bernard’s, and Kenneth Carano, the governor’s representative in the Mahoning Valley. Subsequently, a call was placed to YSU Trustee Harry Meshel, a confidante of the governor’s. Asked if they were aware of Bernard’s relationship with Chance, the answer was no.

For those readers who have forgotten, Phil Chance is a former Mahoning County sheriff who was convicted on July 13, 1999, by a federal jury of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, RICO conspiracy, obstruction of justice and two counts of extortion. He resigned as sheriff three days later.

The corruption case centered mostly on his 1996 election campaign, when he sought the financial support of Lenine “Lenny” Strollo, Mahoning Valley Mafia boss at the time,

Chance was sentenced to 71 months in federal prison and began serving on Jan. 24, 2000. He was released Sept. 21, 2004, and transferred to a halfway facility in Akron. His sentence was reduced because he earned “good time” while behind bars.

In sentencing Chance, federal Judge Kathleen M. O’Malley in Cleveland said the then sheriff wasn’t just some cop on the street taking a bribe. He accepted bribes from organized crime figures and violated state campaign finance laws, O’Malley said.

The issue is not what Atty. Bernard does in her private life. Rather, it’s how her relationship with Chance would reflect on the governor, who appointed her.

Betras, Carano and Meshel each talked to her about Chance and each came away with a different interpretation of the relationship. And even after she assured them that the ex-sheriff would not accompany her to YSU-related functions, there was concern about the fallout.

Indeed, the chatter has spread on the campus of YSU.

Bernard had no choice but to resign — which she did on Nov. 19.

She explained her decision thus: The demands of her law firm — she is a sole practitioner with a secretary — and the responsibilities that came with being a member of the university’s board of trustees were just too much for her to handle.

The question that still remains unanswered is this: How did the governor’s office miss the Bernard-Chance connection?

The vetting process is designed to protect the administration from politically embarrassing situations.

The governor makes hundreds of appointments during his term, but it takes just one Phil Chance moment for his political enemies to make political hay.

That’s why Bernard’s departure was inevitable — after questions were raised about her relationship with the sheriff-turned-criminal.

Now, the appointment process begins anew and Gov. Strickland, who is facing a tough re-election battle next year, must know that the individual he selects will be scrutinized by all the special interests at YSU.

This isn’t about dissuading people who want to serve in some public capacity from applying. But, given the fact that there are no secrets in this era of the Internet, the administration must be certain that the vetting of prospective candidates is as complete as possible.

There is an opportunity for Strickland to tap someone with knowledge of Youngstown State University and a deep understanding of the vision for higher education in Ohio embraced by the governor and Chancellor Eric Fingerhut.

Fingerhut has made it clear on many occasions that Ohio’s universities and colleges can no longer depend on the status quo. He has challenged each institution to identify areas of academic study that would set it apart from the rest.


1hardin54ja(20 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

I have known Liz since she worked for Congressman Lyle Williams. She would have been an excellent Trustee. Sorry Liz.

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2Silence_Dogood(1665 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Bert what are you saying, that an ugly Woman and a Felon can't find love in this world.

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3candystriper(575 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

... we see riots on CNN at 3 California public colleges...students protesting the increase in tuition while the system cuts courses, staff and enrollment...perhaps she saw what was coming ..having to vote on a 33% increase in tuition to pay for PERS...not her mess to clean up.

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4copswife(25 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

I personally know Liz Bernard, and Phil Chance. They are both good people. Lets not forget what a difference Chance made on the streets of this city when he was in office. He was a good cop. That is a thing of the past though. Liz Is a great Attorney, a great ,mom, and an exceptional person. She is is smart, and Phil Chance or anyone else would not have gotten in the way of her committment to her job. This is Y.S.U 's loss not hers. People need to move on and quit living in the past. Sounds like the veteran cop that made that call was alittle jealous!

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5buddydog(9 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Is it any surprise that a no morals lawyer like Bernard would be romantically involved and actually live with a convicted felon like Phil Chance? This isn't the same Elizabeth Bernard that is considering running for judge is it?

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6UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

YSU deserved better then Liz. Thank God she has resigned.

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7penguinswin(21 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

I think Mr.de Souza should look before he leaps (Bernard and Chance story). It seems that "insider" information comes from de Souza's a YSU employee on-again, off-again live-in girlfriend. While de Souza's living/dating arrangement may be legal, it is not ethical to get information in pillow talk; and he should be the last the throw stones! Just another good example of why I read The Vindicator "free" on-line and won't pay a penny for it. The Vindicator should think twice about keeping de Souza employed!

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8Cicero(39 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Long story short: Liz is history and there are more compelling problems being faced by both YSU and the community at large. Why waste the ink on a non-story such as this?

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9candystriper(575 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

...that would be golden needle?

my question is... did the National Enquirer agree to publish the Vindy this week?

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10CandyfromCanfield(172 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

For the record, Bertram de Souza's girlfriend retired from YSU years ago. I seriously doubt she has any inside scoop. From what I've heard, this wasn't much of an issue on campus anyway.

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11MBA1109(3 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

First and foremost 'gdog' maybe you should refrain from posting so that you can spend more time actually learning FACTS. What Phil Chance WAS at that time was guilty of being friends with people like John Chicase, and trusting those that did not have the best intentions. Regardless of what the media has led you to believe, I assume that you are unable to actually think for yourself or you would never have commented about his son. His son has been recognized by not only YPD, but Nationally and Federally for the work that he does every day, to keep people like YOU safe, How can anyone judge him by what his father did when he is the one that puts his life on the line everyday? Did YOU hold 2 yr old Cherish Moreland when she was dying from a stray bullet to the head? Did YOU risk never seeing your children again so that the city could be a safer place? Did YOU crawl into a smashed vehicle to rescue an accident victim? Have YOU recovered guns, drugs, stolen vehicles? Have you ever stopped to think about the sacrifices that he has made to serve and protect people like you who have nothing but unfair judgement to pass? No. Are you exactly like your father? Or are you an individual who is able to speak and act for yourself... Just something to think about while you sit and pass judgement on others.

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12kitkat6(3 comments)posted 6 years, 3 months ago

The son is a great cop, but the apple didn't fall far from the tree. Funny that his badge number is 1109 (just like the above post) Must be a fan.

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