By DAVID SKOLNICK
It’s getting messy in the days leading to Wednesday’s Mahoning County Democratic Party precinct committee meeting to elect party officers.
Georgiann DeCenzo, the newly elected state central committeewoman who is challenging David Betras for leadership of the party, opposes the chairman’s having his supporters oversee the election.
“I want people without a vested interest in the outcome handling the election,” she said. “He needs to make sure the election process is very clean.”
Democratic employees of the county board of elections will handle the party election.
DeCenzo, of Boardman, said Friday that the election should be run by an accounting firm or attorneys “who are good, solid Democrats” in order to “avoid any appearance of impropriety.”
Betras, of Boardman, said DeCenzo and her supporters can stand next to the ballot boxes when the votes are counted.
“There’s no rigging of the election,” Betras said. “The people who run elections at the county level aren’t going to rig the election. They were chosen because they do this for a living. This is ridiculous.”
Betras acknowledged he sent a text message to DeCenzo after she announced her candidacy that “elections have consequences.”
DeCenzo said she considers that a threat.
In response, Betras said, “What can I do to her? If I win and she loses I won’t have her on my team. I won’t invite her to join the executive committee. That’s it.”
Betras also said he would support a voice vote rather than a secret paper ballot if DeCenzo wants that. DeCenzo said she doesn’t favor that because people would feel intimidated voting that way.
The party’s precinct committee members will meet at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday at Mr. Anthony’s in Boardman to elect officers.
Also Friday, Ed Aey of Boardman, who is running for the party’s first vice chairman, called on Betras to resign.
Aey questioned Betras’ ethics when he served as treasurer in late 2006 of Marc Dann’s attorney-general transition account, which was used used for expenses incurred between the Nov. 2006 election and Dann’s swearing-in in January 2007.
Dann was found guilty May 7 of two ethics charges, both of which included illegal expenses from the transition account.
Betras was never charged with any criminal activity.
Aey pointed to an April 27 interview Dann had with investigators before his ethics convictions. In that interview, Dann was asked about being reimbursed for $9,900 in expenses without receipts.
Dann said Betras asked him to “re-create what the expenses could have been that comprised that reimbursement request.”
“That’s unethical,” Aey said.
Betras said he repeatedly asked Dann for various receipts and signed a reimbursement check only after Dann gave him receipts. It turns out the receipts were “false,” Betras said.